- Peppermint oil is not safe for dogs — While pet parents often use it to treat their coughs and colds and reduce stress, the risks associated with peppermint oil for dogs are significant.
- Many OTC products have it — Despite the dangers of this essential oil, many over-the-counter pet medications feature it.
- Toxicity levels are unclear — Experts aren’t sure what levels are manageable for dogs and what can be fatal.
Peppermint oil is extracted from the leaves of a peppermint plant, a wintergreen mint and herb found in North America and Europe. For people, peppermint oil can aid digestion and relieve headaches, muscle pain, and itching. Its mild antibacterial and antifungal properties have shown its effectiveness in some studies. Many enjoy essential oils, like peppermint oil, in a diffuser or a topical roller.
Unfortunately, your dog won’t get those same benefits, and more bad news: many other essential oils used in home diffusers are also unsafe for pets.
⚠️ Pine, citrus, cinnamon, tea tree, and ylang-ylang essential oils are also toxic to pets. Avoid giving them to your dog or even diffusing them, as this can trigger inflammation in your pet’s airways.
Is any amount of peppermint oil safe for dogs?
Despite the risks, some pet owners say it’s an effective treatment for several dog health conditions. With relatively little scientific research, it’s difficult to say what, if any, amount is safe or even beneficial. As with any pet product, your source of truth should be your veterinarian.
Peppermint oil is often used to:
- Repel fleas and ticks — This is one of the more popular claims from dog owners who believe that it’s a natural flea remedy. However, peppermint oil hasn’t been empirically proven to be an effective flea repellent or killer. Traditional flea medicine you can get prescribed by a vet is much safer and more effective, as it isn’t known to cause inflammation in mucous membranes or respiratory problems.
- Relieve pain — Some claim that peppermint oil has analgesic properties, as well as antibacterial and antifungal benefits . Never use essential oils on cuts or wounds as they can cause burns and worsen the problem.
We don’t find any of these to be a trade-off for the list of possible symptoms below — all of which can happen even when peppermint oil is used in small amounts in essential oil diffusers or when topically applied. You’re taking on a large amount of risk for minimal benefits, if any.
⚠️ If you’re looking for alternatives to flea medicines, check out our list of natural and safe ways to get rid of fleas on your dog.
The risks of peppermint oil
A lack of enzymes in your pet’s liver may be to blame for peppermint oil’s toxicity. Compounds that would normally be processed and eliminated by humans build up in dogs. It’s not just oil, either — everything peppermint-related, from the oil to the plant and peppermint tea, is toxic to your pet. The high concentration of menthol (the main component of peppermint oil) in any part of the mint family can cause a range of symptoms that can be uncomfortable, or in some others, deadly.
Dr. Bruce Armstrong
I have had cases of severe contact dermatitis and immune-mediated dermatitis from essential oils. Serious GI issues and esophageal and oral ulcers can occur just from contact alone. Further research into retrospective studies and additional research yet to be conducted could offer promise in the future but at this point, use is not recommended.
Are any essential oils safe for dogs?
Essential oils are highly-concentrated plant extracts that are usually made through distillation. They’re primarily used for aromatherapy, but some people use them for medicinal purposes. Many essential oils are toxic for dogs, whether ingested, applied topically, or breathed in from a diffuser.
Claims of essential oils’ health benefits in dogs are not yet scientifically backed. But, some dog owners swear by essential oil products — chamomile oil is thought to prevent worms; lavender oil is claimed to ease anxiety; and some say lemongrass wards off mosquitos. However, you should remember that these claims are personal testimony, not scientifically or medically supported facts.
Special caution for dogs with liver disease
The potency of these oils also makes them especially dangerous to dogs with lower-functioning livers, including puppies, older dogs, and dogs with liver disease. High-potency substances like essential oils can cause strain and damage to the liver, leading to the symptoms of essential oil poisoning.
Here are a few helpful tips to help keep you and your pup as safe as possible.
- Never apply essential oils directly to skin — Because they’re so highly concentrated, oils can damage and irritate the skin of dogs and humans. While skin issues and irritation may sound like minor symptoms to some, they can quickly be severe and have further implications for your pet, especially if they come into contact with the pure form of the oil.
- Use a carrier oil — If used, combine peppermint oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil. A carrier oil “carries” the essential oil, effectively diluting it.
- Diffuse with caution — A dog’s sense of smell is so much stronger than ours. Our board of veterinary reviewers has seen pets rushed to the ER suffering from respiratory distress thanks to inhaled essential oils.
Even products you use on yourself can be fatal to your dog. Adverse side effects can result if your dog comes into contact with you after you’ve used or applied peppermint oil, so take precautions before handling your dog.
If you want to try out an essential oil, do your research and talk to a veterinarian. They can help you pick out a quality, expert-formulated product with plenty of carrier oils to dilute the potency.
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Frequently asked questions
Is peppermint oil safe for cats?
No, peppermint oil is not safe for cats. Applied topically, peppermint oil can seep through their fur and skin and cause liver damage. Even when used aromatically, the smell can overwhelm their sensitive noses and cause difficulty breathing or increased heart rate.
What should you do if your dog has a bad reaction to essential oil?
Bring your dog to the vet or nearest vet emergency center. We also recommend calling pet poison control immediately. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control phone number is (888) 426-4435.
What happens if my dog smells peppermint oil?
Simply breathing diffused peppermint oil can cause respiratory distress in your dog. Wheezing, coughing, and breathlessness can occur due to the severity and potency of peppermint oil. If this has happened, we recommend getting your pet to fresh air ASAP to avoid further complications.
Is peppermint OK for dogs?
Peppermint is not OK for dogs, as the plant oils can sit on the surface of the leaves. Because of this, your dog might experience irritation or symptoms of intolerance by simply touching a peppermint plant or peppermint product — they don’t necessarily have to eat it to be affected.
Which essential oils are dog safe?
There are conflicting reports about what essential oils are truly “dog-safe.” Because of the range of sensitivities and reactions that your furry friend can have, we generally recommend against using ANY essential oils on or around your pet. These include diffused scents, which can enter your dog’s sensitive respiratory tract.
How do you dilute peppermint oil for dogs?
Peppermint oil, no matter what you’re using it for or on, should always be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut oil. However, peppermint is generally not a safe plant or essence for dogs in any context, so we do not recommend it in any form, even when diluted.