Are essential oils safe for dogs? The use of essential oils in dogs to treat various pet illnesses has become an alternative treatment in place of conventional medicine.
Essential oils can be used topically or diffused in the air to alleviate certain health conditions or simply create a relaxing environment. But not all essential oils used by us are safe for dogs. Before you take this holistic approach, find out which essential oils are safe to use for dogs and which ones must be strictly avoided.
Essential Oils That Are Safe for Dogs
Some essential oils work wonders on dogs. They can help soothe discomforting pains and aches caused by sickness. Which essential oils are safe for dogs? Here is a list of essential oils that can be safely administered to your canine companion:
1. Fennel essential oil for dogs
Fennel essential oil helps by naturally detoxifying your dog’s body and getting rid of toxins. It also balances the hormones by supporting the endocrine system.
This can be used topically on inflamed areas and even post-operative wounds. But dilute it with a carrier oil first before applying it to your pet’s skin. It has a sweet scent similar to liquorice, making it a good choice for aromatherapy.
2. Helichrysum essential oil for dogs
Helichrysum is known as everlasting or immortelle. Although helichrysum is pungent, it offers a handful of benefits to dogs. Its antibacterial properties help speed up the healing of injuries.
Diluted helichrysum oil is often used to treat wounds and skin problems by applying it to the affected area.
For medium to large dog breeds, dilute 1 drop of the oil in 10 drops of carrier oil. Meanwhile, the dilution ratio for small dogs is 1 drop of the essential oil to 25 drops of carrier oil. Helichrysum may also help in improving a dog’s cardiovascular and nervous systems.
3. Spearmint essential oil for dogs
Spearmint essential oil is safe for dogs in small amounts. Be sure to dilute it first. Spearmint is known to aid in weight loss and balance metabolism.
If your dog is suffering from colic, diarrhoea, and nausea, consider giving him spearmint. But use it in a short time as it can have side effects such as gastrointestinal upset.
4. Frankincense essential oil for dogs
Diluted frankincense essential oil can be safely applied directly on the skin or used in a diffuser.
Frankincense essential oil can help boost a dog’s immunity. It also encourages smooth metabolism. Its calming scent helps a dog relax.
If you plan to diffuse it, add only 1–2 drops of essential oil to the diffuser. Frankincense has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which are great for healing injuries.
For topical use for your dog, the ratio is 1 drop of essential oil to 10 drops of carrier oil for large breeds, whilst use 1 drop of essential oil to 25 drops of carrier oil for small breeds.
5. Ginger essential oil for dogs
If properly diluted, ginger oil is safe for dogs to use sparingly and in small amounts. It is beneficial for pooches with motion sickness and indigestion.
Applying oils (1–2 drops) on your dog’s paw or stomach can help relieve his discomfort. Ginger oil can soothe joint pain and reduce inflammation.
This makes it a good natural pain reliever for dogs suffering from arthritis, dysplasia, or sprains. This essential oil can also ease breathing difficulties in dogs. Avoid using it more than once a week as it can build up on your dog’s skin and cause irritation.
6. Myrrh essential oil for dogs
Myrrh essential oil has many benefits for dogs. Myrrh is an ancient resin with an antiseptic quality, which clears up inflamed patches of skin. It is often applied to areas affected by rashes and other skin irritations.
Use this on our furry friends to help repel ticks. Alleviating teething problems and boosting the immune system are other health benefits myrrh offers to dogs.
7. Cedarwood essential oil for dogs
Cedarwood essential oil is a natural flea repellent and a good remedy for skin problems.
For topical use, dilute 1 drop of the oil in 30 drops of carrier oil. By mixing 20 drops of cedarwood oil with 16 ounces of distilled water, you will create an insect repellent spray.
8. Copaiba essential oil for dogs
Copaiba helps improve dogs’ cardiovascular, digestive, nervous, and respiratory systems.
Its topical dilution ratio is 1 drop of copaiba in 30–50 drops of carrier oil. You may also mix this essential oil with your dog’s food. Put 1 drop into his kibble mixed with wet food per 8–12 hours.
9. Chamomile essential oil for dogs
Chamomile oil comes in 2 types: German and Roman. The former boasts anti-inflammatory properties that help alleviate skin conditions, whilst the latter helps relieve stress and body pain in dogs.
The recommended dilution ratio for small dogs is 1 drop of chamomile essential oil to 25 drops of carrier oil. For large to medium dogs, the ratio is 1 drop of chamomile essential oil to 10 drops of carrier oil.
