Is citronella safe for your dog?

Is Citronella Safe for Dogs? (Oil, Plant, & Spray)

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My dog is constantly trying to eat all kinds of things he shouldn’t. This is extremely stressful for pet parents. The most obvious reason is that you don’t want your dog to get sick, but you also have to think about whether the thing they’ve gotten into is even bad for the dog.

Do you really need to go to the vet?

For this post we asked our veterinary advisor Dr. Jamie Whittenburg to offer some general tips for what to do when your pet gets into something they shouldn’t (or that you’re not sure about) and will give you all the information you need about citronella and your dog.

Is Citronella Safe for Dogs?

  No, Citronella is toxic to dogs.

Citronella is a common product used to deter insects during the summer. There are Citronella plants, as well as oils and other products derived from the plant. You may have these around your home, but are they safe for your dog?

You should be careful using this product in and around your home because it’s not something your dog should consume.

Is Citronella Safe for Dogs To Eat?

Here is where things can be a little confusing. There are different kinds of Citronella and Citronella-like plants that are similar in scent that people use to try and deter insects. Citronella geraniums are the version most toxic to plants. 

Citronella geraniums have deeply lobed leaves, a green coloring, and pink or lavender flowers. When the leaves are crushed, they smell like lemongrass citronella, which is used in essential oils. They’re commonly planted around patios and are not safe for animals to consume.

Is It Safe for Dogs’ Eyes?

No. Citronella is toxic for dogs and will irritate if it gets in their eyes. If you suspect they’ve obtained Citronella in their eyes, you should flush the area immediately and contact your veterinarian.

Is It Safe for Dogs’ Paws?

Citronella is not safe for a dog’s paws and will irritate the skin. 

Is It Safe for Dogs’ Skin?

You might wonder, “Is citronella safe for dogs topically?” The answer is no. Citronella is not safe for a dog’s skin. You should avoid using Citronella-based essential oils on your dog’s skin because it can cause a rash.

Is It Safe for Dogs’ Wounds?

No, Citronella is not safe for a dog’s wounds. Citronella is considered toxic and can irritate the skin. It is not advised to put any Citronella on an open wound. Instead, take your pet to a veterinarian.

Is It Safe for Dogs’ To Lick?

Citronella is unsafe for dogs to consume and can cause stomach irritation. It probably won’t harm your dog to lick a Citronella plant, but it’s not advisable. 

You should not allow your dog to lick any Citronella oil.

What Are the Side Effects for a Dog That Eats or Gets Citronella on Their Skin?

Dogs can experience gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea. They may also experience muscle weakness, depression, and hypothermia.

When in contact with their skin, dogs can develop dermatitis. This is a skin irritation or rash.

Citronella Alternatives for Use as Mosquito Spray

One of the most common uses for citronella that dog owners look to replace to keep from harming their pup is as mosquito spray.

There are a variety of natural alternatives to citronella-based mosquito sprays.

These include products made with essential oils, like:

  • Lemon
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Lavender oil

You can also find mosquito repellents that use plant-based ingredients, like catnip or neem oil.

If you’re looking for a natural mosquito repellent, be sure to read the labels carefully. Some products may not be as effective as others. And, keep in mind that natural mosquito repellents may need to be reapplied more often than chemical alternatives.

Here’s a good video overview from a veterinarian on what to be concerned about when it comes to essential oils for dogs generally:

Tips from Our Vets

It is normal to be concerned whenever your dog or cat gets into something they should not have. Dogs particularly tend to eat things with little to no regard for edibility. Because so many things can be toxic to pets, even some that are perfectly safe for humans, it can be hard to know what to do. Here are three key steps to take first:

  1. The first thing you must do if your dog or cat ate or were exposed to something that they should not have is to determine how much of the substance they actually ingested.
  2. Save labels or take pictures so that you are able to show the ingredients to your pet’s veterinarian.
  3. Your veterinarian should be the first point of contact in the case of such an event. Call the nearest emergency veterinary hospital if it is outside of normal business hours.

