Apr 9th 2020

Top 5 Best and Worst Essential Oils to Use Around Dogs

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 sources. I’m not about to take a risk and put my dog in danger, so I sought out the most reliable resources to identify the top 5 best and worst essential oils for dogs

Research vs Knowing your Dog

The most crucial thing I learned from both my research and 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

Dog’s Sense of Smell

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. Always consult your
Veterinarian before 
applying diluted 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.

For more information about dogs' sense of smell, click here.

Trick looking around

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 may 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 2 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. 

Patchouli – Hippy Zen

Patchouli Essential Oil has an earthy aroma to help you and your dog chill out. The scent has shown to have a calming effect on the nervous system. It may even help ward of mosquitoes. Just one single drop goes a long way in a cool mist diffuser to impart a meditative aroma.

Pine Needle – Like a Hike in the Forest

Pine Needle Essential Oil has an uplifting woodsy scent. The great thing about Pine needle essential oil is that it brings the scent of the great outdoors inside. It is often used to help relieve stress and cleanse the air. It may even help repel insects. Place a drop in your diffuser and let the aroma help you imagine you and your dog on a peaceful trail hike.

Lemon - Hit the Refresh Button

Some dogs are adverse to citrus 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 undesirable odors. As long as your dog is cool with it, this is a great essential oil to diffuse.

Top 5 Best Essential Oils for 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 best not used with dogs.   

Cinnamon Essential Oil

Cinnamon Essential oil is very potent, and too strong to use with dogs. 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 should be avoided around 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 potentially 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 comes in a variety of chemotypes. Those high in the thymol and carvacrol constituents can be quite toxic to dogs. Unless you know how to read a GC-MS Report that identifies the key chemical components of an essential oil, it might be best to just avoid diffusing thyme essential oil around your dog.

Clove Essential Oil

According to aromatherapist and author, Kristen Leigh Bell, “the eugenol in clove can burn a pet’s skin.” It’s also not so safe for dogs to inhale. This strong scent is best not used around our furry friends!

Trick in the living room

For more information on essential oils that are bad for dogs, click here.

Final Thoughts

The 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, use in moderation, and pay 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.