Are Essential Oils Safe For Dogs? Find Out Which Ones Are Toxic

By Michael Tarran

August 31, 2021

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I'm guessing many of you like the smell of peppermint or lavender in your diffuser to wake you up in the morning or create the right atmosphere before the guests arrive for dinner. 

Essential oils can do wonders for your home's ambiance, huh?

But before you start using them regularly, you have to stop and think are essential oils safe for dogs. 

Some are - most of them aren't.

Yup. Many essentials oils that you consider herbal remedies can cause your pup lots of health-related trouble.

If this got you curious, then I suggest you keep scrolling down because I'll be talking about both toxic and pet-safe essential oils you can keep in your home.

What Are Essentials Oils?

essential oils on table

In technical terms, essential oils are highly concentrated plant substances that have been extracted from various types of plants and are known for their strong fragrance, or as people like to call it, their essence.

It's worth noting that a considerable amount of plants are needed to make only one pound of essential oil. To show how labor-intensive the process is and how high the levels of active ingredients are, here's an example:

You'd need tens of thousands of rose petals to make a single pound of rose essential oil.

That's insane, huh?

In the last couple of years, essential oils have become an indispensable part of the home environment due to the potential health benefits they offer. People worldwide are using the potent scents of these oils to create a soothing atmosphere, as a form of holistic treatment, and more. But keep in mind that not all essential oils are made equal - and should never be confused with "regular" oil

Olive essential oil, for example, should not be mixed with your regular kitchen olive oil. These are two completely different kinds of greasy we're talking about here.

Some oils are safe to ingest and can be used in cooking, though.

For example, peppermint, cinnamon, and ginger essential oil can be used for culinary purposes and even promote digestion.

Be extra careful with others, though - but I'll get to that in a minute.

Possible Uses Of Essential Oils

essential oils and diffuser

Essential oils have many purposes, but the three most common uses for these wonderfully scented extracts seem to be aromatherapy, culinary, and cosmetic purposes.

Since we're here, let's go over each one.

1. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the most common use of essential oils.

These scented extracts are diffused and evaporated with the help of appliances such as air diffusers, room sprays, or oil droplets and are meant to be inhaled. When inhaled this way, these oils are said to affect your hormones, brain chemicals, sleep quality and insomnia, mood, and alleviate nausea and pain, like headaches. Besides therapeutic effects, they help freshen up your home.

The most common essential oils used for inhalation purposes are peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and rosemary.

2. Culinary Purposes

Believe it or not, certain essentials oils can come in handy when preparing food. Still, it would be best if you were careful with the amount and type you include.

Some are inherently poisonous, for humans and dogs alike!

First, ensure that the oils are intended for internal use. And even then, you shouldn't overdo it with these substances.

It would be best to rely on essential oils only as substitutes for ingredients you can't find at the moment. For example, you can use peppermint and ginger essential oils. These extracts do wonders when mixed with sushi.

Oh, and here's a bonus tip:

Don't use plastic bowls because essential oils can draw toxins from them - and into your food.

3. Cosmetic Purposes

If cosmetics and makeup are your areas of expertise, you probably know that essential oils are widely used in the beauty industry.

Think about it; you surely know someone that uses rose petal or lavender essential oil as a part of their skincare routine.

Of course, they're never applied to the skin directly but mixed with other ingredients and diluted in a carrier oil before they're ready to be used as a topical treatment.

Essential oils, topically applied and spread on the skin, can freshen it up before bedtime, for example. Some use essential oils to massage sore muscles, while others swear by tea tree oil and its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Although many of them are well tolerated by human skin, there are still warnings about possible irritation.

How Do Dogs Tolerate Essential Oils?

