Is Citronella Oil Safe for Dogs, Cats, and Other Animals? (2023)

Citronella oil comes from the plant called Cymbopogon nardus. and is commonly known as citronella. It is very popular as an insect repellent and is also used to flavor food and drinks. But can you use citronella oil if you have cats, dogs or other animals in your home?

This article explains the dangers of citronella oil for pets and other facts to remember.

Is citronella oil safe for dogs?

Citronella oil is toxic to cats, dogs and most other animals. Direct injections, candles and diffusers can cause gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea and even coma. Citronella plants are also very toxic to dogs, and owners should remove or keep the plants out of dogs' reach.

table of contents

Is Citronella Oil Safe for Dogs, Cats, and Other Animals? (1)

Citronella is a natural active ingredient that comes from the citronella plant. It is an insect repellent that is mainly used to repel mosquitoes. It's natural, but not everything that's natural is harmless.

Citronella can be harmful to the health of pets, and most of the animals around us can pose health risks. Cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and even humans can develop health problems from citronella.

Humans are safe from toxicity in most cases, but consumption of the citronella plant or essential oil can also cause health complications in humans.

A small amount of citronella causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach upset in dogs and cats. How can they eat a small amount of citronella oil? You can lick a surface that is low in citronella oil. This can happen when you use sprays or diffusers.

The main symptoms of mild citronella toxicity are dizziness, weakness, and abdominal discomfort.

However, if the animal ingests a large amount of citronella plant or oil, it will cause muscle pain, loss of coordination or even hypothermia. If the animal is not treated in time, it may die, so you should not ignore the signs of citronella toxicity.

You cannot use citronella oil around dogs. The citronella diffuser is used to repel mosquitoes from homes. Citronella smoke can cause breathing difficulties and neurological problems that can also be fatal for dogs and cats.

Therefore, if you have pets at home, do not use citronella as a mosquito repellent.

Never use citronella essential oil on your dog's body to protect him from mosquitoes. Cats and dogs often lick their bodies to keep themselves clean.

Do not give your dog or cat access to a garden with a citronella plant. If you don't know much about plants, don't let your pet eat plants from a garden. Many ornamental plants can be poisonous to animals.

Can dogs smell lemon essential oil? Are dogs allergic to citronella oil?

Dogs shouldn't smell lemon essential oil. Also, you shouldn't be in a place with a working citronella oil diffuser. In short, don't use a citronella product if you have dogs. Dogs are curious and many dogs tend to eat anything that smells interesting.

See what happens when dogs eat and smell citronella oil.

Eating citronella product:

Dogs may not eat citronella out of hunger, but they can try to taste it. Eating a small amount of citronella oil can make dogs sick. So if you're a dog owner, don't leave sloppy citronella products like sprays, oil, or candles lying around.

Sometimes citronella can be allergic to dogs. An allergy occurs when the body encounters a chemical and is able to determine that the molecule is harmful to the body.

Some dogs can be allergic to citronella, which means that the dog's body sees the citronella as a foreign object. An allergic dog will have cold symptoms and a runny nose and mouth.

Inhale citronella oil:

Chemicals can mix with blood through the lungs faster than anything else. So when dogs breathe in air with citronella, the elements mix with the blood and cause breathing problems, shortness of breath, dizziness, weakness and muscle aches.

There is a citronella candle that contains citronella. It is used to repel mosquitoes. Keep them away from dogs and do not light these candles when your dog is around.

Citronella candles and oil diffusers disperse small citronella particles into the air and repel mosquitoes. If your dog sniffs or breathes in the air, it can create a problematic situation for your dog.

What to do if your dog eats lemon essential oil?

If your dog ingests lemon essential oil, take him to the nearest veterinarian to avoid further health complications.. If the dog eats or licks a surface with citronella oil on it, it will choke easily. Mild syndromes such as diarrhea and vomiting can be cured at home.

Provide plenty of fluids with electrolytes and give the dog extra attention. If you notice that the dog is weak and losing muscle coordination, do not hesitate to take him to the veterinary center. If a dog eats citronella oil directly, candles or plants, get proper treatment quickly.