Please follow the advice of your veterinarian. If your dog has ingested something toxic, they must immediately be taken to a hospital or clinic for treatment. If your veterinarian does not recommend seeing your pet right away, you should observe them carefully for any signs of illness. Things to be on the lookout for include:

  1. Vomiting – Your dog may vomit from simple gastrointestinal distress after eating something other than their dog or cat food. However, intractable or repeated vomiting can signal a toxin ingestion or another serious issue like gastric dilation volvulus. These conditions are life threatening and require emergency treatment right away.
  2. Lethargy – If your dog is acting oddly, or “not themselves,” it is a clue that the ingestion might be serious. Veterinary care should be sought as soon as possible.
  3. Hypersalivation – Excessive drooling may signal a toxin exposure or an injury to the mouth. It can also be a sign of nausea. If your dog or cat is in hypersalivation, you should reach out to their veterinarian.
  4. Weakness – If your dog or cat appears to be weak, is stumbling, or has difficulty walking, the likelihood of a toxin ingestion is higher. This is a sign that your dog requires veterinary care.
  5. Seizures – Twitching, rapid leg or eye movements, and convulsions are all signs that something is wrong. These abnormal movements may be due to a toxin or another issue that the dog is experiencing.
  6. Dribbling urine – Leaking urine is often seen in cases of marijuana toxicity. Dogs or cats exhibiting this sign should be taken to the nearest veterinary clinic for treatment.

If you are unable to reach your veterinarian, a great resource for help is the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. The APCC is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach them at (888) 426-4435. There is a one-time $75 fee for this service.

Final Thoughts: Are Citronella Plants Safe for Dogs?

 No, Citronella is not safe for dogs. Here are the important facts to remember:

  • Citronella geraniums are commonly planted around patios and yards to deter insects.
  • Citronella geraniums are not safe for dogs to consume because it can cause gastrointestinal upset.
  • Citronella geraniums can cause dermatitis in dogs when it comes in contact with their skin.
  • Citronella geraniums should not be used to treat eye infections, wounds, or as any kind of medical intervention for your dog.
  • If you’re concerned that your dog has been in contact with Citronella and may be experiencing an adverse reaction, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe for dogs to smell citronella?

Citronella oil is generally considered safe for dogs when used in small amounts and diluted properly. However, some dogs may be sensitive to the scent and may experience respiratory irritation or other side effects. If you are concerned about using citronella oil around your dog, consult your veterinarian first.

What will citronella do to a dog?

Citronella oil may cause respiratory irritation or other side effects in some dogs. If you are concerned about using citronella oil around your dog, consult your veterinarian first.

Do dogs hate the smell of citronella?

Some dogs may be sensitive to the scent of citronella and may not enjoy the smell. However, other dogs may not mind the scent or even find it pleasant. If you are concerned about using citronella oil around your dog, consult your veterinarian first.

Is diluted citronella oil safe for dogs?

Citronella oil is safe for dogs when used as directed. However, some dogs may be sensitive to the scent of citronella and may not enjoy the smell. If you are concerned about using citronella oil around your dog, consult your veterinarian first.

Are citronella collars harmful to dogs?

No, citronella collars are not harmful to dogs. However, some dogs may be sensitive to the scent of citronella and may not enjoy the smell. If you are concerned about using a citronella collar on your dog, consult your veterinarian first.

How do you use citronella spray on dogs?

To use citronella spray on dogs, simply spray the dog’s coat evenly with the solution. Be sure to avoid spraying the solution in your dog’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Citronella spray can be used as often as needed to keep your dog smelling fresh and clean.

Is citronella plant toxic to dogs?

No, the citronella plant is not toxic to dogs. However, the oil from the plant can be irritating to a dog’s skin and eyes. If your dog comes in contact with citronella oil, be sure to wash the area with soap and water.

Does citronella make dogs sick?

No, citronella does not usually make dogs sick. However, if your dog ingests a large amount of citronella oil, it could cause vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog ingests a small amount of citronella oil, there is no need to be concerned.

Can citronella kill dogs?

No, citronella cannot kill dogs. However, if your dog ingests a large amount of citronella oil, it could cause vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog ingests a small amount of citronella oil, there is no need to be concerned.

Can dogs smell citronella candles?

Yes, dogs can smell citronella candles. However, the smell is not harmful to them.

Additional Resources

Our writing staff and team of veterinarians have dedicated a ton of time and energy to bringing you the best information possible about household products and food to help make sure your pets are safe.

You can check out our giant guide to human foods dogs can and can not eat, and we’ve created guides on whether over 40 human foods are safe for dogs to eat.

We’ve also created a series of posts on what household products are and aren’t safe for your pet, including:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.