Essential oils have many purposes, but the three most common uses for these wonderfully scented extracts seem to be aromatherapy, culinary, and cosmetic purposes.  Since we're here, let's go over each one.  1. Aromatherapy Aromatherapy is the most common use of essential oils.   These scented extracts are diffused and evaporated with the help of appliances such as air diffusers, room sprays, or oil droplets and are meant to be inhaled. When inhaled this way, these oils are said to affect your hormones, brain chemicals, sleep quality and insomnia, mood, and alleviate nausea and pain, like headaches. Besides therapeutic effects, they help freshen up your home.   The most common essential oils used for inhalation purposes are peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and rosemary.  2. Culinary Purposes Believe it or not, certain essentials oils can come in handy when preparing food. Still, it would be best if you were careful with the amount and type you include.   Some are inherently poisonous, for humans and dogs alike!  First, ensure that the oils are intended for internal use. And even then, you shouldn't overdo it with these substances.  It would be best to rely on essential oils only as substitutes for ingredients you can't find at the moment. For example, you can use peppermint and ginger essential oils. These extracts do wonders when mixed with sushi.  Oh, and here's a bonus tip:  Don't use plastic bowls because essential oils can draw toxins from them - and into your food.  3. Cosmetic Purposes If cosmetics and makeup are your areas of expertise, you probably know that essential oils are widely used in the beauty industry.   Think about it; you surely know someone that uses rose petal or lavender essential oil as a part of their skincare routine.  Of course, they're never applied to the skin directly but mixed with other ingredients and diluted in a carrier oil before they're ready to be used as a topical treatment.  Essential oils, topically applied and spread on the skin, can freshen it up before bedtime, for example. Some use essential oils to massage sore muscles, while others swear by tea tree oil and its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.   Although many of them are well tolerated by human skin, there are still warnings about possible irritation.   How Do Dogs Tolerate Essential Oils?

Just because you like the scent of a particular essential oil, that doesn't mean the rest of the household will agree. And in this case, when I say "the rest of the household," I'm referring to dogs. 

That brings me to my main point: 

Pet owners should be extra careful when considering essential oils.

Although most of them are known for a beautiful scent that relaxes ad lifts your mood, your dog might not feel the same way. That's not all: 

Inhaling diffused oils can create enormous problems for your furry little friend.

To prevent something that neither you nor your dog wants, consult your vet before introducing essential oils into the home - even as natural home air fresheners. They'll have more answers and can help guide you through the ups and downs of using essential oil diffusers around your pets.

What about a pet parent who did not inquire in time and just rushed to buy fancy, new air fresheners for their home?

Well, they'll soon see how much damage they can cause with just a few drops of essential oils in their dog's environment - let alone skin.

Essential Oil Poisoning In Dogs

The main topic here is the safety of using essential oils around your dog. I hate to break it to you, really, but it has to be said: 

Most of these pure essential oils turned out to be not-so-good for dogs - and most other pets, by the way.

The primary health concern caused by this ingredient is dog poisoning.

Toxic Essential Oils

The very smell of these oils can harm your dog. Here's a list of essential oils that are considered harmful to our canine companions:

  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oils (di-limonene)
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Anise oil
  • Clove oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Garlic oil
  • Yarrow oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Wintergreen oil
  • Ylang-ylang oil

Symptoms Of Dog Poisoning

Essential oils can cause pretty serious effects on your pup. Unfortunately, many pet parents don't realize this until the situation gets out of control, and they start noticing some of the following signs:

  • Difficulty breathing - Your pup might show signs of panting if it's been spending too much time near an aromatherapy diffuser.
  • Drooling - Certain essential oils have adverse effects on the respiratory system, which may cause your dog to drool excessively.
  • Fatigue - While this scent relaxes you, it can be too strong for your dog's central nervous system and can make your dog feel tired and lethargic or cause tremors and difficulty walking.
  • Redness, skin irritation, or burns on the dog's skin, gums, or tongue - Certain oils can negatively affect your pet's skin and lead to chemical burns. Rashes caused by these essential oils are easy to spot, though.
  • Vomiting - If you've noticed that your dog is vomiting or showing other signs of gastrointestinal upset, it might be from essential oil poisoning. Most pet parents will link vomiting to pet food, although that's not always the case.

These were merely some of the most common symptoms that a pet parent can notice at first glance.

