Freshening Up Around Pets? Be Mindful of These Scented Dangers

Freshening Up Around Pets? Be Mindful of These Scented Dangers

If your home has a lingering odor, you might be tempted to reach for a can of air freshener or light a candle. However, if you have pets at home, you might want to pause before spraying, lighting or diffusing your favorite scents. Many scented products can actually cause problems for your pet’s health!

Every scent removal spray, candle or essential oil diffuser is a little different and contains different ingredients. Pet owners need to be mindful of what’s in the products they use to avoid subjecting their pets to respiratory problems or chemical toxicity.

Here’s what you should know about these household scented products.

Air fresheners

Some air fresheners are formulated with ingredients that may be toxic to pets if they inhale too much. Many spray or plug-in air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals that turn into gasses from a solid or liquid form.

VOCs have been linked to a number of health issues in both humans and pets, including irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, lethargy and nausea. Persistent exposure may lead to damage of the kidneys and liver. Certain VOCs have also been linked to an increased risk of cancer in pets.

Additionally, some pets may develop or experience worsened asthma after being exposed to air freshener chemicals over time.

If an air freshener is toxic to your pet, they might cough, sneeze, vomit and/or experience discharge in their eyes and nose after exposure. They may also become lethargic and not be interested in eating. If these symptoms occur in your pet, stop using the air freshener in your home.

And, of course, all air freshener products should be stored in a place where your pets cannot reach them. Some products look tasty to pets and might entice them to nibble, potentially leading to gastrointestinal distress and more serious complications of toxicity.

Essential oils


Essential oils have been growing in popularity as a natural alternative to air fresheners and for their aromatherapy purposes. However, even though these products are made from natural ingredients, they are not necessarily safe to use around pets.

Many essential oils are toxic to pets. Cats are particularly susceptible to eucalyptus and lavender, while dogs are often harmed by yarrow and juniper. Citrus, pine, pennyroyal, ylang ylang and thyme essential oils can be harmful to both.

Toxic essential oils have the potential to cause the most damage when they are ingested by pets, so it’s extremely important to store your essential oils properly where your pets can’t reach them. But even diffusing these products can cause harm. Both cats and dogs have much greater senses of smell than humans, so certain scents can be much more overpowering to them. Inhaling strong concentrations of toxic essential oils may cause watery eyes and a runny nose, coughing, vomiting and difficulty breathing.


Candles are another point of concern when it comes to airborne scents and chemicals. Candles are made from a wide range of ingredients, and these differences may determine if or how strongly your pet will react to them.

Synthetic fragrance blends may irritate your pet’s respiratory system more than natural fragrances from essential oils. However, you should still be mindful of which essential oils are included and whether they’re toxic to pets, as well as how concentrated the scent is.

The candle base might also make a difference. Paraffin wax, which is made from petroleum waste, is known to cause respiratory irritation in pets, as opposed to beeswax or soy candles with cotton wicks, which burn cleaner and do not emit toxic chemicals into the air.

If you notice that your pet is experiencing labored breathing, coughing, sneezing or other symptoms when you begin burning a candle, it’s probably irritating their airways, and you should stop burning it.


It all depends on the product and your pet

There’s no single definitive rule when it comes to what scented products are safe to use around your pets. In general, you’ll want to steer clear of products containing harmful compounds like carcinogens, toxic essential oils and candles made of paraffin or with metal in the wicks. However, the rest of the product’s compounds, including the type and concentration of the fragrances, may or may not cause a reaction in your pet.

Safety during use might make a difference. Make sure the room you’re using a scented product in has good air circulation. Also, avoid using these products very close to pets and make sure they can leave the room easily if the scent becomes overpowering.

If you start using a product you believe is safe and notice signs of respiratory problems or other health issues in your pet, stop using it immediately. If your pet has a diagnosed respiratory illness like asthma or bronchitis, it’s best to avoid using these types of products altogether. And, always take your pet to the vet if you believe they ingested any chemical products or essential oils.

Through mindful product selection and safe usage in the home, you can enjoy freshly scented rooms and keep your furry friends safe!