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Are household fragrances safe for our pets?

As humans, we all like our homes to smell fresh and fragrant and we often turn to common household items like reed diffusers, aerosol fresheners or plug in fragrances. Products that smell pleasant to us may be unpleasant or over empowering for our pets. We are also often unaware that these products can cause immediate or long-term effects on our pets.

Our pets should be entitled to as much fresh, clean air as reasonably practical, but by using household fragrances, we can unintentionally take this privilege away from them.

How do these products affect our pets?

Most pets tend to spend a lot of time in one room or area of the house. If we are using fragrances in these particular areas, they tend to be even more exposed than we are.

Although these products are seen as safe, it’s down to us how much we use. The manufacturers are not responsible for regulating the air quality in our homes. When these products are manufactured, it is not usually taken into account how big the room is, the proximity or how long us and our pets are staying in the room. We can often underestimate the effects of even the smallest toxin exposures. Even when we are told certain substances are safe, it is still worth being aware. (Look at asbestos for example, we just don’t know until there is solid evidence)

Artificial diffusers and aerosols can contain harmful toxins that can affect our pets when breathed in.

Once ours and our pet’s bodies are exposed to these toxins, the liver has to work hard to remove and detoxify them. This oxidation process results in the production of free radicals, and if there are too many free radicals, liver cells and body tissue can become damaged. Although free radicals are produced naturally in the body, there’s potential that these toxins can accelerate their production.

Which types of chemicals do home fragrances contain?

  • Limonene- Limonene tends to be found in many citrus fragrances. When exposed to the air, limonene can form increased levels of formadehyde. Formadehyde naturally occurs in the environment and our pets are exposed on a daily basis. Even though formaldehyde is so prevalent in our homes, it’s a good idea to reduce exposure where we can. Increased levels of formadehyde have been shown to irritate the respiratory tract in animals.
  • Phthalates- Commonly found in aerosol and plug in air fresheners. When Phthalates work in combination with other harmful chemicals, it can affect the endocrine system in our pets.
  • 1,4-Dichlorobenzene- Found in most types of air freshener, when inhaled it can affect the respiratory function.
  • Benzene- Found in many types of candle and emitted from the candle soot. When the soot is put into the air the benzene can be breathed in. Benzene is believed to be a carcinogen.

What about essentials oils for home fragrance?

Essential oils around the home can beneficial to both us and our pets but it important to be aware of which are safe for our pets and which aren’t so safe. It is also a good idea to know the source and the quality of the essential oils you are using.

It is also important to allow our pets access to areas where they can avoid these essential oils if they wish.

Safe essential oils

This list contains essential oils which are considered safe for dogs. We would recommend avoiding these oils if cats, birds or small animals live in the home. It is also not recommended to use essential oils around puppies under 8 weeks. All oils should be kept out of reach from pets to prevent ingestion.

  • Cedarwood
  • Lavender
  • Clary Sage
  • Frankincense

Essential oils to use with caution

This is not an extensive list and you should check with your vet if you are unsure.

  • Tea tree
  • Clove and Cinnamon oils
  • Wintergreen
  • Pine oil
  • Sweet Birch
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Eucalyptus
  • Yarrow
  • Savory
  • Wormwood

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