10. Rosehip seed essential oil for dogs
Rosehip seed essential oil has healing properties which are effective on dogs’ damaged tissues. It can be applied to abrasions, scars, and wounds. Repairing and strengthening damaged coat is another benefit this essential oil offers. Keep your dog’s fur shiny and healthy by applying diluted rosehip seed oil to it.
11. Cardamom essential oil for dogs
Cardamom has antibacterial properties and serves as a natural diuretic for dogs. It also helps in improving appetite, easing nausea, reducing coughing, and relieving anxiety. Some believe that cardamom essential oil can aid in driving away indigestion and gas.
12. Clary sage essential oil for dogs
Clary sage helps calm down anxious, hyperactive, and nervous dogs. It also proves to be useful in treating canine depression. However, as clary sage is linked to inducing labour in pregnant animals, avoid using it on expectant or lactating dogs.
13. Sweet marjoram essential oil for dogs
Sweet marjoram helps relieves symptoms of depression, diabetes, and nerve pain in dogs. It possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which help relieve skin inflammation and other dermatitis issues.
14. Sweet orange essential oil for dogs
Sweet orange is a great deodoriser for pooches and can also be used as a flea repellent. The scent of sweet orange has a calming effect on dogs, which reduces anxiety and depression.
15. Valerian essential oil for dogs
Valerian is good for dogs with trouble sleeping and suffering from skin conditions. It can also bolster the mood of canines, making it helpful in minimising anxiety or distress. Decreasing the frequency of seizures is another health perk of valerian essential oil to dogs.
Be Extra Cautious When Giving These Essential Oils to Dogs
Certain types of essential oils require more careful preparation and usage. Administering them haphazardly to dogs may cause harmful adverse reactions.
1. Lavender essential oil for dogs
Using lavender oil topically or for aromatherapy can be beneficial for dogs. It is known to relieve anxiety, insomnia, and stress. Be sure to dilute lavender oil with a carrier oil before using it on your pooch.
The lavender essential oil can also be used topically on dogs but in small amounts. Just make sure that they cannot lick the area where it is applied to.
Lavender essential oil contains linalool and linalyl acetate, which can be toxic for canines if ingested excessively. For this reason, it would be wise to fit dogs with E-collars after topical application.
The topical dilution ratio is 10 drops of lavender essential oil to half an ounce of carrier oil. The same ratio can be used for aromatherapy if your dog is experiencing motion sickness.
2. Tea tree essential oil for dogs
Tea tree has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties that soothe itchiness and skin irritation in dogs. It is known for repelling pesky fleas and ticks as well as other parasites.
Dogs must not ingest undiluted tea tree oil, nor should you apply it topically in pure form. Side effects of consuming tea tree oil in dogs include vomiting and skin irritation. It can lead to depression or even hind leg paralysis in severe cases.
It is therefore advised to dilute the oil first before using it on dogs. The recommended safest concentration of tea tree oil is 0.1–1%. For instance, dilute 6 drops of tea tree oil in 30 ml or one ounce of carrier oil.
Essential Oils That Are Toxic to Dogs
Not all types of essential oils have a positive effect on dogs’ health. A fair few of them are better off strictly restricted to human use and should never be used on canines.
1. Ylang-ylang essential oil
Ylang-ylang is a common ingredient in many perfumes. However, do not be deceived by its sweet scent. Even in small quantities, it can cause breathing difficulties, vomiting, and weakness in dogs. Hence, topical and internal use of ylang-ylang essential oil on dogs is greatly discouraged.
2. Pine essential oil
Pine oil is bad for dogs since it is a stomach and skin irritant. Dogs may suffer from diarrhoea and vomiting from ingesting pine oil. In severe cases, it might cause central nervous system damage and liver damage in dogs.
Moreover, pine oil has a strong scent, which can be overwhelming to your dog’s sense of smell. Diffusing it around him should be avoided to prevent the risk of respiratory issues.
Note that pine oil is commonly found in many household cleaning products. For this reason, always check the ingredients list before purchasing or using any cleaning products in your home.
3. Peppermint essential oil
It is still widely debated if peppermint essential oil is safe for dogs. It is purported to be effective in repelling fleas and ticks and is said to possess antiseptic properties. Some believe that it is okay to use peppermint oil in small amounts as long as it is diluted.
However, some vets discourage pet parents from using it as it can cause toxicity in dogs. They believe that using it in a diffuser or applying it topically is equally harmful to dogs.
Exposure to peppermint essential oil increases the risk of skin irritation, aspiration pneumonia, and in severe cases, liver failure. For this reason, it is best to stay on the safer side and not take the risk.
