dog and citronella candle

Are Citronella Candles Safe for Dogs?

Citronella candles are a popular choice for repelling mosquitoes, especially during outdoor activities. While they are effective for this purpose, dog owners must consider the safety of these products for their pets. This article explores the impact of citronella candles on dogs and offers guidance on their safe use.


Citronella is derived from the leaves and stems of the Cymbopogon genus, particularly lemongrass. It’s known for its distinctive lemon-like scent and is commonly used in insect repellent products. The active compounds in citronella, including citronellol and geraniol, are generally recognized as safe by many health authorities, but their effects on pets, particularly dogs, require careful consideration.

Citronella Candles and Dogs: The General Consensus

Veterinarians and pet health experts often express caution regarding the use of citronella around dogs. While not inherently toxic, the oils and fragrances in citronella candles can be irritating to some dogs, especially those with respiratory issues or allergies. The intensity of the scent, along with the smoke from burning candles, can potentially lead to discomfort or health issues in sensitive dogs.

How Citronella Affects Dogs

Dogs have a much more sensitive sense of smell compared to humans, making them more susceptible to irritation from strong scents like citronella. Inhalation of citronella oil can cause respiratory issues, particularly in breeds with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Ingestion, though less likely with candles, can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Additionally, direct contact with the skin can sometimes result in dermatitis or allergic reactions in dogs. It’s important to observe how your dog reacts to citronella candles and discontinue use if any adverse effects are noticed.

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Safe Usage of Citronella Candles Around Dogs

If you choose to use citronella candles, there are measures you can take to minimize risk to your dogs. Ensure candles are placed out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion or contact. Use them in well-ventilated areas to reduce the concentration of inhaled citronella. Additionally, observe your dog’s behavior and physical response when these candles are lit. If any signs of discomfort or illness are observed, discontinue use immediately.

Signs of Citronella Poisoning in Dogs

While citronella is not highly toxic to dogs, it’s crucial to recognize signs of potential poisoning. Symptoms may include excessive drooling, coughing, skin irritation, or gastrointestinal upset like vomiting or diarrhea. In severe cases, there might be signs of central nervous system depression, such as lethargy or coordination problems. If you suspect your dog is affected by citronella poisoning, it’s imperative to seek veterinary care immediately.

Preventative Measures

Taking proactive steps can significantly reduce the risk of citronella-related issues for your dog. Here are some preventative measures:

  • Always supervise your dog when citronella candles are in use.
  • Keep candles and any other citronella-containing products out of reach.
  • After using citronella candles, ventilate the area to clear the air of residual scent.
  • Regularly check for any signs of irritation or discomfort in your pet, particularly after the candles have been used.

Pet-Safe Pest Control Alternatives

If you’re concerned about the effects of citronella on your dog, there are several pet-friendly alternatives for mosquito repellent:

  1. Mechanical Barriers: Screens on windows and mosquito nets provide physical barriers.
  2. Natural Repellents: Certain plants, like lavender and marigolds, naturally repel mosquitoes without harming pets.
  3. DEET-Free Repellents: Choose pet-safe, DEET-free insect repellent products.
  4. Essential Oil Diffusers: Some essential oils, like eucalyptus or peppermint, can be effective. However, always check their safety for dogs, as some essential oils can be toxic to pets.
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While citronella candles are not inherently dangerous for dogs, their use requires careful consideration and proactive measures to ensure your pet’s safety. Being aware of the signs of citronella irritation or poisoning in dogs is crucial for prompt and appropriate response. Always prioritize your pet’s wellbeing and consider alternative mosquito repellent methods that are safe for the entire family, including your furry friends. With these precautions in mind, you can enjoy your outdoor activities with peace of mind, knowing your dog is safe and comfortable.