A professional veterinarian will clean out the dog's system with activated charcoal and other medications.

Is citronella essential oil safe for cats?

Citronella essential oil can be dangerous for cats. The toxic effects of citronella will harm cats the most as they are smaller. The cat will have gastrointestinal problems, muscle coordination problems and neurological problems that can be fatal without proper and timely treatment.

Citronella oil works great to repel mosquitoes, but if you have a cat, you should never use it once you know the dangers. Cats generally don't like to randomly eat strange things. But the citronella diffuser can cause health complications for your beloved cat.

Cats can be poisoned by ingesting or inhaling citronella essential oil. But cats are more likely to eat plants to ease their stomach problems. But if they somehow eat the citronella plant, it will severely affect their gastrointestinal health.

Eating citronella makes them sick within an hour. It will cause diarrhea, vomiting and weakness. More serious syndromes include the inability to walk properly due to loss of muscle coordination and neurological damage.

Take your cat to the vet as soon as possible if you notice any syndrome.

Inhaling citronella is also harmful to cats and has similar effects to those mentioned above. Diarrhea may not occur if the cat inhales citronella. But vomiting, weakness and other serious health problems can occur. This is why you shouldn't use citronella oil diffusers around cats.

Do not keep citronella plants if you have a cat. It can become the worst houseplant for a cat owner. Keeping citronella in a prominent place in your home is no solution. Cats can go almost anywhere in your home if they want to.

Can lemon essential oil be used for fleas and ticks on dogs and cats?

Using citronella oil to eliminate fleas and ticks on dogs and cats is the worst thing you can do to your pet with citronella oil. Fleas and ticks are eliminated as citronella oil has remarkable insect repellent properties.

Citronella is very toxic to animals. You should never use any citronella products near them, let alone put them on.

Cats and dogs always lick their body parts to keep themselves clean. So if you put toxic chemicals on them they will get sick very quickly.

Many other commercial flea and tick products are safe for dogs and cats. You should do your research and get a feel for pepper before applying anything to your pet.

Is citronella essential oil safe for other animals or pets?

Citronella is toxic to dogs and cats, but what about other animals? Do they affect all animals equally? Why are they poisonous?

It does not affect all animals equally as it is less toxic to birds. Citronella plants produce citronella toxins to repel animals that eat them. Once an animal eats citronella and becomes sick, it stops eating the plant.

Repels insects, but does not harm insects. See how it affects other animals.


Citronella essential oils do not cause significant harmful effects on birds, but it is best to keep them away.


Horses can be allergic to citronella. Therefore, prevent your horse from eating the citronella plant.


Citronella can be dangerous to rabbits if ingested. Do not use a citronella oil diffuser around your rabbit and keep citronella plants out of reach of your rabbits.


Citronella is slightly toxic to fish. You can use citronella covering your aquarium.

final thoughts

Citronella is more or less toxic to most pets. Therefore, care should be taken when using citronella products such as citronella candles, sprays and diffusers. If an animal ingests citronella or becomes ill after inhaling it, seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Is citronella oil toxic to animals? ›


In studies using laboratory animals, Oil of Citronella shows little or no toxicity. The only concern is skin irritation. Because some products are applied to human skin, EPA requires proper precautionary labeling to help assure safe use.

Is citronella essential oil good for dogs? ›

Matejka recommends refraining from using citronella-based sprays on your dog because they have the potential to cause harmful side effects. "Since citronella sprays are applied topically, they can cause skin irritation or rash, especially in high concentrations," she says.

Is citronella oil safe for dogs to smell? ›

Another concern? Simply breathing in a candle's fumes—citronella-scented or not—can be harmful to your dog, especially if your pup has asthma or any other breathing issues. "It is best to keep your pet away from citronella candles," Matejka says.

What happens if a dog licks citronella oil? ›

Citronella Dangers for Dogs

If a dog ingests citronella, stomach irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, and neurological abnormalities may occur. Sprays and oils can cause skin irritation if they touch your pet's skin or paws for an extended period of time, and they may cause eye irritation if contact occurs.