4. Citrus essential oil
Citrus essential oil is a well-known flea and tick repellent for dogs. However, despite the perk it offers, it would be best to avoid using citrus essential oil topically or internally on canines.
It contains toxic compounds for dogs such as d-limonene and linalool. If ingested, citrus essential oil can cause lethargy and vomiting. Without proper treatment, it can induce liver failure, seizures, and coma.
5. Eucalyptus essential oil
Eucalyptus essential oil is believed to help in preventing flea and tick infestation in dogs. It should be noted that these are only anecdotal claims and not yet proven by research. Regardless, using eucalyptus essential oil on dogs is discouraged as it carries the toxic compound eucalyptol.
When ingested or absorbed on the skin, it can trigger alarming side effects such as depression, vomiting, and chemical burns. Extensive exposure may lead to permanent kidney or liver damage.
6. Lemongrass essential oil
There is a great divide in the dog community on whether or not lemongrass essential oil is safe for their pets. Proponents of lemongrass essential oil vouch for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anti-flea and tick properties.
On the other hand, others do not recommend diffusing or topical application of lemongrass essential oil on dogs as it has high concentrations of cyanogenic glycosides. These compounds are converted into hydrogen when absorbed by the body, causing toxicity in dogs.
Since the cons of lemongrass essential oil weigh heavier than its pros, err on the side of caution and avoid using it on dogs.
7. Anise essential oil
Applying anise essential oil on dogs’ skin and coat should be avoided as it can prompt skin allergies and other dermatological issues. It is also believed to be toxic to canines, which can interfere with natural body processes.
Ingesting it can induce excessive thirst and tremors in dogs. It can also result in lethargy, breathing problems, and panting.
8. Basil essential oil
Basil essential oil is high in phenylpropanes, which can cause mild intoxication in dogs when ingested or inhaled. Other adverse reactions it can instigate in canines are stumbling and paralysis.
9. Sweet birch essential oil
Sweet birch essential oil contains potent concentrations of methyl salicylate, which can induce aspirin-like toxicity in dogs. The topical and internal application of sweet birch essential oil impairs the kidney and digestive functions of dogs.
Excessive exposure can induce severe side effects like seizures and kidney failure. Inhalation can also result in respiratory depression. If you suspect that your dog has come into contact with sweet birch essential oil, check if he gives off a wintergreen scent.
10. Yarrow essential oil
Yarrow essential oil is thought to possess qualities that help address eye infections, urinary problems, and burns in canines. Although it offers these benefits, inhalation, ingestion, or application of yarrow essential oil on dogs should be avoided.
It carries toxic compounds, namely glycoalkaloids, monoterpenes, and sesquiterpene lactones. Ingesting these substances can cause diarrhoea, digestive upset, and vomiting in dogs. Without prompt vet care, it can result in severe dehydration.
11. Wintergreen essential oil
Wintergreen contains the compound methyl salicylate, which is commonly found in aspirin. The plant’s essential oil is often used as a pain reliever for humans. It is also a popular additive in candies and gums.
If dogs ingest or come into contact with wintergreen essential oil, they are at risk of aspirin toxicity. Some of its dangerous side effects are anaemia, anorexia, hepatitis, and kidney failure.
12. Thyme essential oil
Thyme essential oil is made up of harmful compounds to dogs including linalool and phenols. They can prompt dangerous side effects such as vomiting and seizures. Coming into contact with thyme essential oil can also irritate the skin.
13. Clove essential oil
Clove essential oil is highly concentrated with eugenol, which can cause poisoning in dogs. Ingesting it in large amounts or excessive exposure can cause liver damage and affect the central nervous system of canines. Clove essential oil also contains the compound phenylpropane eugenol, which can cause skin burns.
14. Citronella essential oil
Citronella essential oil is often advertised as an effective flea and tick deterrent for dogs. However, it has compounds that were observed to induce minor poisoning in canines when ingested or inhaled. Topical use of citronella essential oil may also trigger skin sensitivities in some dogs.
15. Garlic essential oil
Garlic oil can induce mild toxicity in dogs when consumed. Symptoms such as pale gums, upset stomach, and vomiting may also arise. Allergic reactions may also occur if garlic oil is applied to the skin and coat of dogs.
16. Juniper essential oil
Juniper belongs to the pine family and carries high levels of alpha-pinene, making it toxic to dogs. When ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin, it can cause serious damage to the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system of canines.
17. Pennyroyal essential oil
Pennyroyal essential oil has been known for its insect-repelling properties. Whilst this is safe for human use, it is harmful and potentially deadly to dogs.
