Updated by Mel Lee-Smith — February 5, 2020
Can dogs smell eucalyptus? Search the question and the internet will return a mixed bag of confusing answers. Some sites say it's fine to diffuse essential oils containing eucalyptus around dogs, while other sources say it's unsafe. With so much conflicting information out there, it's hard to know what to believe. Never fear! We've done some digging, and with the help of Dr. Callum Turner, DVM, we've attempted to answer this question. The short answer is that you can keep your essential oil diffuser as long as you know how to use it safely. (Keep reading to find out how.)
However, on the topic of using products containing eucalyptus around dogs, Dr. Turner says, "As far as I am aware, eucalyptus oil when used in a diffuser isn’t dangerous for dogs but there are many reports online that many different essential oils may be dangerous for pets. I cannot find any reputable scientific evidence to support the use of eucalyptus oil in a diffuser. Generally, if it doesn’t say 'safe for pets,' I wouldn’t use the product."
Is your buddy capable of detecting the sweet, slightly minty scent of eucalyptus? Absolutely. Your pal's got one powerful sniffer that's five times more sensitive than your own, so chances are if you can sniff it out, so can Spot. But even though your dog can smell eucalyptus — whether it's from the tree itself or through an essential oil diffuser — it doesn't mean they should. Eucalyptus is actually toxic to dogs (and humans) when ingested, and it can cause also irritation when applied to the skin.
Signs of Eucalyptus Toxicity in Dogs
Eucalyptus is toxic to dogs. According to Dr. Turner, "Ingestion of eucalyptus leaves may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness; however, in large quantities, it may also cause seizures" in dogs. The ASPCA also notes dogs who ingest eucalyptus can suffer from depression.
Other symptoms may include:
- abdominal pain
- swelling, itching, and redness of the skin
There are some signs you may notice if your dog doesn't like the smell of eucalyptus:
- Tail tucking
- Nose wrinkled
- Rubbing their snout
- Pawing at their nose
History of Eucalyptus and Dogs
Science Behind Eucalyptus Oil Toxicity
While there's little information available online regarding the exact causes of eucalyptus toxicity in dogs, the ASPCA states that the main toxin in eucalyptus is eucalyptol. Also called cineole, this organic compound is used in a variety of human-grade products, including cough syrup, mouthwash, and anti-inflammatory medicines. Little is known about the specific ways in which eucalyptol affects the canine central nervous system.
However, much more data is available on eucalyptus oil toxicity in humans. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, even ingesting a small quantity of eucalyptus oil can cause vomiting, disorientation, and abdominal pain. More severe symptoms resulting from ingesting larger quantities can include seizures and loss of consciousness.
How to Use Eucalyptus Oil with a Dog
Before we talk about how to use eucalyptus oil with a dog, let's talk about how not to use it. Never apply eucalyptus oil, even if it's diluted, to your dog's skin. This can result in skin irritation and even chemical burns. If you're growing eucalyptus in your garden, always supervise your pal whenever you're outside to ensure they don't munch on the toxic leaves.
What about diffusing essential oils with eucalyptus around dogs? Officially, the jury is out on this one, as there's no scientific data on the subject. However, veterinarian Dr. Turner advises pet owners against using diffusers, particularly those that plug into the wall. "It isn’t just about the smell, but many times, dogs like to chew on the plug-in device and may either ingest liquid or get a shock if they chew enough at the wall and don’t pull out the plug."
Diffusing eucalyptus oil around dogs can also be harmful if it's used for a long period of time within a small space. Additionally, if your buddy has breathing problems, it's best to avoid diffusing essential oils of any type, as prolonged use can cause or worsen aspiration pneumonia.
So can you safely diffuse essential oils containing eucalyptus around your dog? Yes and no. Here's what you need to do:
- Talk to your veterinarian first. Your vet knows your dog best, so when it comes to eucalyptus and your dog, discuss any concerns with your vet before firing up the diffuser.
- Use the diffuser in an area that's off-limits to your pet. Remember, Sparky's sense of smell is much more sensitive than your own. Something that might smell pleasant to you might overwhelm your woofer's senses.
- Read the product label carefully. While most product labels will say if something is unsafe for pets, not all do.
Sure, eucalyptus can make your home smell nice, but your hound's health is far more important. Our advice is to stay on the safe side and skip the diffuser altogether. Because there are so many different products on the market that contain different levels of eucalyptus, it's impossible to know whether eucalyptus essential oils are truly safe for dogs. When in doubt, remember Dr. Turner's advice: if it doesn't say it's safe for pets, avoid it!
Safety Tips for Using Eucalyptus Around Your Dog:
Supervise them around eucalyptus plants.
Never allow your dog to ingest eucalyptus.
Never apply it to their skin, either directly or diluted.
Exercise extreme caution with essential oil diffusers.
Contact your vet immediately after ingestion.