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February 2024

These Essential Oils are Toxic to Dogs. Is Your Pet in Danger?

Health & Nutrition

Spring is an excellent time to declutter your space and refresh your home! One of the trendiest home-improvement options is the use of diffusers and essential oils. But did you know some essential oils are toxic to dogs? In this guide, we’ll cover which oils are safe (and perhaps even beneficial) and which ones should be avoided.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are naturally found in plants – and can be purchased in concentrated liquid form which are extracted from aromatic natural materials like flowers, herbs, citrus peels, and woods. They retain a concentrated scent once extracted and are popular for their pleasant smell and also for their strength, as a small amount can easily fill a large space with a specific fragrance.

They come in many forms – including pure oil, air fresheners, diffusers and room sprays. While largely used for their smell, they are also used in aromatherapy – and have alleged medicinal benefits – though there is not enough research to definitively comment on this for people, and even less so for pets.

Can Essential Oils Be Used Safely Around Dogs?

Essential oils are highly concentrated, and they do pose a risk to dogs if ingested, inhaled or applied topically.

Hot Tip

Never apply an undiluted essential oil to your pet topically. There is no conclusive evidence essential oils have medicinal benefits for dogs – but there are instances where dogs have had oil-related poisoning. Always consult your vet before applying anything directly to your dog. Even if a product claims to be ‘all natural’ that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have risk.

Dogs also have a much more acute sense of smell than people, so it’s important to remember that what might smell mild to us could be overwhelming for them.

Can I Diffuse Essential Oils Around My Dog?

So long as you’re not diffusing an essential oil that’s toxic for dogs, you should be able to diffuse oils around them without problem, but make sure you’re taking appropriate steps so as not to overwhelm your dog.

  1. Make sure you’re diffusing the oil in an area that’s well ventilated, and ensure windows and doors are open.
  2. Ideally, pick an area which your dog doesn’t frequent or ensure that they have access to other rooms so they can choose to leave if they’re bothered by the smell.
  3. Make sure your dog cannot access the diffuser as they might seek out the source of the smell and ingest or otherwise interfere with the diffuser.
  4. Start with smaller amounts than you would usually to test your dog’s reaction. You can work your way up to the recommended amount (if your oil suggests using five drops, start with just two and work your way up provided your pet doesn’t react).
  5. Test your dog first: have the diffuser on for just 30 minutes and monitor their reaction. If they are fine with the scent, you can diffuse for periods of up to an hour.

Which Essential Oils Are Safe to Use Around Dogs?

  • Lavender Oil: Known for its calming effects, lavender oil is said to be beneficial for de-stressing.
  • Chamomile Oil: A soothing scent which is linked to de-stressing and relaxation.
  • Cedarwood Oil: This oil acts as a natural insect repellent.
  • Frankincense Oil: Another comforting scent believed to promote rest and relaxation.
  • Cardamom Oil: Believed to aid in digestion.
  • Ginger Oil: Believed to aid in stress relief and an alleged stomach soother.
  • Rosemary: Appreciated for its earthy scent and its purported benefits as a natural insect repellent.
  • Bergamot: Purported to inspire energy.
  • Myrrh: This one’s a nice wintery or Christmas season scent that isn’t toxic to pets (like a lot of the more famous alternatives).
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Which Essential Oils Are Toxic to Dogs?

While certain chemical groups are safe (though you should still test them out and start off small to ensure your dog doesn’t react to them) others can be harmful and even toxic. Here are essential oils you should never use on your dog:

Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is highly toxic to dogs and can lead to a range of symptoms, including drooling, vomiting, and even coma. Avoid it at all costs.
Cinnamon Oil: Cinnamon oil can irritate your dog's skin and mucous membranes, leading to discomfort and potential allergies.
Pennyroyal Oil: Pennyroyal oil is known to cause liver damage in dogs. It should be avoided entirely.
Ylang Ylang Oil: Ylang ylang can cause extreme sedation and even lead to a dog's respiratory distress.
Wintergreen Oil: Wintergreen oil contains methyl salicylate, which can be toxic when ingested.
Pine Oil: Pine oil can cause vomiting, skin irritation, and, in severe cases, liver damage.
Anise Oil: Anise oil can lead to gastrointestinal upset and even seizures in dogs.
Clove Oil: Clove oil can cause irritation and, when ingested in large amounts, organ damage.
Thyme Oil: Thyme oil contains thymol, which can be toxic to dogs, leading to various health issues.
Juniper Oil: Juniper oil can irritate your dog's digestive system and cause kidney problems.
Peppermint Oil: Peppermint oil is toxic to dogs and can cause diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy.
Eucalyptus Oil: Eucalyptus oil can cause drooling, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea.
Birch Oil: Birch oil contains toxic amounts of methyl salicylate – which can cause gastrointestinal ulcers, kidney failure and seizures to a dog who’s come in contact with it.
Citrus Oil: Citrus oil is a common ingredient in blended oils, and it’s toxic to dogs. Look out for ingredients like ‘Linalool’ and ‘Limonene’. Exposure can lead to muscle tremors, diarrhea and vomiting.

Remember, the safety of essential oils depends on various factors, including the dog's size, breed, and individual sensitivity. When in doubt, it's always best to consult with your vet before introducing any new essential oils to your dog's environment. Your pet's health and well-being is the top priority.

FAQS About Dogs and Essential Oils

Are essential oils safe for dogs?
Not all essential oils are safe for dogs. While some can be diffused safely, others can be harmful – even in small quantities. It's crucial to research each oil and, in unsure, consult with your vet before use.

How should I apply essential oils to my dog?

Do not apply essential oils to your dog. If you’re using essential oils, diffuse them or use them as a room spray. Always dilute with water or a carrier oil.

Can essential oils replace traditional veterinary care?

There is no conclusive evidence than essential oils have medical benefits for pets. They should not be used in-lieu of medicines.

Are there essential oils I should never use around dogs?

Yes, some essential oils are toxic to dogs. Always research an individual oil prior to using to ensure your dog isn’t at risk if exposed to it.

Can I use essential oils around my dog if they have respiratory issues?

If your dog has respiratory problems, consult your vet before using essential oils. Some oils can exacerbate respiratory conditions.

Article was written in consultation with the Petstock vet team, with reference to information available from the Australian Poisons Helpline, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), DVM360, and VCA Animal Hospitals.

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