Both topical and oral applications can damage the kidneys, liver, and nervous system of dogs. Pregnant dogs are also at risk of miscarriage if they are exposed to pennyroyal essential oil.
18. Oregano essential oil
Oregano essential oil is said to be a natural antibiotic with antiparasitic properties. However, it is composed of compounds that are dangerous to dogs, such as phenols and terpenes.
Topical usage of oregano essential can cause a burning sensation on the skin of dogs. It can bring about rashes, itching, and skin inflammation. Ingesting it, especially in excessive amounts, must also be avoided as it may ultimately lead to poisoning.
19. Nutmeg essential oil
Nutmeg essential oil has high levels of the compound alpha-pinene and myristicin, which can induce toxicosis in dogs. It also possesses a “spicy” scent that can irritate the respiratory system of dogs when diffused.
20. Grapefruit essential oil
Grapefruit essential oil is often derived from the peel and rind of the fruit, which contains toxic compounds to canines like d-limonene. It can instigate side effects like abnormal heart rate, hypothermia, and tremors in dogs. To avoid these dangers, skip topical usage, oral application, or diffusion of grapefruit essential oil on dogs.
21. Lemon essential oil
There is a debate on lemon essential oil’s safety for dogs. Some stand by the health benefits it brings to dogs, such as relieving anxiety and easing pains. However, others pointed out that lemon essential oil has compounds that can induce toxicity in dogs, such as d-limonene and linalool.
It can potentially cause irreversible damage to the kidneys and liver if ingested or inhaled in potent amounts. It can cause breakouts, inflammation, and rashes if applied to dogs’ skin. For your pet’s safety, avoid using lemon essential oil on him.
22. Lime essential oil
Lime essential oil harbours the same dangerous substances its lemon counterpart has, which are d-limonene and linalool. When ingested, especially in large amounts, it can severely impair the kidney and liver functions of dogs.
23. Myrtle essential oil
Myrtle essential oil has potent concentrations of alpha-pinene, which can trigger dangerous side effects in dogs. Taking in myrtle essential oil will result in gastric issues in dogs, such as diarrhoea and vomiting. In worst cases, it can cause lasting damage to the kidneys, liver, and nervous system function of canines.
Safe Carrier Oils for Dogs
Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils. These can either be unscented or scented, and they do not interfere with the essential oils’ therapeutic properties. The following carrier oils are safe for our furry pals:
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Rosehip oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sweet almond oil
- Kukui nut oil
Are Diffusing Essential Oils Safe for Dogs?
Diffusing essential oil around your dog is safe to do provided that you choose dog-friendly essential oils, which we have mentioned above. Scents of essential oils are particularly helpful in calming down distressed or anxious dogs.
With that being said, our furry companions have a sharper sense of smell than we do. Thus, diffusing essential oils around your furry pet should be done with care.
Prolonged inhalation of diffused essential oil can have adverse effects. It can negatively affect the respiratory and nervous systems of dogs. Consequently, this can lead to the development of health problems and behavioural issues.
Here are some tips that you can follow to ensure the safety of our dogs and cats when using an essential oil diffuser:
- To find pet-safe essential oil for your dog, look for therapeutic-grade brands that are specially formulated for canines. Make sure that it comes from a reputable manufacturer. Consulting a holistic veterinarian can help in narrowing down your options.
- Avoid using essential oils with a hot or spicy aroma, such as eucalyptus and oregano. These are respiratory irritants that can cause breathing problems in dogs.
- Introduce an essential oil to your pet topically or through diffusion in small amounts. Observe him for 24 hours to see the effects.
- Make sure to properly dilute or diffuse the oil in a well-ventilated area. Avoid using the diffuser in an enclosed room since the scent may easily get trapped and become too strong for your dog’s nose.
- To prevent accidents, store an essential oil diffuser in a place that your dog cannot easily reach. Make sure to inform family members about the importance of properly storing essential oils.
- Avoid using the diffuser for extended periods. It is advised to run it for only 10 minutes if it is used as a pet aid. After that, let the air clear for 30 minutes.
- If you apply essential oils topically on your dog, cover the area securely after application. This will prevent him from accidentally licking it off and ingesting it. You could also apply the oil just before setting off for a walk, so your pup’s attention will be on the walk instead.
Beware of Essential Oil Toxicity
If your dog is vomiting, drooling, lethargic, is experiencing diarrhoea, tremors, seizures, and has difficulty walking, these are signs of essential oil toxicity. Bring him to the vet immediately for medical attention.