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A pug with a puzzled expression laying on the couch for The Dig article are essential oils safe for dogs?

Health & Wellness

Are essential oils safe for dogs?

Some oils are very toxic

We love our dogs no matter what, even when they don’t smell the greatest. From mucky paws to wet fur and beyond, it’s hard to live a pet parent life stink-free. You may be tempted to mask common pet odors with fragrant essential oils or sprays. But, you should think twice before adding that dab of tea tree oil to their fur — essential oils can pose serious health risks to dogs (and cats, too). 

Keep reading as veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough explains which essential oils are toxic to dogs and what you can do to keep your best friend safe.

Are essential oils good for dogs?‍

In a word: No. When you add essential oil to your dog’s shampoo or detangling spray, for example, it gets absorbed through their skin, which is irritating and can be toxic to their system. The same goes for ingesting an essential oil directly. Dogs can experience respiratory complications if they inhale essential oil droplets from diffusers. Make sure any essential oil diffusers or bottles are out of your pup’s reach. 

Essential oils that are toxic to dogs

Always get your veterinarian’s permission before using essential oils around your pup. However, the following essential oils should be kept away from dogs, as they can cause a toxic reaction, according to Pet Poison Helpline

  • Melaleuca or tea tree oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Oil of wintergreen
  • Pine oils
Essential oils that are toxic to dogs

How to keep pets safe around essential oils

Always talk to your vet before introducing your pet to essential oils. If you notice essential oils are an ingredient in one of your dog’s treatments (it’s sometimes found in hot-spot treatments), your vet is the best resource for understanding why and if it’s safe for your dog.

If your vet gives you the OK to give your dog essential oils, ask how you should do so. You should never give your dog essential oils orally, incorporate it into their food or rub it directly onto their skin. It’s also a good idea to avoid snuggling with your pet if you’ve just lathered your skin in essential oil. 

It’s not usually recommended, but if you’ve gotten your vet’s OK to diffuse an oil around your dog, make sure they have an escape from the strong scent. The less your dog has exposure to essential oils in their environment, the better.

Finally, make sure that any oils in the house are stored out of reach from inquisitive paws and closed tight so they can’t spill. 

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Signs of toxicity in pets

Toxicity in pets is the worst-case scenario, but you should be aware of what the side effects look like if your dog gets into essential oils. Keep in mind that young and elderly dogs, and pups with liver disease, often experience more severe side effects. While it often depends on the oil your pet is exposed to, here is a list of common toxicity symptoms:

  • Drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Difficulty walking or stumbling
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Redness or burns on skin or gums
  • Vomiting

If you suspect your dog has come in contact with essential oils, this is an emergency — call your vet immediately or take your pet to an emergency hospital. It will help if you bring the essential oil with you so your vet has a better idea of what issues your pet may face. Your veterinarian may also advise you to call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855.764.7661.

If your pup has stinky days (we’ve all been there), there are many safe ways to get them smelling fresh that don’t involve essential oils. Check out our grooming article to learn how to clean your pup without risking their safety. 

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Photo by Sarandy Westfall on Unsplash

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