A few people asked me recently about which essential oils are safe or toxic around their dogs. Since a dog is a man’s best friend, you definitely don’t want to harm your best friend!
If you use essential oils, you’ll want to protect your best friend from any harm that could arise from using oils in potentially unsafe ways.
This post will help you become aware of which essential oils are toxic to dogs and suggest some oils that are safe for them.
Dogs are Sensitive
I bet you’ve seen some movies where a heroic dog tracks down a missing kid or finds drugs in a suitcase at the airport, thanks to the dog’s keen sense of smell.
While humans have six million olfactory receptors, dogs supposedly have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses. And it’s possible they can smell somewhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times better than us mere mortals!
Essential oils need to be used with caution around dogs because dogs are much more sensitive to scent and to essential oils than humans.
According to Pet MD, there’s a lack of scientific research studying the effects of specific essential oils on cats and dogs.
Additionally, to date, Pet MD reports that there are no studies specifically testing pure essential oils on flea and tick infestations for dogs.
There’s a large number of products for dogs that contain some concentration of essential oil.
However, according to the American Kennel Club, most cases of toxicity in dogs occurred when natural flea and tick repellents containing certain essential oils were used (or misused).
A 2012 study described adverse reactions from natural flea products containing essential oils:
“Dogs and cats can experience significant adverse effects when exposed to plant-derived flea preventatives even when used according to label directions. The number of reports of exposure in cats was higher than dogs, but the frequency of reported adverse effects was similar between the 2 species. Agitation and hypersalivation were common in cats, whereas lethargy and vomiting were common in dogs.”Genovese, McLean, & Khan
15 Essential Oils that are Toxic to Dogs
The following is a list of the most common essential oil toxicities:
- Tea tree oil–In high concentrations tea tree essential oil (aka melaleuca) can cause adverse effects; however, shampoos containing low concentrations are okay.
- Pennyroyal (aka squawmint)–This oil is sometimes used in products to treat fleas.
- WIntergreen Oil–This oil contains methyl salicylates, also commonly known as aspirin.
- Pine Oils–These oils are sometimes used in cleaning products.
Additional essential oils that are unsafe for dogs:
- Citrus–includes lemon and orange oils
- Sweet Birch
- Ylang Ylang
- Thyme (white, red)
Sources: Pet Poison Hotline; American Kennel Club; Avlmer Veterinary Clinic
*Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of essential oils that are toxic to dogs. If you’re unsure whether an oil is safe to use around your dog, consult your veterinarian.
Symptoms of Harm or Toxicity
Whether you’re using essential oil products on yourself or for your dog, keep in mind that any oil can be harmful if it’s not properly diluted or used incorrectly.
In its pure, undiluted and concentrated form, essential oils can cause harmful reactions for animals, just like it can cause reactions in humans.
When using products containing essential oil, a few factors determine its effect on your dog. These include the type of oil, concentration level of the oil, and additional ingredients mixed with the oils which can cause varying reactions.
Topical or oral exposure can cause any of the following reactions:
- Skin irritation–e.g. itchiness, burning, sloughing
- Respiratory irritation–e.g. panting, coughing, wheezing. If your dog has underlying respiratory conditions such as asthma or allergies, certain essential oils can also exacerbate those conditions.
- GI upset–e.g. vomiting, diarrhea
- Other potentially severe, less common symptoms also include gait unsteadiness, depression, lethargy, weakness, ulcers, hypothermia, rear leg paralysis, seizures,
In rare cases, if the oil is absorbed into the bloodstream, liver and kidney damage can occur.
Essential Oils Safe for Dogs
For those who plan to use essential oils safely around their dogs or are looking for products containing safe oils, the following is a list of oils that are generally considered safe to use around dogs.
- Carrot Seed (Daucus carota)–Should avoid with pregnant dogs
- Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica or Juniperus virginiana)
- Chamomile, German (Matricaria recutita)–aka blue chamomile
- Chamomile, Roman (Anthemis nobilis or Chamaemelum nobile)
- Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)–Should avoid with pregnant dogs
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum)
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Marjoram, Sweet (Origanum marjorana)
- Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)
- Ravensare aromatica (Cinnamonum camphora)
- Rose (Rosa damascena)
- Thyme linalool (Thyme vulgaris)
- Valerian (Valerian officinalis)
Sources: Whole Dog Journal; Natural Dog Health Remedies
Eucalyptus and Peppermint
There’s a lot of conflicting information about eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils.
