Are citronella candles safe for dogs to burn? Tips and Tricks

Where should citronella candles be placed?

Placement. It’s best to place your citronella candle where it can offer the most protection of your outdoor area from bugs. One central candle may be enough, or you might need a protective perimeter of candles for a larger area. You should also keep it in a spot that’s protected from wind and rain.

Citronella grass has naturally occurring oils that can be used to keep pests away. But when it comes to the efficacy of the plant, it doesnt actually do much to deter mosquitoes. This is because you need a higher concentration of citronella oil than the plants alone can offer. (One plant that is effective? Lemongrass! But youll want to keep this away from your pets, too, because its also toxic.)

“It is best to keep your pet away from citronella candles,” Matejka says. “If you burn these candles around your pet, please ensure you are not in a confined space so your pet can get fresh air, as they can be a mild respiratory irritant.”

“Since citronella sprays are applied topically, they can cause skin irritation or rash, especially in high concentrations,” she says. “Because our pets groom themselves, there is the potential for ingestion and GI irritation if consumed in high concentrations. If it gets in the eyes, it can cause irritation, too.”

Keeping these preventatives and precautions in mind, you and your dog can have a safe, mosquito-free (or at least mosquito-reduced!) summer.

“There are also different products that contain essential oils from the herbs above that can be used to repel mosquitos but may not work as well as permethrin-based products. If you use any of these repellents, follow the label carefully to ensure proper dosing,” Matejka advises. “Never use DEET-based products or products that are not safe for dogs.”

Citronella is considered toxic to dogs if ingested and has the potential to cause adverse skin reactions with contact.

Keep citronella items secured. Any candles, sprays, oils, or bug repellents containing citronella should be kept out of reach of your pup’s paws. When not in use, keep them in a high or locked cupboard. While in use, make sure your dog can’t come into contact with the products or chew the products.

Although generally recognized as safe, citronella may cause skin irritation or the development of skin allergies with prolonged contact in some people. If accidentally ingested, it may cause throat irritation or coughing episodes. Likewise, accidental contact with eyes may cause irritation [1].

Citronella is a natural oil made from distilling two types of grasses known as Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus [1]. It is most commonly used as an insect and animal repellant and is classified as a “minimum risk pesticide” by the EPA.

Likewise, insect repellant bottles containing citronella should not be easily accessible by dogs, especially aggressive chewers.

Are Citronella Candles Safe For Dogs?

Summer is great for spending more time outside, for both you and your dog. Unfortunately, some uninvited guests will also likely show up to your summer outings.

Citronella is a common deterrent for pests like mosquitoes. But do you need to worry about it negatively affecting your dog?

The short answer is your dog probably shouldn’t come into contact with any citronella product, but it’s a little complicated. Here’s what you should know about dogs and citronella.

Many plants marketed as “citronella plants” only smell like citronella and don’t actually contain citronella oil.

One common copycat is the citronella-scented geranium. Besides having no mosquito-deterring citronella oil in it, as a member of the geranium family, they contain geraniol and linalool, both of which are highly toxic to dogs and could cause gastrointestinal distress.

If your “citronella plant” has fern-like leaves instead of looking like grass, it is likely a citronella-scented geranium.

A true citronella plant is actually a grass found in two varities: Cymbopogon nardus (“Ceylon”) or Cymbopogon winterianus (“Java”). Native to Asia, they can grow in most climates as either annuals or perennials, depending on the warmth.

Interestingly, to get the mosquito-deterring effect, the plant has to be crushed to release the oil. However, the plant does naturally deter other garden pests without needing to be crushed, like whiteflies.

Another plant causing copycat confusion is lemongrass. While the two may smell the same, again, the beneficial oil is only in true citronella grass.

Experts seem divided on if this one is dangerous for your dog — the ASPCA says yes, while others say it is harmless or even beneficial. The disparity may again be due to the confusion over the plant varieties, but it may be safest to have your dog avoid eating this one.