Are Candles Bad for Dogs?
Whether it's spring, summer, fall or winter, many people pay tribute to the current season by decorating their homes, switching up their recipes, and setting the mood. In addition to tablescapes and wreaths, many look forward to pumpkin spice or peppermint candles that add fragrance to their houses. However, there is one family member who may not appreciate this newfound smell: your pet. Before you pull out the decorations and strike a match, make sure your precious pooch is safe. Here's what the veterinarians we talked to want owners to know about candles and dogs.
Are Scented Candles Toxic to Dogs?
You may crave the sweet aroma of vanilla wafting through your bedroom or the invigorating scent of lemon while you plug away at emails in your office. However, scented candles can cause concern since many of them contain essential oils, which can be harmful to dogs, according to Michelle Lugones, DVM, a veterinarian at Best Friends Animal Society. And while it's fairly obvious no dog (or human!) should inhale or ingest a burning scented candle, even smelling them can aggravate underlying breathing issues.
"Essential oils can be very dangerous depending on how concentrated they are and whether they contain compounds that are toxic or irritating," Lugones says.
Some of the most well-known toxic essential oils for dogs include mint, wintergreen, eucalyptus, tea tree, sweet birch, cinnamon oil, and pennyroyal; however, Lugones says there are many essential oils that are toxic to pets and many manufacturers producing them without appropriate quality control. "The safest thing to do is to avoid the use of essential oils around pets," she adds.
If a dog ingests, inhales, or gets a toxic essential oil on their skin, they can experience harmful (and potentially deadly) signs up illness including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Liver failure
Because of their highly developed sense of smell, scented candles may have a much stronger impact on our dogs than on us, warns David Haworth, DVM, Ph.D., the pet wellness advisor to Well Groomed Pets. "If your dog is acting strange or leaving the room when you light scented candles, you might want to pass on that one," he says.
3 Safety Tips for Lighting Candles Around Your Pets
If you want to have a few candles in your home, talk to your veterinarian about what they recommend. Your pup could be less sensitive and less curious, making them less likely to get into trouble. Even so, these general safety tips can keep them safe.
1. Always keep an eye on candles and your pets.
If a toddler was roaming around your home, would you light a candle with hot wax on the coffee table where they could reach it? Probably not. Follow the same philosophy with your dog, Lugones recommends.
As she puts it, if you're going to light candles with pets in the home, it's important to first make sure that it's safe to do so in the first place. "Lit candles should only be placed in non-flammable candle holders, and candles should be extinguished before they reach their ends. Candles should never be lit in a drafty room or around an open window where the flame could potentially catch fire to nearby items or your pet," she recommends.
You should also always be physically present whenever you have a lit candle to make sure your pet doesn't accidentally knock it over. "Not only could this cause a fire, but the flame and hot wax could quickly and easily burn or injure your pet," she notes.
2. Choose plain, unscented candles.
While the super fragrant varieties may tickle your fancy, to be a responsible pet owner, you may need to shift your shopping habits to protect your floof. Lugones recommends choosing unscented candles that are ideally soy, beeswax, or vegetable wax-based. Scented candles have the potential to contain chemicals that are harmful to pets.
"Aside from some essential oils that can cause several harmful effects, the fumes and smoke from any candle, scented or not, can make it more difficult for pets with respiratory issues to breathe normally," she continues. "Animals with asthma are very sensitive to fumes, smoke, and fragrances."
3. Swap out burning candles for LED votives.
The only guaranteed way to avoid injuries associated with candles is not to use them in your home at all. However, that doesn't mean you have to give up on the hygge vibe you're hoping to achieve. Lugones recommends investing in LED votives that mimic a flickering light. "Since they don't produce a real flame, you also have more flexibility on where you can place them without having to worry," she continues. "And because they produce an artificial flame, you also avoid the risk of harmful fumes from a burning flame or potential essential oils that could be toxic to your pet."
What to Do If Your Dog Ate a Candle
First things first: ensure the candle is away from your dog and out of reach. But if it's too late, as with anything potentially dangerous, call your veterinarian and/or emergency hospital right away. Lugones says the ingredients and the amount ingested will need to be taken into consideration ASAP. "If a dog ingests the wax of a candle, depending on the amount, it may not cause great concern because wax tends to warm and soften inside the body. If a dog hasn't ingested much, it may be able to pass through the body but potentially cause diarrhea," she says.
However, if the candle contains potentially harmful ingredients, such as essential oils, or your dog ate the wick or the metal base of a candle, your veterinarian may recommend treatment. "This is because essential oils can cause a variety of health concerns, and a candle wick or metal base can cause potential intestinal foreign bodies or blockages which require surgical removal," she notes.