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The Danger of Candles, Air Fresheners and Other Home Fragrances

Everyone wants to come home to a house that smells good! Keeping your house smelling good all of the time can sometimes pose a challenge, especially with pets in the mix. While many like to keep their house smelling nice using candles, diffusers, liquid potpourri, or other air fresheners, pet owners will need to take some extra precautions when using these in their home. Pets can be extremely sensitive to strong odors, and some products may contain toxic chemicals or ingredients, such as essential oils. In this blog, we’ll discuss the risks these smell-goods pose to pets, and how to safely keep your home odor-free.

lit candles - wix media


What makes these products potentially dangerous?

When used sparingly and kept out of reach of pets, most candles and air fresheners do not pose any significant risk to most pets. However, using too many of these products in one space or leaving these items within reach of pets can be harmful.

One of the main concerns is that a pet ingests these products. Consuming candle wax or the chemicals/oils used in air fresheners can not only cause stomach upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, but can also cause chemical burns around the mouth, tongue, and gums. Additionally, depending on the ingredients, ingesting these products may have more serious consequences on your pet’s health, as chemicals and essential oils are extremely toxic when eaten and can cause seizures, muscle tremors, confusion, or even death.

However, please note that a pet does not have to ingest a product for it to be harmful. Pets have sensitive airways, and inhaling the scents from candles or air fresheners can irritate their airways, which can lead to symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or even difficulty breathing. Additionally, these products may cause burns when they come into contact with the skin. Pink or red lesions or blisters on the skin, possibly accompanied by hair loss in those areas, can be indicative of an allergic reaction or chemical burn.

These products should never be used in homes with birds, as they are extremely sensitive and exposure can result in serious illness or death.

“Natural” does not mean safe. It is easy to accidentally overlook the danger “natural” products such as essential oils pose when used improperly. Essential oils can be toxic to pets and their exposure to these products should be extremely limited. Please contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet has come into oral or skin contact with essential oils.

Some of these products include:


In addition to the fire hazard candles can pose to pets, either by walking too close or knocking the candle over, some candle ingredients and the smoke/ash put off by the wick can be irritating to pets. Avoid candles that use essential oils and stick to candles made from ingredients such as soy, paraffin, or beeswax if you are going to light candles in the home. Alternatively, there are companies that make specific candles to tackle pet odors which are pet safe that would be good substitutions for other candles! Be careful with wax melts, too - the good smells might attract pets who might be tempted to taste or play in the wax.

Air Fresheners

Air fresheners come in all different shapes and sizes, these days - wall plug-ins, automatic dispensers, scent sticks, and more. These items are convenient, because unlike candles, you can set them up and forget about them. However, it is important to keep these away from pets, and use them sparingly. We do not recommend using more than one product per room, and ideally using them in rooms that pets do not spend a lot of time in. While we understand that air fresheners might be the most helpful in rooms where pets spend the most time, these scents can be overwhelming to pets when used in enclosed spaces.


Deodorizers refer to a variety of products, usually in an aerosol or spray form, that can be used to remove odors, such as Febreze or Clorox. Additionally, there are many products that simply smell good and can be sprayed to improve the room’s aroma. When using these products, make sure your pet is not in the room and keep them out for a while so that the smells can disperse. Keep doors open whenever possible to allow air flow to continuously disperse the scents, and ALWAYS avoid spraying your pet’s items or bedding with these products, as they can cause skin irritation when pets lay on them.

What are the symptoms to watch for?

Some of the symptoms that may indicate your pet has come into contact with candles, air fresheners, liquid potpourri, essential oils, or other chemicals may include:

●     Coughing

●     Sneezing

●     Wheezing

●     Difficulty Breathing

●     Increased Nasal Discharge

●     Excessive Drooling

●     Loss of Appetite

●     Vomiting

●     Diarrhea

●     Blisters or Lesions on the Skin, Mouth, Tongue, etc.

●     Rubbing or Pawing at the Face

●     Hair Loss

●     Lethargy/Weakness

●     Muscle Tremors

●     Seizure

●     Difficulty Walking/Loss of Coordination

How can I safely use these products in my home?

Here are our best tips for safely using air freshening products in your home:

Save these products for large, open areas of the home, and avoid using them in small spaces, especially rooms where the doors are often shut. Dispersion and air flow are key - keep doors open whenever possible and never trap your pet in a small room with these products.

Keep products out of reach of pets. Candles, air fresheners, and other products should be out of reach of pets at all times. This can be more challenging with agile pets such as cats who can get up on the counters, but it is extremely important that curious pets can’t get to these products. Even a few small licks can be dangerous, so stay vigilant!

Don’t go overboard. Try to limit air fresheners to one per room and avoid burning candles consistently throughout the day. Keep a close eye on your pet and cut back even further if they appear to be bothered by the products.

Act fast if your pet is showing symptoms. Whether your pet is displaying respiratory symptoms, skin irritation, or GI upset - if you know your pet has come into contact with these products, contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance. If your pet has ingested these products, do not induce vomiting without direction from your veterinarian, as this can sometimes make matters worse.

Please contact your veterinarian with any concerns.

For additional questions, please contact us at 972-347-6100.

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