Can you have citronella with cats? ›

Like citrus and other essential oils, citronella oil has an extremely strong odour that repels cats. It is also effective in keeping insects away.

What does citronella oil do to cats? ›

Dangers to Cats

The fumes of citronella candles can cause breathing difficulties and nervous system damage to a cat. If ingested, citronella candles, insect coils and oils can result in digestive distress. Oils can be absorbed through the skin and cause liver or nervous system damage.

Is citronella oil safe for dogs and cats? ›

Citronella is toxic to pets

Citronella candles and oils are a popular mosquito repellent, but the citronella plant is toxic to pets. Use caution when using citronella products around your pet, and make sure they don't have access to any citronella plants in your garden.

Can I diffuse citronella oil around dogs? ›

When applied topically, it can also cause skin irritation or rash." So, although citronella essential oils may help rid your backyard or home of mosquitoes, it's best to avoid diffusing this essential oil near your dog.

Is diluted citronella safe for dogs? ›

CITRONELLA. Yes, citronella essential oil is safe for dogs. It is one of the most effective oils for repelling fleas, ticks, and other bugs!

What essential oils are safe for dogs and repel fleas? ›

5. Make a natural flea repellent by adding six or seven drops of the essential oils of rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and citronella to a cup of water and shaking well. Use a spray bottle to apply the solution to your dog's coat every other day.

What essential oils repel mosquitoes and are safe for dogs? ›

Essential Oils – Just like humans, dogs can benefit from essential oils in a variety of ways. One of which is keeping the bugs off their coats. Thyme, soybean, and lemon eucalyptus oil are all great essential oil mosquito repellents for dogs.

Is citronella oil toxic to breathe? ›

It might cause skin reactions or irritation in some people. When inhaled: Citronella oil is likely unsafe. Lung damage has been reported.

Why don t dogs like citronella? ›

Citronella candles are used to keep bugs away from you, but they will have the same effect on your dog. The reason your dog hates the smell of citronella is that the smell is so close to citrus. Wag explains that lemongrass is the primary ingredient in citronella candles.

Does citronella repel fleas on dogs? ›

Citronella is best known as a mosquito deterrent, but it also repels fleas.

How do you use citronella oil to repel dogs? ›

Citronella Oil

Dogs hate the smell of citronella, and trainers often use the oil in both collar and spray form to break aggressive behavior and persistent barking habits. In fact, just a whiff of citronella could very well keep your dog away from your garden.

Does citronella stop dogs peeing? ›

Some smells that are non-harmful and potentially effective at repelling dogs are citrus, vinegar, and citronella. Every dog is different, but many dogs find these scents to be overpoweringly pungent.

What happens if my cat eats citronella? ›

According to the ASPCA, eating the plants could cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting. Cats and dogs also could experience muscle weakness, loss of muscle coordination, depression, or even hypothermia if enough of the plant is ingested. Cats are most susceptible.

What essential oils are safe for cats? ›

The best essential oils that are safe for cats are rosemary, copaiba, helichrysum, oregano, frankincense and cedarwood essential oil. Cats can also tolerate chamomile, lavender, thyme and valerian essential oils at very diluted concentrations.

What can I put on my cat to keep mosquitoes away? ›

Mosquitoes are repelled by citrus fruits. A good way to keep mosquitoes away from your cat or dog is to slice a lemon and rub the juice into the fur, keeping it away from the eyes. You can purchase lemon grass and citronella sprays that are also effective.

What essential oils are safe for cats and repel fleas? ›

Common Essential Oils for Fleas and Ticks on Cats
  • Lemongrass oil: Considered a powerful insecticide.
  • Peppermint oil: Used as a flea and tick repellant only, as it will not kill the insects.
  • Citronella oil: A highly effective repellant for fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other bugs.
Jul 27, 2022

Does citronella stop cats peeing? ›

Spray Citronella

Did you know its fragrant smell can also be used to get rid of the cat pee smell? This method is so easy to do, you just need to spray Citronella on the area that is often peed on by your cats. Its strong fragrant smell will prevent cats from peeing everywhere.

