Is it Safe to Diffuse Essential Oils Around My Pup?

I love my essential oils. My favorite is orange, it's vibrant, clean, citrusy smell energizes me. For a very long time, I diffused my orange essential oil without thinking at all about my pups. It didn't occur to me that something this wonderful could be harmful to anyone, let alone my dogs. Much to my dismay, I learned that not only can orange essential oil be harmful, it's downright toxic to dogs. 

To keep our pups comfy and cozy, it's important to check before adding new products to your home. You never know what might cause an adverse reaction. Best practice is always to check with your vet, however, in a pinch, finding a trusted source on Google also works.  

A Few Products You Should Check Before Adding to Your Home With a Pet: 

    • Laundry Detergents 
    • Fabric Softeners 
    • Air Fresheners 
    • Cleaning Agents 
    • Dishwasher detergent 
    • Doggie Shampoo + Conditioners 
    • Liquid potpourri products
    • Incense
    • Essential Oils


It's important to consult with your veterinarian regardless of what you read online when it comes to using essential oils. Your vet is a trained professional in the unique physiology of animals, and what’s more, they know your pet. They know their specific medical history, and they understand how their body works. In every case, your veterinarian should be your first point of contact before using anything new with your furry friend.

Some things to consider with essential oils: 

  1. Each animal’s weight and size plays a role. How much your pet will be sensitive to an oil seems to be related to their size or weight. Larger animals such as some dogs and horses seem to respond well to topical application in the limited studies that have been done. Never use oils with puppies or kittens.
  2. If a plant is known to be toxic to a pet, chances are the oil is also. For example, eucalyptus is toxic to cats if ingested, and it stands to reason that the oil of the same plant is as well. By the same reasoning, many cats hate the smell of citrus because it can be toxic to them if they eat it. Not all cats react to citrus, but it is always best to be cautious and avoid using citrus essential oils with cats as well.
  3. Start small, always dilute, use always in moderation. If you are going to use an oil topically after consulting your vet, keep it to a small area, dilute heavily with carrier oil, and do it rarely.
  4. Generally avoid internal use. Because of the lack of research, we do not recommend using oils internally for companion animals. There is some research about using oils internally with horses, but we do not generally recommend this approach at this time.

When Diffusing

When it comes to diffusing around animals, we are not aware of any scientific literature about diffused essential oils having any specific effect on cats or other companion animals in general.

There is some research on aromatherapy benefits for dogs and horses. For example, a dog rescue shelter diffused a combination of Lavender and Chamomile oil and observed an increase of resting and a decrease of barking. However, when Peppermint and Rosemary oils were diffused, researchers observed more activity [1]. The calming effect of Lavender oil was also observed in horses. After exposing the horses to a highly stressful situation, researchers diffused either Lavender oil or water near the horse’s nose. They then measured and compared the horses’ heart rates to the normal baseline rates. In the results of this study, when horses were exposed to Lavender oil after experiencing stress, their heart rates were significantly lower than control measurements [2].

When diffusing around your pets, follow a few general guidelines:

  1. Ensure there is plenty of ventilation in the room you are diffusing in. Never enclose your pet and a diffuser in a tight space, and always give them a way to leave.
  2. Don’t run the diffuser for a long amount of time on full blast. When diffusing around an animal diffuse for only a few minutes at a time.
  3. Make sure the diffuser is secure. If the diffuser falls or the animal drinks water from the diffuser it could be potentially harmful.

Remember too that you can always diffuse oils in a room you can keep your pets out of temporarily. While it is necessary to be cautious, you should still be able to diffuse most oils around your household pets. After consulting your vet, and then diffusing, we recommend that you pay attention to what your pet’s body language is telling you and go from there.

Some of the information in this post was obtained from the Doterra Essential Oils website. 

Additionally, for specific oils and education when using them around your pets, I recommend you check out sites who focus on pups and essential oils.

The American Kennel Club wrote a great article and even have a YouTube video on the safe use of essential oils with dogs.  

 Pup Oils has a fantastic line of dog specific essential oil based products for pups including calming and anti-itch products.

It's also prudent to note that toxicity can vary depending on the form the oils are presented in - diffused or liquid. According to the VCA (formerly Veterinary Centers of America), "Many liquid potpourri products and essential oils, including oil of cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are poisonous to dogs. Both ingestion and skin exposure can be toxic." 

[1] L. Graham, D. L. Wells, and P. G. Hepper, “The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter,” Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., vol. 91, no. 1–2, pp. 143–153, May 2005.

[2] C. E. Ferguson, H. F. Kleinman, and J. Browning, “Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Acute-Stressed Horses,” J. Equine Vet. Sci., vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 67–69, Jan. 2013.