3 min read


Can Dogs Smell Essential Oils?



3 min read


Can Dogs Smell Essential Oils?


Essential oils can be both calming and invigorating, which is why it should come as no surprise that many people use them on a regular basis. Chances are, you are familiar with the healing properties of essential oils, but have you ever thought about how they affect your dog? While it's true that there are many different uses for essential oils, it's important to understand which ones are safe for your furry friend and which could cause undue harm. 

The technical term or phrase for the use of essential oils in your home is aromatherapy. These precious oils are carefully extracted from plants through distillation and can benefit you and your animal in many ways.

A dog's sense of smell is extremely powerful, which is something that should be kept in mind when using essential oils in your home. Essential oils can help both topically and through the air with everything from skin irritations to fighting fleas in dogs. Before you run to your favorite natural store and buy a bunch of essential oils to use on your dog, make sure you do your homework and consult your vet. Never use essential oils on or around your dog without knowing what you are doing first! 


Signs Your Dog Can Smell Essential Oils

According to PBS, dogs have more than 300 million olfactory receptors, compared to just 6 million in humans. This means that their sense of smell is incredibly powerful. The bottom line? Yes, dogs can smell essential oils. However, not all essential oils are safe for your dog. Lavender is perhaps the most popular (and one of the safest) because of its calming properties. Peppermint oil is another good one that can stimulate circulation and deter pesky insects.

So how do you know if your dog is smelling those essential oils you have going in the diffuser? For one, their nose will probably start to wiggle as they take in the new scent and try to figure out what exactly is going on. They may sneeze, which could indicate the essential oil is bothering them, so be sure to watch for this. 

Body Language

Here are some signs your dog can smell essential oils:

  • Sniffing
  • Raise Ears
  • Twitching Whiskers

Other Signs

These are other signs your dog may smell essential oils:

  • Sniffing The Air
  • Looking Around For The Scent

History of Dogs and Essential Oils


The use of essential oils in humans can be dated back to the ancient Egyptians, Indians, and Chinese. Aromatherapy has long been an integral aspect of Chinese medicine and has been revered for its healing properties. 

Shortly after the Roman empire fell, a Persian physician was credited with discovering a distillation process that we still rely on today. Modern essential oil usage of today can be attributed to a couple of Frenchmen who accidentally discovered that lavender could help treat burns. 

In recent years, essential oils have been more widely used on animals and today there are countless veterinary programs dedicated to the study. A student at the University of South Dakota recently received a degree in ethnobotany, which is the use of essential oils for veterinary purposes.  

Science Behind Dogs and Essential Oils


Please keep in mind that dogs are far more sensitive to essential oils than humans are. They should always be diluted when using them on your furry friend, even if you are just using them as a room freshener. It is generally recommended that you do not use essential oils on your dog preventively. What we mean by that is to only use essential oils when your dog has a specific concern you'd like to address. Never add them to your dog's water or food and don't use them on puppies. 

All of the above is important to keep in mind when looking at the science behind using essential oils on your dog. When diluted in a carrier oil, they can be effective in treating arthritis, bruises, scars, strains, skin issues, stress, and even fleas. Every single pet is different when it comes to how they will react to essential oils, and there are specific oils that may be toxic to your dog, including:

  • Anise¬†
  • Clove¬†
  • Garlic¬†
  • Horseradish
  • Juniper
  • Thyme¬†
  • Wintergreen
  • Yarrow¬†

Scientists state that dogs can have a range of issues from the above essential oils, such as allergies and negative skin reactions. There are also a handful of essential oils that can be of use to them, such as:

  • Cedarwood¬†
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
  • Clary Sage
  • Geranium
  • Peppermint¬†
  • Carrot Seed¬†
  • Ginger¬†
  • Marjoram

Training Your Dog to Notice Essential Oils


There is no specific way to train your dog on how to react to or pick up on essential oils, unfortunately. They will naturally sense an essential oil is in the air and use their complex sense of smell to decipher whether they like it or not. We cannot reiterate how important it is to discuss using essential oils on your pet with your vet, as some may cause severe, toxic reactions.

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Safety Tips for Using Essential Oils on Your Dog:

  1. Always consult your vet first!
  2. Make sure the oil is safe for your dog.
  3. Always dilute the essential oil before applying it topically.
  4. Don't over do it - start with a few drops and work your way up.

Written by a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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