I have a dog named Trick, and I love essential oils. So I asked myself, “What are the best and worst essential oils to use around dogs?” While we have an excellent article about pets already, I wanted to get more specific about essential oils for dogs.
It turns out the answer is more complicated than the question.
Once I began my research, I ran into a ton of contradictory claims from various websites. I’m not about to take a risk and put my dog in danger, so I sought out the top 5 best and worst essential oils for dogs and compiled a list that I can reasonably rely on.
Research vs the Truth
The most crucial thing I learned from both my research and from my dog is that every dog is different. This is similar to how you might be allergic to a certain food while others eat that same food like there’s no tomorrow. Maybe you’re allergic to cats while your best friend cuddles with their cat all day.
We have to remember that dogs can be just as different.
This means taking responsibility and carefully observing our dogs whenever we diffuse an essential oil. Get to know your dog well by paying attention to their behavioral patterns. This will empower you to catch behaviors that are unusual.
You might ask yourself: Why should I be careful with essential oils around my dog? Essential oils are all-natural anyway, aren’t they? This brings us to the first point.
Your Dog’s Sense of Smell is Insane
You’ve probably heard that dogs have a powerful sense of smell, but did you know how powerful? Think 10,000 to 100,000 times more than our own. In fact, dogs have been reliably used to sniff out narcotics, weapons, and even cancer.
James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University came to a shocking estimate to help us understand how powerful it really is. According to Walker, “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well.”
While we humans possess up to six million olfactory receptors, dogs possess up to 300 million.
Beyond that, the part of a dog’s brain that analyzes smells is up to 40 times (proportionally) greater than ours. Although there is no way to know with certainty how well a dog can smell, and the debate on how well they can smell is still out, I prefer to stay on the safe side to avoid irritating my dog.
Note: This article is only about diffusing essential oils as there are not enough conclusive studies to recommend applying essential oils onto your dog. Consult a professional in the field such as a veterinarian or a clinical aromatherapist specializing in animals before using essential oils for any pet.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the best and worst essential oils for dogs.
The Best Essential Oils to Diffuse Around Dogs
The following essential oils are not deemed to be poisonous for any kind of pet by the Pet Poison Helpline.
Cedarwood - Goodbye, Fleas
Cedarwood Essential Oil has a woody, earthy scent. It is commonly diffused by dog owners to provide a calming and grounding aroma, which can also act as a natural pesticide and insect repellent. It is said to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, which may provide benefits to both you and your dog. Some claim it can act as an expectorant for dogs dealing with kennel cough, but the research is inconclusive.
Lavender - Hello, Tranquility
Lavender Essential Oil has a calming, floral scent. According to research, it can provide some dogs with the same relaxing qualities that it provides humans. When I put Lavender in the diffuser, Trick still moves around freely but seems less anxious. I prefer to add 4 drops of Lavender to my Work Genie II since it’s a compact diffuser, and I only want to diffuse a little bit to avoid overwhelming Trick.
Lemongrass - Get Out, Mosquitos
Lemongrass Essential Oil has a remarkably cleansing and refreshing scent. It is commonly diffused to repel fleas and ticks, but there is also evidence suggesting it can help get rid of mosquitos. This is a win for you, your dog, and the whole family.
Frankincense - Stronger than Yesterday
Frankincense Essential Oil has a warm and earthy scent. The great thing about Frankincense Essential Oil is that it is less potent than many others essential oils. It is often used to help relieve stress, improve sleep, and reduce aging spots. However, diffusing it in your home can also help to improve immunity for both you and your dog.
Lemon - Hit the Refresh Button
Some dogs are allergic to citrusy oils, so as usual, be sure to keep a close eye on your dog after diffusing Lemon Essential Oil. This essential oil has a citrusy, fresh scent that can get rid of most undesirable odors. As long as your dog doesn’t have any citrus allergies, this is a great essential oil to diffuse around dogs.
The Worst Essential Oils for Dogs
Throughout my research, I also noticed that certain oils were repeatedly mentioned as toxic for dogs. I combed through and came up with a list of essential oils that seem to be consistently mentioned as being toxic to dogs.
Peppermint Essential Oil
This one is from personal experience. The debate seems to be out on whether Peppermint Essential Oil is good for dogs or not, but I tested it around Trick. I was only diffusing a few drops for about a minute before Trick started sneezing. When I sneeze, at best I’m uncomfortable, and at worst, I’m suffering. So this one is a no-no for Trick, and much of my research confirms that it is toxic for dogs.
Cinnamon Essential Oil
The debate is out on Cinnamon Essential Oil’s effect on dogs as well. However, according to Pet Poison Helpline, “It takes a larger amount of ingested cinnamon powder to cause problems in our pets (greater than 1 teaspoon of powder for most pets) but only a small amount of the essential oil.” Based on that tidbit, I believe Cinnamon Essential Oil has the potential to be dangerous for dogs.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
The very chemicals that make Tea Tree Essential Oil so effective against bacteria and fungi (terpenes) are the same chemicals that make it toxic to dogs. While most research is around the topical application of Tea Tree, I prefer to keep anything that might be toxic for dogs away from Trick.
Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme Essential Oil is a tricky one. Some sources suggest diffusing it around your dog to help those with respiratory problems. However, several other sources suggest that it may be toxic for dogs. As usual, use caution, and pay attention to your dog with this essential oil.
Clove Essential Oil
There are plenty of anecdotes out there that condone the use of Clove Essential Oil around dogs. However, according to aromatherapist and author, Kristen Leigh Bell, “the phenylpropane eugenol in clove can burn a pet’s skin.” This leads me to believe that it may also be toxic for dogs to inhale. There’s no sure answer, but I prefer not to take the risk.
Final ThoughtsThe use of essential oils for pets is a controversial topic. Not even the experts can come to a solid agreement. However, you don’t have to sacrifice your love for essential oils for your dog; you just have to be selective and pay very close attention to your dog when you use essential oils. Diffusing certain essential oils around your dog might be beneficial for them. Simply use caution, and always consult a professional veterinarian or aromatherapist specializing in animals before using essential oils around your dog.