What Scents Are Safe for Dogs and Cats?

Guest Post by Kristi Gager (@kenzi.gets.a.buck)


Did you know that many essential oils are poisonous to your pets? Those amazing diffusers, oils and even candles that help make your home smell wonderful, help you de-stress and have some health benefits for you can actually harm your dogs and cats!

As a dog mom I want to do everything I can to keep them safe and healthy. When my 2-year-old cattle dog ate some grapes and had acute kidney failure, I started really researching what was poisonous for my pets. I knew some food items were, but had no idea so many scents could be harmful! Most candles don’t have as much essential oil as, say, a diffuser or wallflower, but can still be dangerous.

These oils can poison your pet in different forms:

  • ingestion
  • topical
  • inhalation (yep, I was surprised too!)

I got rid of my diffusers and am now very careful about candles and scents I use in my home.


Things to Keep in Mind

It may not come as much of a shock, but those extra smelly oils and candles you have can be quite enticing for your furry friend. Always keep them out of reach.

What may be more surprising are these other ways your pet can get ahold of these unsafe oils: 

  • When you put oils on your face and body and your fur baby licks it off your skin. The oils you use to treat your skin can be very irritating for your pet.
  • Don’t put anything topically on your pet without consulting with your vet first. You may be trying to mask a smell or think a human-safe product is ok for your pet, but that isn't always the case.
  • Dogs and cats have a 5-times-more-sensitive nose than humans and a scent can be harmful to your pet's nose and mentation. Be careful about how strong you keep your scents. When in doubt, consult your vet.

If you are concerned about your pet getting into any of these scents or what you have in your house, your vet is a great resource. vcahospitals.com is also my go-to when I have questions and the vet isn’t open. It’s where I have learned about the toxicity of essential oils.


What Oils and Scents are Harmful?


  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet Birch
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca)
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang Ylang


  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Sweet Birch
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca)
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang


Per the VCA, “While exposure to low amounts of essential oils and liquid potpourri often only result in gastrointestinal upset, certain concentrated oils can have effects on the liver, such as pennyroyal oil, and on the nervous system, such as tea tree oil. Liquid potpourri and some essential oils can also irritate or burn the skin and mouth. Only a couple of licks or a small amount on the skin could be harmful to a dog, depending on the ingredients in a specific product and how the pet is exposed."


Signs of Essential Oil or Liquid Potpourri Poisoning

  • Fragrance or scent on hair coat, skin, or breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty walking or uncoordinated gait
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue, or skin
  • Vomiting (you may detect the smell of essential oils in the vomit)


What to Do if Your Pet Ingests a Candle or Scented Oil

Early recognition is key! But the VCA also recommends:

  1. Do not induce vomiting or give activated charcoal to your dog. This may worsen your dog’s condition.
  2. Put the product packaging in a sealed container and take it with you to the veterinary clinic.
  3. If any product is on the skin or fur, quickly wash it off using hand dishwashing detergent.


Luckily, there are so many companies that put their ingredients right on the label. Your fur babies are counting on you to keep them safe! Always check your scented items and keep them out of reach! Also, there is a pet poison hotline just like for people! I have called it a few times and they are so helpful and give great advice.


One of my favorite things about Skinny Dip Candles is that the ingredients are right on the label, and they are a minimum-concentration scent, so I know I’m getting safe products for my pets. Especially if my pup gives my hand a lick after putting my wax on.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.