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Which Essential Oils are Toxic to Dogs|girl holding her dog

Essential Oils

Which Essential Oils are Toxic to Dogs?

Before our beloved dog of 10 years died of lymphoma, I sought out essential oils that were known for helping to boost the immune system in a desperate bid to slow the disease that took over new parts of his body while all of us slept.

I didn’t really think to research the safety factors of the oils I chose, because the disease moved so quickly there wasn’t time to think. We already diffuse lavender, but I also purchased chamomile to keep him calm, and wild orange to encourage a stronger immune system. Unfortunately, it was really too late. With lymphoma, there are only a few weeks, and in the first couple, your head spins with the nightmare of it all, so it takes a while to figure out the best approach. As it turned out, both oils went with him like he was an Egyptian prince at his burial, anointing him as he crossed the rainbow bridge.

In most cases, essential oils can be a great benefit for your dog, but it’s important to do your research. Some – including those you might have in your diffuser right now – can be toxic to pets, so it’s important for the health and wellness of your furry friend to use oils judiciously.

girl holding her dog Essential Oils to Avoid Near Dogs

While the list of essential oils that are not dog-friendly is fairly exhausting, it’s important to note that some of the essentials on the following list can in some cases be used along with a carrier, such as pennyroyal as a way to keep fleas at bay, and peppermint to help ease muscle pain.

In general, dogs are more sensitive to essential oils, so even the ones that would seem safe can be toxic for dogs.

Essentials with Toxic Potential

  • Tea tree essential oil. According to, tea tree oil can cause serious problems if ingested or absorbed through the skin. This includes liver damage, neurological damage or gastrointestinal problems. Despite all the Facebook recommendations for this essential oil, it is one to avoid. Even if you use it in the diffuser, your dog can collect the oil in his fur. 1

  • Birch essential oil. Experts say that the high levels of methyl salicylate in birch oil can be toxic to dogs, leading to kidney failure, seizures, gastrointestinal distress, respiratory depression, and potentially, death. Birch oil poisoning can be detected by the smell of wintergreen coming from your pet’s fur. 2

  • Wintergreen essential oil. Wintergreen also contains methyl salicylate and should be avoided. (Peppermint, when diluted, is safe, but don’t get the two oils from the mint family confused.)

  • Clove essential oil. The high levels of eugenol in clove oil make it potentially toxic for pets. Cinnamon and cassia oil are also unsafe for dogs.

  • Citrus essential oils. Essential oils that are high in limonene can be toxic for dogs and cats alike. Avoid using lemon, lime, grapefruit, mandarin, sweet orange, wild orange, neroli or celery seed oil. The exception to the citrus family is bergamot, which has a floral aroma that can ease stress in pets. 3

  • Pine essential oil. Pine is high in the compound alpha-pinene, which in dogs can be damaging to the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. It can be toxic if ingested or if absorbed through the dog’s skin or lungs. Other oils in this family include cypress, juniper, myrtle, and wormwood. 4

Other essential oils that are unsafe for dogs include thyme, pennyroyal, anise, peppermint, camphor, bitter almond, hyssop, blue tansy, mustard, oregano, thuja, and yarrow.

Safety Tips for Essential Oil Use

We know that essential oils can be as beneficial for our pets as they are for us, but they should be used with care.

In addition to avoiding toxic essentials, keep the following tips from The Dog People in mind:

  • Don’t add essential oils to food or drinking water. 5

  • Don’t use essentials in puppies under 10 weeks or with pregnant or nursing dogs.

  • Avoid essentials in dogs that are prone to seizures. (Check with your vet. Some essential oils, including frankincense, have been used to help reduce seizures in dogs as well as humans.)

Signs of a Toxic Reaction

There are several signs that your dog may have been exposed to toxic essential oils – or some other toxin – including: 6

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Lethargy

  • Problems walking

  • Unusual drooling

  • Muscle tremors or seizures

  • Pawing at his mouth

  • Weakness

  • Signs of burning around the mouth

  • Vomiting

If you notice any signs or symptoms that your dog may be experiencing a toxic reaction to essential oils, contact your vet or the Pet Poison Hotline - (800) 213-6680 – immediately to determine your next steps.

Photo credits: BranislavNenin/, OvchinnikovaStanislava/

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