If you scour the internet, you’ll often find both oils to be on the safe or dangerous lists, depending on the source of information.
According to Dr. Callum Turner, DVM, eucalyptus can be considered toxic if ingested and used topically (on the skin), whether it’s directly applied or diluted.
If used in a diffuser, extreme caution should be used (see diffuser tips below).
Another oil that appears controversial for use around dogs is peppermint essential oil.
Certified aromatherapists are more likely to place it on their “safe” list, while animal hospitals seem more likely to place it on the “unsafe” list.
I kept peppermint essential oil on the “unsafe” list in this post because a number of veterinarians place it in that category.
However, I do want to link to this article that examines the issue and may provide the reasoning behind the inclusion of peppermint in the “safe” category on other lists around the internet.
The article advises many safety precautions and promotes careful, cautious use to take advantage of the therapeutic properties of peppermint essential oil.
Can you diffuse essential oils around dogs?
We all want to diffuse our favorite oils, but is it safe for your dog?
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASCPA) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) specifically addressed this question, stating:
“Using an oil diffuser for a short time period in a secured area— one that your dog or cat cannot access—is not likely to be an issue.”Aspca animal poison control center
The APCC also advises to make sure the area is secure so that your dog can’t knock over the diffuser, lick it, or drink it.
Additionally, the room should be well ventilated and have an exit to allow your dog to go into a different area or room in your home..
However, if your dog has breathing problems due to underlying health conditions, allergies or asthma, you may want to avoid using diffusers.
Also, be mindful that dogs that walk through oils that are being diffused can have oil land on their fur and may lick their coat, causing unsafe oral ingestion.
Tips to keep your dog safe around essential oils
- Always dilute oils! Avoid high concentrations of the oil.
- Examine the labels of your dog products containing any essential oils to ensure they are formulated specifically for dogs. Some products may contain an oil on the unsafe list but have proper dilution with very low concentration which may then make it safe for use.
- Consider avoiding diffuser use if your dog has an underlying medical condition, especially if it’s respiratory in nature.
- Secure all diffusers. Make sure that your dog can’t knock any over or accidentally lick it or ingest oils from it.
- If diffusing, allow your dog to leave the area–don’t shut the dog in an enclosed space with the diffuser without a way out. Make sure the area is well-ventilated.
- Observe your dog’s behaviors–does he/she show displeasure or act weird after an initial exposure? Leave the room immediately? Show any symptoms, even mild, of possible harm or toxicity?
References: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center , American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
In brief, we all want to keep our little furry best friends safe, so it’s important to take precautions when using essential oils. Consult your vet if you’re unsure whether an oil is potentially dangerous to your dog.
You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888)-426-4435 or the Pet Poisen Helpline at (855) 764-7661 immediately if your dog has ingested essential oils, or if you have concerns about exposure to essential oils. Both lines are available 24/7.
I had no idea about this, thank you for sharing!
Katrina Crandall says
There is so much conflicting information about which essential oils are safe for dogs, and it can be really confusing. Thank you for addressing peppermint in particular, as that one has tripped me up. I definitely want our dogs to be safe, healthy, and happy!
Peppermint confused me, too, so I wanted to share what I found about it. Glad you found the information useful.
Shelley Whittaker says
This is a really interesting article – thanks for sharing the valuable information. I have a beagle who will eat almost anything, so I definitely need to be cautious with my essential oils around him.
Patricia Booker says
Thank you for sharing. I have a friend that as a tiny dog that diffuse many things that you put on the toxic list (which is on most lists) and then there’s my dog who I have to watch every oil and cut down on every recipe. I have another friend that wanted to know what’s the toxic oils to dogs, again thank you.
Thank you for the tips!
Judith Burton says
I would like to use lemon or orange essential oils in my diffuser. We have a 5# and a 75# dog. Will it hurt them?
There’s a lot of conflicting information about these oils (especially lemon) all over the internet regarding their safety with dogs. I would recommend asking your veterinarian about using these oils with your dogs, as the vet will know more specific details about their medical history and current needs or medications. If your vet gives the okay, make sure to diffuse at a very low concentration and allow your dogs to be able to easily leave the area where you are diffusing. Also make sure to ventilate the room properly, especially afterward, if they will be around that area. Observe their initial reaction and consider not diffusing if their body language tells you they do not like it.
Cherise Dyke says
how about Folinze Oil
I’m sorry, I’m not very familiar with Folinze oil, so I can’t comment on the safety of that with dogs.
One of my favourite oils for a diffuser is lemongrass – is this toxic for dogs?
