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Is Citronella Oil Safe for Dogs, Cats & Other Animals?

Citronella oil comes from the plant named Cymbopogon nardus and is commonly known as citronella. It is very popular as an insect repellent and is also used for flavoring in food and beverage. But can you use citronella oil if you have cats, dogs or other animals in your house? 

This article will explain the dangers of citronella oil for household animals and additional facts you should be aware of.

Is citronella oil safe for dogs?

Citronella oil is toxic to cats, dogs and most other animals. Direct injection, candles and diffusers can cause gastrointestinal upset, vomit, diarrhea and even coma. Citronella plants are also very toxic to dogs, and pet owners should remove or keep away the plants from dogs’ reach. 

Citronella is a natural agent that comes from the citronella plants. It is an insect repellant, primarily used to keep away the mosquitoes. It is natural, but not every natural thing is harmless.

Citronella can be harmful to pets’ health, and most of the animals around us can have health dangers from it. Cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and even humans can have health issues from citronella. 

Humans are safe from toxicity on most occasions, but eating citronella plant or essential oil can cause health complications for humans also.

A small amount of citronella will cause vomit, diarrhea, and abdominal problems in cats and dogs. How can they eat a small amount of citronella oil? They can lick a surface that has little amount of citronella oil. This can happen if you use spray or diffusers. 

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

But if the pet eats a high amount of citronella plant or oil, that will cause muscle pain, loss of coordination or even hypothermia. If the animal does not get timely treatment, he can pass away, so you must not ignore the signs of citronella toxicity.

You can not use citronella oil around dogs. Citronella diffuser is used to repel mosquitos from households. The fume of citronella can cause breathing difficulties and neurological problems that can also be fatal for cats and dogs. 

So, if you have pets in your house, don’t use citronella as a mosquito repellent.

Never use citronella essential oil on your dog’s body to keep them safe from the mosquitoes. Cats and dogs often lick their bodies to stay clean.

Don’t give your dog or cat access to a garden with a citronella plant. If you don’t have much idea about plants, don’t allow your pet to eat plants from a garden. Many ornamental plants can be toxic to animals.

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

Dogs should not smell citronella essential oil. They also must not stay in a place with a running citronella oil diffuser. In a nutshell, don’t use any citronella product if you have dogs. Dogs are curious, and many dogs tend to eat everything that smells interesting. 

Check out what happens when dogs eat and smell citronella oil.

Eating citronella product:

Dogs may not eat citronella out of hunger but may try to taste it. Eating a little amount of citronella oil can make the dogs sick. So, if you are a dog owner, don’t leave around any citronella products like spray, oil or candle mindlessly.

Sometimes citronella can be allergic to dogs. An allergy happens when the body finds some chemicals and can detect that the molecule is harmful to the body. 

To some dogs, citronella can be allergic, which means the dog’s body sees the citronella as a foreign object. An allergic dog will experience cold-like symptoms and runny nose and mouth.

Breathing Citronella oil:

Chemicals can get mixed with blood through the lungs faster than anything. So, when dogs breathe air with citronella, the elements will get mixed with their blood causing breathing problems, respiratory issues, dizziness, weakness and muscle pain.

There is some citronella candle that has citronella in it. It is used to repel mosquitoes. Keep them away from the dogs, and don’t light those candles if you have your dog around.

Citronella candles and oil diffusers spread small citronella particles in the air and repel the mosquitoes. If your dog smells or breathes in the air, that can create a problematic situation for your dog.

What to do if your dog eats citronella essential oil?

If your dog eats citronella essential oil, take him to the nearby vet to avoid significant health complications. If the dog eats or licks a surface with citronella oil, that will make the dog mildly sick. Mild syndromes like diarrhea and vomiting can be recovered at home. 

Provide a lot of fluid with electrolytes and pay closer attention to the dog. If you notice the dog is weak and losing muscle coordination, don’t delay taking him to the veterinary center. If a dog directly eats citronella oil, candle or plant, take proper treatment quickly. 

A professional vet will clean the dog’s system using activated charcoal and other medicines.

Is citronella essential oil safe for cats?

Citronella essential oil can be dangerous for cats. The toxic effect of citronella will damage cats more as they are smaller in size. The cat will have gastrointestinal problems, muscle coordination issues, and neurological problems, which can be fatal without proper and timely treatment.

Citronella oil works great to repel the mosquitoes, but if you have a cat, you may never use it after knowing the dangers. Cats usually do not like to eat strange things randomly. But the citronella diffuser may cause health complications to your loving cat.

Cats can be poisoned by eating or breathing citronella essential oil. But cats are more likely to eat plants to solve their belly discomfort. But if they somehow eat the citronella plant, that will badly affect their gastrointestinal health. 

Eating citronella will make them sick within an hour. It will cause diarrhea, vomiting, and weakness. More severe syndromes are the inability to walk correctly due to loss of muscle coordination and neurological damage. 

Take your cat to the vet ASAP if you notice any syndromes.

Breathing citronella is also harmful to cats, showing similar effects mentioned above. Diarrhea may not appear if the cat breathes citronella. But vomit, weakness and other major health issues can arise. That’s why you must not use citronella oil diffusers around cats. 

Don’t keep citronella plants if you have a cat in your house. It can turn into the worst houseplant for a cat owner. Keeping citronella in a high place in your home is not a solution. Cats can almost reach anywhere in your house if they want.

Can you use citronella essential oil for fleas and ticks on dogs & cats?

Using citronella oil to remove fleas and ticks on dogs and cats is the worst thing you can do to your pet with citronella oil. The fleas and ticks will be removed as the citronella oil has remarkable insect repelling capabilities.

Citronella is very toxic to animals. You must never use any citronella product around them, let alone applying on them. 

Cats and dogs always lick their body parts to keep themselves clean, so by applying such toxic chemicals to them, they will be sick very quickly.

Many other commercial flea and tick remover products are safe for cats and dogs. You must research and have a pepper idea before applying something to your pet.

Is citronella essential oil safe for other animals or pets?

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

It does not affect all the animals similarly, such as it’s less toxic to the birds. Citronella plants produce citronella toxins to keep away the animals that eat them. Once an animal eats citronella and gets sick, the animal will not eat the plant again. 

It repels the insects but does not cause harm to insects. Check out how it affects other animals.


Citronella essential oils do not cause any significant harmful effects on the birds, but it’s better to keep them away.


Horses can be allergic to citronella. So avoid letting your horse eat the citronella plant.


Citronella can be dangerous for the rabbits if ingested. Don’t use a citronella oil diffuser around your rabbit, and keep the citronella plants out of your rabbits reach.


Citronella is slightly toxic for the fish. You can use citronella by covering your fish tank.

Final thoughts

Citronella is more or less toxic to most household animals. So one must be careful of using citronella products like citronella candles, sprays and diffusers. If an animal ingests or becomes sick after breathing citronella, visit a vet as soon as possible.