What essential oils Cannot be used around dogs? ›

Many essential oils, such as eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang ylang are straight up toxic to pets. These are toxic whether they are applied to the skin, used in diffusers or licked up in the case of a spill.

What essential oil is toxic to dogs? ›

Some essential oils are poisonous to dogs. This includes oil of cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), wintergreen, and ylang ylang. These oils are toxic whether ingested by mouth or spread on the skin.

Is citronella essential oil toxic? ›

Oil of citronella is a biopesticide (biochemical) with a non-toxic mode of action. It is registered as an insect repellent/feeding depressant and as an animal repellent.

Is citronella and lemongrass safe for dogs? ›

Diffusing citronella or lemongrass oil outdoors may act as an insect repellent to keep away mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. This is perfectly pet safe.

How does citronella stop a dog barking? ›

The way citronella dog collars work is by sending a misty citronella puff near your dog's nose. The spray both distracts your dog from barking and punishes him. The punishment is simply the bad scent they smell.

Can I spray vinegar on my dog to repel fleas? ›

Fleas don't like the smell or taste of it, so they're likely to avoid your pet if they have it on their fur. Dilute apple cider vinegar in water and add it to a spray bottle. If your pet doesn't enjoy getting sprayed, dip a brush in the mixture and distribute it into their fur with a grooming session.

What can I feed my dog to naturally repel fleas? ›

For dogs, a daily dose of brewer's yeast in their kibble will help to repel fleas. You can also add brewer's yeast to your cat's food. Fleas are also known to be repelled by citrus.

What essential oils do fleas hate the most? ›

Essential Oils That Repel Fleas
  • Lavender Essential Oil.
  • Lemongrass Essential Oil.
  • Peppermint Essential Oil.
  • Rosemary Essential Oil.
  • Rose Geranium Essential Oil.
  • Cedarwood Essential Oil.
  • Clove Essential Oil.
May 21, 2021

How do I get rid of mosquitoes without harming my dog? ›

7 Natural Ways to Protect Your Dog From Mosquitoes in Your...
  1. Spray Your Backyard with a Natural Pest Spray. ...
  2. Light Dog-Friendly Candles Outside. ...
  3. Add a Natural Bug Repellent Tag to Your Dog's Collar. ...
  4. Use an All-Natural Repellent on Your Dog. ...
  5. Find Your Green Thumb and Grow Some Plants. ...
  6. Clean or Cover Any Standing Water.
Aug 24, 2020

What kills mosquitoes the best naturally? ›

To naturally get rid of mosquitoes around the house, some popular methods include these:
  • Burning coffee grounds.
  • Lighting lavender candles.
  • Leaving plates of sliced lemons or cloves around the house.
  • Setting out mosquito traps.
  • Spraying with essential oils such as lavender, lemon, or eucalyptus.
Nov 16, 2022

What kind of bugs does citronella repel? ›

It is effective against a wide variety of pests, including but not limited to flies, mosquitoes, and ticks. Its distinctive odor drives away some insects, while preventing others from identifying a host. Candles made of Citronella oil work effectively to repel mosquitoes and insects when burned in the immediate area.

How long does citronella oil last? ›

The length of burn time expected before you are out of fuel depends on the fuel type and on the source of that particular fuel. For instance, paraffin or citronella oil will last anywhere from 6 to 16 hours depending on the capacity of the fuel chamber (larger torches usually burn longer).

Does citronella really keep mosquitoes away? ›

Citronella oil is repellent to mosquitoes to a degree, but the amount being put out by a candle isn't going to be very effective,” Eric Hoffer, president of Hoffer Pest, told TODAY Home. “In most cases, a citronella candle is only going to contain a 5% concentration of citronella or less."

What smells do dogs hate the most? ›

Citrus scents top the list of smells your dog probably hates. The scent of lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits is strong and unpleasant for your dog. For this reason, you can use citrus scents as a dog repellant in off-limits parts of the house. Their noses are irritated by the strength of citrus.

