Is Perfume Dangerous for Pets?
Both cats and dogs have much stronger noses than their owners. The canine snout is around 40 times stronger than the human equivalent and feline nostrils boast between nine and 16 times the olfactory power of people. These impressive sniffers help dogs and cats experience the world through scent and explain why they often introduce themselves nose first.
Yet, super-powered snouts have their downsides. Many fragrances that are pleasant to the comparatively-weak human nose, are overwhelming and even harmful to our dogs and cats. Scented candles, oil diffusers, and perfumes can all leave pets contending with respiratory irritation and even serious health concerns.
Perfume and Pets
Inhalation is just one of the ways that a dog or cat can come in contact with droplets of perfume. Topical exposure can cause problems too, as toxins are absorbed through the skin to be metabolized. Even worse, dogs and cats can continually re-expose themselves to these harmful ingredients through grooming and other daily activities.
In addition to respiratory and digestive issues, cats are susceptible to organ damage from exposure to the oils included in perfumes. The feline liver has a tough time breaking down the toxins known as phenols. This can result in deadly buildup if poisoned cats are not given immediate medical attention.
Respiratory Symptoms to Watch For
- Labored breathing
- Nasal discharge
Additional Symptoms to Watch For
- Low temperature and heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unsteady gait
- Watery eyes
Potential Benefits of Aromatherapy for Pets
Some research suggests that certain scents can have a more positive effect on pets. A 2006 study published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, for example, suggests that inhaling small quantities of well-diffused lavender oil can help pets reduce stress associated with traveling. Experts advise pet owners to exercise caution when introducing pets to new fragrances and to discontinue the application of essential oils immediately if their cat or dog exhibits side effects.
Dangerous Essential Oils
The ASPCA’s Pet Poison Helpline recognizes a number of well-known essential oils as potentially dangerous to pets. Here are just a few that can irritate, sicken, or even kill your pet:
- Cinnamon oil
- Citrus oil
- Clove oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Pennyroyal oil
- Peppermint oil
- Pine oil
- Sweet birch oil
- Tea tree oil
- Wintergreen oil
- Ylang Ylang oil
When pets are nearby, owners should avoid wearing perfumes or colognes including these ingredients and they should never diffuse them in areas of the house where pets spend time. Remember that essential oils aren’t just dangerous for dogs and cats. Even fish aren’t necessarily safe from harmful particles in the air, which can settle in their water and poison them.
Addressing Poisoning in Pets
Next steps will depend on how your pet was exposed to perfume as well as the severity of their symptoms.
If Your Pet Has Inhaled Perfume
Open a window or move pets to provide them with access to fresh air. Then, monitor them closely to observe how their symptoms progress.
If Your Pet Has Perfume on Their Fur
Carefully wash the affected area with soap and water.
If Your Pet Has Ingested Perfume
Call a pet poisoning hotline (like the one managed by the ASPCA) or your veterinarian immediately. Do not induce vomiting or administer detoxification medicine.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
If your pet is showing signs of respiratory trouble or an allergic reaction to something in their environment, consult their veterinarian. They may be able to offer suggestions for pet-safe fragrances to help you enjoy your favorite scents without potentially harming your pets.