However, vomiting and nausea can sometimes point to more severe conditions - depending on the specific oils and the particular animal - such as:

  • Damage to the central nervous system
  • Renal and liver disease
  • Kidney and liver failure

Important Note: The moment you notice any symptoms or suspect direct exposure to essential oils, contact Pet Poison Helpline and your vet immediately!

Treating Essential Oil Poisoning In Dogs

Essential oil poisoning, otherwise known as liquid potpourri poisoning, can be cured in several ways - including IV fluids, anti-vomiting medication, pain meds, and possibly a feeding tube during recovery. 

But to treat your dog successfully, you must first notice the symptoms in time. From there, there are several steps you should follow to provide your dog with adequate help.

First, check if there are any of the following essential oils in your house:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Citrus oils
  • Peppermint essential oil
  • Eucalyptus oil 
  • Sweet birch oil 

It's essential - excuse the pun - to identify precisely which type of essential oil or liquid potpourri products are being diffused into the air.

Next, you need to check the severity and frequency of symptoms in your dog.

Once you are sure that the essential oil is the source of the problem, you should seek immediate treatment from Pet Poison Helpline.

Bear in mind that some dogs can develop allergic reactions brought on by these strong scents. If you suspect an allergic response, it would be a good idea to pinpoint the cause with dog allergy testing.

Oh, and check out my Dog Allergies List for more info while you're at it, too!

Once you seek treatment and your vet gives a complete diagnosis, it's time to take care of the problem. If the essential oils are causing toxic effects, irritated skin, vomiting, and the like, throw it away.

You can't risk just moving these essential oils into another room. That won't cut it.

As for the recovery process, if your dog's having a hard time, be patient. Not all dog breeds are going to recover at the same pace. Take it one step at a time.

Pet-Safe Essential Oils - Canine Edition

a dog relaxing on sofa

Despite the long list of harmful ones, there are also many essential oils that won't affect your pet's health in a bad way.

Here are some oils that are NOT harmful to your dog:

  • Lavender essential oils
  • Chamomile oil
  • Ginger oil
  • Rosemary oil
  • Frankincense oil

If you want to diffuse oils that won't provoke any symptoms, you can. Many holistic veterinarians agree that you can diffuse some essential oils safely - like lavender oil, for example - around the household to keep your pet healthy and relaxed.

Vets generally recommend using carrier oil - like coconut oil - to dilute and make essential oils safe for your pets. Keep that in mind and, as always, exercise caution.

Although some pure essential oils are good in the air, do not add them to your dog's food under any circumstances! 

Also, pay attention to where you store these bottles. Don't leave essential oils unattended - ever. There's always a risk that your dog might knock them off the shelf and ingest some by accident.

Keep your oils in a high place, away from your dog's reach.

Are There Any Benefits Of Essential Oils For Dogs?

How exactly can pure essential oils help your dog - and are there any hidden health benefits you should know about as a pet parent?

Well, if we're to listen to alternative medicine and holistic veterinarians, there's a couple of reasons why you should diffuse essential oils in your household to help your pet.

Do you know how chamomile tea has a calming effect on you? Well, certain essential oils can do the same for your dog and reduce further stress.

A few tiny droplets on the sofa, for example, can make your dog relax.

If you have rosemary essential oil, make your natural flea repellant with a bit of water. Many pet parents use this homemade spray on their dogs to prevent them from getting attacked by fleas and other skin parasites.

These might not have the healing properties you were hoping for, but you can use all the help you can get!

Final Thoughts On Essential Oils For Dogs

Okay, you've had the opportunity to learn a lot about are essential oils safe for dogs. While some are acceptable within your home, other oils can cause serious problems.

Types such as tea tree, peppermint, anise, clove, and many others can cause severe poisoning symptoms. Just a few tiny oil droplets can cause low body temperature, skin irritation, induce vomiting, and leave your dog wobbly and panting.

To prevent side effects and hospitalization, practice caution. And if there's an emergency, call Animal Poison Control.

Don't worry!

Add essential oils such as rosemary or chamomile, diluted with a carrier, to your dog-friendly list, though. You can diffuse tiny oil droplets to help your dog relax and prevent parasites. 

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Michael Tarran

About Me

I'm a devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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