We asked a vet whether oil diffusers are really that toxic to dogs. Here’s what they said

Oil diffuser in the home
(Image credit: puhimec)

You might have heard speculation over whether oil diffusers are safe to use around dogs. One side of the internet warns of the dangers, whilst the other side recommends using them for natural remedies, so we don’t blame you if you’re feeling a little lost.

These mood-boosting oils have lots of benefits for  us humans, and have a strong aroma that can help mask unpleasant odors. This means you might be tempted to try them out - especially if you want to combat the ‘dog smell’. If you’re wondering ‘why does my dog smell?’ Our vet answers your questions in this helpful guide. 

With so many conflicting opinions on the internet about their safety, it can be hard to know where you stand. That’s why we’ve called in a vet to get to the bottom of it. 

Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS
Dr Hannah Godfrey

Dr Hannah Godfrey is a small animal vet who graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but focussed on small animals from 2014. She has a passion for soft tissue surgery, ultrasound, and canine and feline dentistry, having completed additional training in these areas.

Are essential oils toxic for dogs?

Vet Dr Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS says that there haven’t been many studies to assess the safety of essential oils around pets. But in her experience, she’s seen dogs develop signs like snorting, sneezing, and wheezing at the same time that essential oils or household fragrances had been used. 

She says that this is probably caused by an allergy or airway irritation from the scent compounds. In short, you shouldn’t use them if you have a dog.  

Which essential oils are toxic for dogs?

Whilst not all essential oils are toxic for dogs, Dr Godfrey says you shouldn’t be using any of them as they can cause issues for individual dogs. 

Some poisonous essential oils include:

  • Cinnamon
  • Ylang-ylang
  • Peppermint
  • Citrus
  • Tea tree
  • Wweet birch
  • Pine

Peppermint oil

(Image credit: Yana Tatevosian)

Can I apply essential oils to my dog’s skin?

There are lots of natural remedies on the internet that recommend using essential oils to treat your dog, but you should never apply them to their skin. If you’re looking for alternatives, here are five natural ways to moisturize dog paws.

Dr Godfrey says: “It's not just breathing in essential oils that can cause problems; applying essential oils to your dog's skin can cause skin rashes and soreness, especially if your dog has sensitive skin. It also means there's a chance that your dog could lick and consume the oil, which could cause gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea.”

What are the symptoms of essential oil poisoning?

Dr Godfrey explains that this all depends on whether they had direct skin contact, breathed it in, or consumed it, but if your dog shows any of the symptoms above, you should take them to see a vet.

Dog sitting with a vet

(Image credit: SeventyFour)

What should I do if my dog has ingested or come in contact with essential oils?

Dr Godfrey says: “If your dog comes into contact with essential oils, wash the oil off with dilute soapy water and check the area for redness or inflammation.

“If they could have licked the oil, it's worth taking them to the vet for a check-up or watching them closely for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or other signs of being unwell.”

Are essential oils toxic to cats?

Some essential oils are also toxic to cats which means they need to be avoided. Dr Godfrey explains that even if they’re not the toxic ones, they can still cause airway irritation, feline asthma flare-ups, and skin rashes on contact.

Want to know the best dog shampoo to buy? We’ve rounded up our top picks. If you’re looking for home remedies for dog allergies, here are three vet-approved ones to try.

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Want to get rid of nasty smells? These deodorizing wipes will do the trick and are made with aloe vera and vitamin E to keep their coat looking shiny.  

Megan Milstead
Staff Writer

Megan is Staff Writer on PetsRadar and covers news, features, buying guides, and reviews. When she’s not talking about her cats, Nala and Chilli (a rare occasion), you’ll find her watching funny pet videos on Instagram and sending hundreds of them to her friends. She’s particularly interested in pet wellness and is fascinated by cat behavior. Megan has been animal-obsessed for as long as she can remember, having grown up with pets since the age of three and competed in horse riding competitions for seven years. She has had a variety of animals, including horses, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and fish, which taught her first-hand everything she knows about pet care.

Megan studied Journalism at the University of Westminster, where she specialized in lifestyle journalism and was Editor of the online student publication, Smoke Radio. She has experience working across digital and print media and previously worked for titles such as Harrods, My Local News, and Licklist. As a committed pet mom of two, she enjoys going the extra mile for her cats and is passionate about helping readers find the answers they need.