Can Dogs Smell Essential Oils?

It’s a well known fact. Dogs have amazing noses. The majority of their world is made up of smell. They get the news of their neighborhoods by the scent on the fire hydrant. Even though it’s icky to us, the whiff of each other's rear ends dogs insist on getting on meeting, is essentially the canine equivalent of exchanging business cards. 

With great power comes a whole different experience of the world of scent. Dogs experience aromas in ways we can’t appreciate. Which is apparent when they roll in dead raccoon. Thinking about dogs and the way they experience smells makes you wonder, if they can tolerate the smell of decaying garbage, can they smell essential oils the way we do? 

With essential oils popping up in pet products, this is an important question. How exactly is your dog experiencing this? Are their noses so powerful they somehow can’t smell the oil? Is it incredibly stinky to them compared to a squirrel carcass? Let’s explore more about dog noses and find out if dogs can actually smell essential oils. 

The Dog Nose Knows 

Before we get into the main question, you need to know just how different a dog’s nose is compared to a human’s. As humans, we have an impressive 6 million olfactory sensors in our noses. In fact, new scientific research has shown that humans are capable of following a scent trail and are more sensitive to certain odors than some other animals. We just don’t think we rely on our sense of smell as much as we do, which means even though we can enjoy different smells, our world doesn’t revolve around them. 

dog nose essential oils can dogs smell essential oils


Meanwhile, dog’s have over 300 million scent receptors in their noses as well as something called a vomeronasal organ. This is a small organ that helps them interpret pheromones that they use in communication. Humans also have this organ, but the jury is out on how we use it, if at all. Due to their receptors and this special organ, dogs can detect scents at one part per trillion. To get past all the scientific stuff, dogs really, truly experience the world through smell. Like most humans rely on their eyes, dogs rely on their noses. 

Dogs can even move their nostrils independently in a way that allows them to tell which way a scent came from. A dog’s brain is also wired to be interested in the source of new smells, so a new scent may distract them from something else they were involved in. There is even evidence that dogs may be able to sniff out diseases like cancer and diabetes. Needless to say, dogs' noses are amazing structures and we still don’t completely understand what they are capable of. 

The experts still can’t agree on what it is about disgusting smells that dogs love and why they often love to roll in them. Warning other dogs to stay away, announcing that they found it, or just liking the smell so much they want to wear it are all ideas that have been examined by scientists. 

Learning about how our dogs experience the world is fascinating. While we don’t know much about why they prefer the stinky things in life, do we know enough about how they experience something pleasant like an essential oil?


Can Dogs Smell Essential Oils?

The answer is a resounding yes. Dogs can definitely smell essential oils.  Which is exactly why you need to be careful when diffusing oils around your dog. There are some oils that are toxic to dogs even if diffused into the air and not applied directly to your dog. Diffused oils can cling to your dog and be ingested if your dog licks himself. 

Just because an oil is dog safe doesn’t mean your dog is going to be a fan. In a room that is too small, or not ventilated properly, your dog could get overwhelmed by the scent of the oil. If your dog is sneezing, whining, or otherwise looks uncomfortable, it’s likely that he’s not enjoying the scent. Discontinue use of that essential oil immediately and/or reexamine how well the oil is diluted and how well ventilated the space is.

Remember that your dog may not like the same scents you do. When first introducing your dog to an essential oil or scent, pay close attention to their reaction. Keeping them happy and free from stress is so important when introducing something new!


How To Properly Diffuse Essential Oils Around Your Dog

Before diffusing anything around your pup, make sure it’s dog safe. We have a list of dog safe oils that you can look at here. It’s important to introduce essential oils to your dog slowly, and give him time to adapt to them.  

Start by diffusing a small amount of oil in a well ventilated room. Only run the diffuser for a short amount of time. Watch your dog for any signs that the oil is bothering him. Sneezing, for example, is a sign that the oil might be irritating his nose. 

dog essential oil in room


Even oils that are dog safe may be irritating to some dogs. Just like us, some dogs can have sensitivities to things other dogs have no problem being around. Keep an eye out for skin irritation. Diffusing sends tiny droplets of oil into the air, and these droplets could cause a rash on a sensitive dog. Coughing, pawing at the face, and whining are all signs of distress that you should watch for. 

Make sure you don’t leave your diffuser on a low table where curious noses could get shoved a little too close. Essential oils that are not diluted can irritate your dog’s mouth and nose if he gets close enough to ingest any. 

If you’re ready to add essential oils to your routine but want some guidance, you can get a more in-depth look at how to introduce essential oils to your dog here.

And once you have exposed your dog to essential oils, don’t forget to visit the Fido Fizzies shop. We have tons of amazing bath and anti-anxiety products made from all natural, therapeutic-grade essential oils!