Are Incense Bad for Dogs and Cats?

With so many ways to make our homes smell wonderful, it's no surprise that incents, essential oils, and oil diffusers have become a popular choice among pet owners. Incents cover up a variety of odors, including pet smells. But, are they safe?

Because all incense emits smoke, there is no genuinely safe incense for dogs and cats. While many pet companies advertise pet-friendly incense, they contain scents that your pet may appreciate, such as peanut butter, but still, retain the same harmful ingredients as the rest.

Dogs and cats are susceptible to respiratory issues such as asthma and other forms of breathing issues, and the use of incense can exasperate these conditions. If your pet already suffers from a respiratory illness, it may be best to avoid incense. Consult with your veterinarian before diffusing incense throughout your home.

If your dog or cat has no known breathing problems, it may be acceptable to use incents in your home. Just ensure they are kept out of reach of your pet. With this in mind, it may be beneficial to diffuse an incense in an area where your pet does not have access. If this is not feasible, ensure proper ventilation is achieved by opening a window or using an air purifier.

Are Incense Bad for Dogs and Cats

Essential oils and incense can especially be toxic to cats. As stated previously, they can cause significant irritation to their respiratory tract when inhaled. In cats specifically, incense can cause severe systemic diseases such as liver failure as cats do not have the appropriate enzymes to breakdown the chemicals in certain essential oils. It is best for cats to avoid the use of essential oils as they can be toxic if ingested or absorbed by their skin. Cats do not need to come into direct contact with the oils as they can be absorbed through the air that comes in contact with their skin. This is important to remember as cats are obsessive groomers and can quickly ingest incense droplets as they accumulate on their skin and fur.

Dogs are also sensitive to incense, just like cats. Dogs with pre-existing conditions such as brachycephalic breeds (short-faced dogs) are at a high risk for incense sensitivity. If you choose to burn incense, keep a close eye on your dog to ensure they do not exhibit any adverse symptoms.

Symptoms of Incense Toxicity

  • Tremors
  • Heavy breathing
  • Runny Nose
  • Runny Eyes
  • Coughing
  • Wobbling (Ataxia)
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Low pulse rate
  • Low body temperature

While incense smell great, they can emit harmful chemicals while being burned, such as:

  • Benzyne (aromatic substitution)
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Sulfur Dioxide (colorless gas with a pungent odor)
  • Formaldehyde

When burned, incense produces the above volatile organic compounds harmful to both people and their pets.

Different Types Of Incense And Why They Are Bad

Incense bad for cats and dogs

The following types of incenses should be avoided for both cats and dogs:

  • Wintergreen and Birch contain methyl salicylates, also known as aspirin. While this is a great pain reliever for humans, it is incredibly toxic to both cats and dogs. Wintergreen causes severe gastrointestinal upset, including gastric ulcers, vomiting, kidney, and liver failure.
  • Citrus contains acid that many pets are sensitive to. Citrus, including limes, lemons, and oranges, contain high amounts of citrus that can cause gastrointestinal upset such as diarrhea and impact the central nervous system if ingested in large quantities.
  • Pine has been used for its antibacterial properties. Pine increases circulation, reducing swelling, tenderness, and pain in both joints and muscles in people. When dogs and cats are exposed to pine, they can exhibit signs of severe gastrointestinal irritation, including bloody vomiting, lethargy, ataxia, kidney, and liver failure.
  • Peppermint causes vomiting and diarrhea when diffused in large amounts.
  • Ylang Ylang causes difficulty breathing, lethargy, weakness, and vomiting.
  • Cinnamon is safe in small amounts when ingested, but it can cause severe gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea in large quantities.
  • Pennyroyal is a crucial component in many insect repellents and can be found in low-cost flea preventatives, despite being a toxicity source for pets. Pennyroyal can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, and liver necrosis (liver tissue death).
  • Clove should not be ingested by or diffused around pets in your home. Clove contains a compound called eugenol, which is toxic to both cats and dogs. Clove can cause severe gastrointestinal upset along with kidney and liver failure.
  • Eucalyptus leads to vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, and seizures in dogs.
  • Tea tree causes depression, ataxia, paralysis, vomiting, skin irritation, and hypothermia up to 4 days after exposure to the scent.
Are Incense Bad For Cats And Dogs

If you believe your pet has come in contact with an incense, contact your veterinarian right away. Your Vet may recommend bathing your pet to remove the toxic substances on their skin and fur. This will help to prevent further absorption of the toxin. should be used for informational purposes only and should not be used for medical advice. Always consult veterinarian’s advice. The information provided here is not a substitute for professional medical advice. The authors, editors, producers or sponsors shall have no liability, obligation, or responsibility to any person or entity for any loss, damage or adverse consequences alleged to have happened directly or indirectly as a result of material on this site. Please consult with your veterinarian for all matters related to your pet’s health.
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