Some species of lemongrass are toxic to dogs. The ASPCA doesn’t recommend using lemongrass essential oil around dogs due to this reason.
I also use lemongrass essential oil in our diffuser with cats and dogs in our home. I thought lemongrass was on at least one of the safe lists found on the internet, Is it safe, or not?
Does anyone know about diffusing thieves? We diffuse it for allergies, but I worry it may not be safe for our dog.
Check the individual ingredients that make up Thieves and consider asking your vet about them.
Is there any information regarding Frankincense or Rosemary for dogs? Im looking to buy them for Diffusing
I would check with your vet for your particular dog.
The eucalyptus essential oil, add to water, and sprayed on the sofas, couch, dog bed, etc., is safe for humans and dogs and cats?
Meagan Gamblin says
I’ce currently been using tea tree oil on my puppy (diluted in coconut oil) for the last week to help treat a bad case of ringworm. It’s helping tremendously and mi signs of harm or changes in behavior except her tummy did get some red after I think I put too much tea tree in the mix. But that could also be because it had spread to her tummy. Anywhoo. Didn’t know it is supposed to be toxic.
I hope your dog is ok. I’ve read several articles over the years that tea tree oil is toxic to dogs… it gets in their system especially if used directly on their skin.
Hi there! How about honeysuckle in a diffuser? Teaching from home has me needing different scents and I’m eliminating what is harmful. I’m going to try chamomile, as well. Our new girl is a 14-week old Golden Irish.
Thank you for all of the info you assembled in this article. I appreciate it!
As a pet owner I just avoid using EO on my animals at all. I also avoid burning incense or using diffusers while they are in the house. If they are outside in their run then no issue. It’s better to be safe than to realise at the end of the animal’s life that they now have kidney failure because of your personal habits. Animals are highly sensitive to many things we take for granted. I keep their living space as free of fragrances, chemicals and sensitising agents as I possibly can. We don’t really need to perfume our living spaces regularly, just keep them clean and let fresh air in.
It’s great that you’re so cautious. You’re a good pet mama.
Affy Hosseini-Tabrizi says
Think I see some confusion here. At one part of the article it states Thyme is not good but later it is stated as safe. Is there a specific form of a Thyme essential oil that is safe and one that is not?
Thanks for pointing that out. RehabVet states thyme linalool is safer to use than red or white thyme. I updated the article to clarify that.
I accidentally spilled peppermint oil in my room and the smell is pretty strong. Will my dog be ok as long as she doesn’t try to ingest it, or should i try to keep her out until the smell clears up?
Rebecca Gonzalez says
What are the safest oil
Blends tha I can make
For our Two 5month
Puppies 🐶they like to shew on the furniture
Is there any Essential oil Blends that I can make
For them for ANXIETY
And I found a flea on one of them which
Essential Oils can I delete
For keeping the Fleas
Thank you so much
For Guidng us
WHIT how to use the Essential oils
And the DIFFUSERS
God Bless you and everyone stay Bless Safe and very healthy 🙏😊🙌
We need to keep our 🐶 and Cats 🐈safe 🙏
Cyd Kriletich says
Thank you for this info. I find it very interesting that Lavender is on the list of Safe essential oils. It was a question I posed to a knowledgeable friend regarding the safety of lavender around my dog that led me to this page; I had read somewhere (or been told. I can’t remember!) that Lavender was toxic to dogs. In fact it was the only essential oil mentioned. I’m really glad I found this extensive list. I’ve been using DoTerra’s “Breathe” in a diffuser in my bedroom for night sinus issues, and it’s been helpful; but, my dog sleeps in her crate in the room. It’s a large room, but still I don’t want to put my fur baby in harm’s way. Does anyone know what oils are used in DoTerra’s “Breathe” formula? Thanks again!
My human partner has an inmune syndrome that has compromise her lungs. I keep the house very clean, our clothing is wash weekly in hot water, etc. We also have one dog and two cats, all with up to date shots, and very healthy. Not long ago I notice that every time I stayed in our basement, which I use as a working area, I started to have patches of red skiing in my arms and legs. Now when we are seating in a couch upstairs, we both start scratching the same areas, arms and legs. I made my research and found out that dust mites could be the cause. The basement has been fumigated and the carpet washed by a professional Co. For the main floor I am using backing soda, white vinegar, and to clean the couch eucalyptus essential oil, diluted in water, and sprayed in the furniture. Is it safe for us and our pets? Please help¡