What smell do dogs love? ›

The methodology of observing the dogs freely exploring the experimental area allowed us to determine the smells that were the most attractive to them (food, beaver clothing). Our study shows that dogs interacted more frequently with the scents of blueberries, blackberries, mint, rose, lavender, and linalol.

What smell do dogs hate to stop pooping? ›

Use Repellents

Something that is generally very effective is vinegar – dogs seem to hate the pungent, acrid smell of vinegar, and its application in a few strategic locations may do the job. Another popular – although sometimes controversial – option is cayenne pepper or strong chili powder.

What kills fleas on dogs instantly? ›

You want to immediately kill any fleas removed from your pup's fur by dunking them in hot, soapy water. If you try to crush or flush these sneaky insects, they might surprise you with their jumping expertise—they're amazing escape artists. Bathe your pet with warm water and mild soap.

Can I put peppermint oil on my dog for fleas? ›

They may also consider using it on their pets to prevent fleas. But, if you're a pet parent, you might wonder, “Is peppermint oil safe for dogs?” The answer is no. Peppermint oil is toxic to dogs. It should never be ingested or used on their fur or skin.

What is the best homemade flea killer? ›

Create a flea spray by mixing 4 liters of vinegar, 2 liters of water, 500 ml of lemon juice and 250 ml of witch hazel in a large spray bottle. Before applying the product around your home, you should vacuum properly, emptying the contents into an outside bin, and wash any bedding/cushions that could be infested.

Where do you apply citronella oil? ›

Citronella oil is often used as an insect repellent, although research has indicated it may also have antifungal properties and help with wound healing. You can use citronella oil in a diffuser or spray bottle, or you can dilute it in an oil or lotion before applying it to your skin.

What smells will keep dogs away? ›

How to Make Homemade Dog Repellent
  • Citrus. Dogs find the smell of citrus horrendous. ...
  • Cayenne peppers. Though cayenne peppers will not harm your dog, they will irritate his eyes, nose and throat. ...
  • Vinegar. Dogs strongly dislike the odor of vinegar. ...
  • Mustard oil. ...
  • Dog poop. ...
  • Coffee grounds.
Sep 2, 2021

Which essential oils are toxic to animals? ›

Many essential oils, such as eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang ylang are straight up toxic to pets.
For our canine friends, toxic essential oils include:
  • Pennyroyal oil.
  • Pine oil.
  • Tea tree oil.
  • Wintergreen oil.
  • Cinnamon oil.
  • Citrus oil.
  • Peppermint oil.
  • Sweet Birch oil.
Mar 2, 2020

What happens if you inhale citronella oil? ›

When you inhale (breathe in), air enters your lungs, and oxygen from that air moves to your blood. At the same time, carbon dioxide, a waste gas, moves from your blood to the lungs and is exhaled (breathed out). This process, called gas exchange, is essential to life.

What animals does citronella repel? ›

Oil of citronella is practically non-toxic to birds. It is slightly toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. Oil of citronella repels insects rather than killing them. Therefore, bees and other pollinators are not likely to be harmed.

How does citronella affect dogs? ›

Citronella-scented geraniums and citronella oil can also cause a rash or skin irritation on your dog. Many citronella products don't have much citronella in them. It's unusual for candles to be even 5 percent citronella oil.

What is the safest essential oil to use around dogs? ›

  • Lavender.
  • Cornmint.
  • Cedar/Cedarwood.
  • Bergamot.
  • Lemongrass.
  • Rosemary.
  • Geranium.
  • Citronella.
Jan 18, 2023

What essential oils wont hurt pets? ›

Essential oils that are safe for dogs include:
  • Myrrh.
  • Frankincense.
  • Chamomile.
  • Lavender oil.
  • Ginger.
  • Rosemary.
Jun 24, 2021

What essential oils are dog and cat safe? ›

FLORALChamomile (German or Roman)Matricaria chamomilla/ Chamaemelum nobile
Clary SageSalvia sclarea
Marjoram (Sweet)Marjorana hortensis L.
RESINFrankincense CarteriiBoswellia carterii
4 more rows
Mar 14, 2019


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