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Greent mint plant in a white planter

The essentials

  • Peppermint oil is not safe for dogs — While it is popular with many pet parents, the risks associated with peppermint oil are significant.
  • Many OTC products have it — Despite the dangers associated with this essential oil, many over-the-counter pet medications feature the ingredient.
  • Toxicity levels are unclear — Experts aren’t sure what levels are safe for dogs, and what can be fatal.

Peppermint essential oil is extracted from the leaves of a peppermint plant, which is a wintergreen mint and herb naturally found in North America and Europe. It’s also a cross between spearmint and watermint. The main chemical components of peppermint oil are menthol and menthone, which produce the cooling smell and taste.

For humans, peppermint oil has been shown to aid digestion and relieve headaches, muscle pain, and itching. Its mild antibacterial and antifungal properties have shown it effective in some studies against some bacteria.

Unfortunately, your dog won’t get those same benefits because peppermint oil is widely believed to be toxic for pets.

If it’s toxic to pets, why does peppermint oil show up in so many products?

Some pet owners say it’s an effective treatment for several health conditions. As with any pet product, your source of truth should be your veterinarian.

Here are a few of the claimed benefits of peppermint oil for our furry friends, which you can ask your veterinarian about. However, we don’t find any of these to be a trade-off for the fact it’s toxic to your pup.

Peppermint oil is often used for

  • Muscle pain relief. A salve or balm with peppermint oil as an ingredient may have a cooling effect on muscles, like IcyHot®.
  • Allergy relief. Used in an essential oil diffuser, peppermint oil may help relieve seasonal allergy symptoms. Your house will smell minty-fresh, too!
  • Fleas and ticks. This is one of the more popular claims from dog owner’s testimonies, but peppermint oil simply hasn’t been 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.
  • Antiseptic. Some claim that peppermint oil has antiseptic properties, but there is not much evidence of this. Never use essential oils on cuts or wounds as they can cause burns and worsen the problem.

Here are some of the benefits to peppermint oil

In addition to smelling nice, there is some evidence that peppermint oil can help ward off harmful microbes, though not specifically on dogs. Again, we don’t think these properties make up for the fact that it could harm your dog. Some studies have found peppermint oil to have:

  • Antibacterial properties
  • Antifungal properties

The drawbacks of peppermint oil

The largest drawback is its toxicity, though it’s not clear what amount of peppermint oil is fatal to dogs. Skin irritation and difficulty breathing are also side effects. Since we don’t have concrete evidence of the oil’s antimicrobial properties, it’s safe to say the potential adverse reactions outweigh the benefits.

That’s why we say that peppermint oil is unsafe for dogs and wouldn’t recommend trying it.

Essential oils and their uses

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.

In recent years, essential oils have become increasingly popular natural remedies worldwide. In 2021, the global essential oils market size was valued at $9.62 billion, according to Fortune Business Insights. It’s projected to reach $18.25 billion by 2028.

Peppermint oil is one of the most popular essential oils. Aside from smelling minty-fresh, it’s claimed to boost energy, reduce muscle pain, and soothe digestive upset for humans. If you’re wondering whether peppermint oil can help your dog in the same ways, you’re not alone. However, peppermint oil is toxic to dogs, so we recommend steering clear.

Are essential oils safe for dogs?

Many essential oils are toxic for dogs, whether ingested or applied topically. Canine-toxic essential oils include tea tree oil, ylang-ylang, cinnamon oil, and peppermint oil.

You should never apply essential oils directly to your dog’s skin or yours. Because they’re so highly concentrated, they can damage and irritate the skin. That’s why they always need to be used with a carrier oil, like coconut oil.

Even if you’re diffusing them, essential oils can be overwhelming and harmful because dogs’ sense of smell is so much stronger than humans’. In fact, our vet Dr. Erica Irish, DVM, has seen pets rushed to the ER suffering from respiratory distress thanks to inhaled essential oils.

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. After ingestion or topical application, substances are metabolized by the liver, and high-potency substances like essential oils can cause strain and damage.

Claims of essential oils’ health benefits in dogs are not yet scientifically-backed as fact. 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 fact.

To keep your dog safe, your best option is to avoid DIY when it comes to essential oils. Even products you use on yourself can be fatal to your dog.

If you want to try one out, 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.

Frequently asked questions

Is peppermint oil safe for cats?

No, peppermint oil is not safe for cats. Applied topically, the 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 call pet poison control immediately. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control phone number is (888) 426-4435.