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Are Essential Oils Safe for Dogs to Take? Vet Approved Guidance

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

selection of essential oils on table

Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Essential oils serve a variety of purposes, from supporting relaxation to reducing inflammation. If you’ve experienced benefits from essential oils, then you’ve likely found yourself wondering if your dog would also benefit from taking or using essential oils. However, essential oils can be incredibly dangerous for pets, so it’s imperative that you know what is and isn’t safe, as well as have a conversation with your vet before you attempt to use any essential oils for any purpose for your dog. Here’s what you should know.

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Are Essential Oils Safe for Dogs to Take?

Unless explicitly directed by a veterinarian, you should not give any essential oils to your dog orally. Even non-toxic essential oils have the potential for digestive upset when consumed. Essential oils are very concentrated, so there is a much higher potential for toxicity and side effects when consumed versus being applied topically or inhaled.

Are Essential Oils Safe for Dogs at All?

Dog and Essential Oil_shutterstock_Te9l
Image Credit by: Te9l, shutterstock

While there are a handful of essential oils that are safe for dogs to be around, it’s generally advised to avoid any essential oil use for pets. There are risks when used incorrectly, and since essential oils are not subject to the same regulations as medications, there is a risk of contamination and unknown concentrations of active ingredients.

Avoiding essential oils doesn’t just mean not giving them to your dog by mouth. Many people use essential oils in diffusers for the pleasant aroma, but inhaled essential oils can be dangerous for your dog, leading to respiratory discomfort and distress.

When applied topically to the skin, essential oils can cause skin irritation, so they aren’t recommended for this use either. It’s also important to understand that essential oils are lipophilic, so they can be absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream. The liver is responsible for metabolizing essential oils, so an abundance of essential oils may stress the body.

Even essential oil-based products that are formulated for use on pets, like shampoos, may cause irritation. Some people use lavender, cedarwood, and bergamot oils and consider them safe around dogs when diluted thoroughly, but there still isn’t any research to sufficiently support this. In general, it’s best to talk to your vet before using any products containing essential oils for your dog, even if they say they’re formulated for dogs or pets.

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Toxic Essential Oils

To keep your dog safe if you choose to use essential oils in your home, you need to know what essential oils are toxic for dogs. While most essential oils pose the risk of mild side effects, some are truly toxic and can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, for dogs.

  • Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is one of the most commonly used essential oils. Many people use it for a variety of purposes, thanks to its function as an anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial. Unfortunately, this essential oil is extremely dangerous for dogs, even leading to central nervous system depression in some cases.

  • Cinnamon oil

Although cinnamon is nontoxic and generally considered safe for dogs, cinnamon essential oil is not safe for dogs.

  • Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus can be dangerous for dogs. While it is a common essential oil, some people also purchase eucalyptus branches to keep in their showers because the steam from the shower releases the natural oils from the eucalyptus. If used with your dog in the room, this can be dangerous.

  • Mint

All forms of mint essential oils are considered toxic to dogs. This includes spearmint, wintergreen, and peppermint.

  • Lemon

It may smell clean and fresh, but lemon essential oil, along with the similarly smelling lemongrass, is considered unsafe for use around dogs.

  • Clove leaf

Cloves are a popular seasonal scent around Christmas time, often invoking many pleasant memories for humans. This essential oil is toxic to dogs, though, so it should be avoided.

  • Bitter almond

Bitter almond is dangerous for dogs in every form. Bitter almonds themselves are toxic if consumed, and the essential oil is also toxic for dogs. In some cases, bitter almond oil can lead to respiratory failure for dogs, so it should be completely avoided in a home with dogs.

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In Conclusion

In almost all cases, essential oils aren’t considered safe for dogs to take. Some essential oils may be safe for use in a home with dogs, and some are safe enough to be used for dogs. However, a veterinarian should be the one guiding the use of any essential oils you may use for your dog. This even applies to products that are formulated for dogs.

Featured Image Credit: Madeleine Steinbach, Shutterstock

Brooke Billingsley

Authored by

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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