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Are Candles Bad for Dogs?

by Bella Woof

Are candles bad for dogs? The worst candles for dogs are scented candles that contain essential oils known to be harmful to dogs. The concern about any candles and dogs is that they can emit chemicals that can harm your dog’s lungs. Dogs have smaller lungs than we do, so something deemed safe for us may not be safe for your dog. And, of course, smaller dogs will be affected more quickly than large dogs.

Signs that a candle is bothering your dog include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irritated, red, draining eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Nasal irritation and/or discharge
  • Throat irritation

If you notice these signs, put the candle out, open windows, and take your dog outside to recover. If the signs do not start to go away, get to the veterinarian.

Remember, too, that a dog’s sense of smell is at least 10,000 times more sensitive than ours, with some estimates at 100,000 times more sensitive. So, if you’re aware of the smell from a burning candle, your dog is much more likely to notice it and to be bothered by it. On a list of indoor pollutants from the Cleveland Clinic, scented candles ranks 17th.

Safe Candles for Dogs

Studies say paraffin, an inexpensive candle wax, emits toxic chemicals when burning, although there’s question as to how much is harmful. Paraffin is derived from petroleum, oil, or coal shale. “Burning candles can expose you to potentially hazardous chemicals, such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein. Though these chemicals can be dangerous, studies conclude that exposure to these chemicals when burning candles is too low to present a direct health hazard,” according to the University of Florida Health. But, this study was about humans, not dogs.

A USDA report from South Carolina supports the use of soybean wax candles instead, which their data show burn cleaner.

Harmful Essential Oils for Dogs

Candles are often scented with essential oils, although candle packaging doesn’t always confirm what was used to make the candle. Some essential oils shouldn’t be used around dogs, including:

  • Cinnamon
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea tree
  • Wintergreen

And, of course, the smell and ingestion of marijuana can harm your dog as well, just in case you’re burning that.

A Light Scent

If your dog is in the room with a lit scented candle, keep an eye on him. The wrong scent or an overpowering scent could put him at risk for serious illness, including aspiration pneumonia. Learn how to use scents properly.

Signs of toxicity include:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea

Dog-Friendly Essential Oils

These essential oils are usually OK for use around dogs:

  • Chamomile
  • Ginger
  • Lavender Oil
  • Rosemary

What If My Dog Eats a Candle?

If your dog chews a bit of a candle, don’t panic. Dogs can ingest a little wax and pass it through the digestive tract, just as we can. However, candle wax can be bad if the dog eats too much of it or if it contains a toxic substance, such as a poisonous essential oil, things could worsen quickly. Overall, veterinarians agree that candles and dogs are just not a good match and skip the fragranced candles entirely.

Finally, of course, a lit candle around a dog is a recipe for disaster because of accidental fires.

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