Many pet owners who enjoy using essential oils are curious to know if peppermint oil is safe for dogs.
After all, humans use it for a wide range of treatments, helping to ease feelings of nausea and for soothing aching, overworked muscles.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to peppermint oil and dogs, because what is safe for humans may not be safe for your four-legged best friend. To make things a little clearer, we examine how safe peppermint oil is for dogs, including what some owners use it for, the potential risks involved and what you should avoid.
What is peppermint oil?
Peppermint oil is extracted from the peppermint plant using a steam distillation process. The oil is removed from the stems, leaves and flower buds of the plant and contains a high concentration of menthol.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, humans have used peppermint in aromatherapeutic medicine treatments for centuries, helping to ease muscle aches and soreness. The oil’s anti-nausea properties also make it a popular choice for people looking to ease IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms.
Is peppermint oil safe for dogs?
It is difficult to say with any certainty whether peppermint oil is safe for dogs. Whilst many experts have raised concerns about the health risks it can cause, some owners say it can be effective at treating several conditions. Some of the ways peppermint oil is used for dogs are to:
- Treat fleas and ticks: Some dog owners believe that peppermint oil works as a natural flea remedy. However, research has been unable to empirically verify this claim. A safer alternative is to get a prescription from a qualified vet, as traditional medicine is not known to cause inflammation or respiratory issues.
- Offer pain relief: Another belief held by some dog owners is that peppermint oil can offer effective pain relief. However, due to their high concentration levels, it is recommended that you do not use any essential oil on cuts or wounds as it could make the problem worse.
Is diluted peppermint oil safe for dogs?
It is not recommended that you use peppermint oil for dogs in any form, which also includes when it has been diluted with a carrier oil. As we mentioned above, peppermint is generally not considered a safe plant or essence for dogs, regardless of how they come into contact with it.
You will find some sites that suggest you can dilute peppermint oil using a 0.5% to 2% dilution ratio, but doing so does not come without any risk. Every dog is different and will react in their own way to coming into contact with peppermint, and there is always a chance that it could cause a strong and potentially dangerous allergic reaction.
What are the risks of using essential oil for my dog?
Where a human’s body can naturally process and eliminate compounds from their body when using peppermint oil, a dog’s internal system does not work in the same way. This is likely the reason why it can prove to be extremely toxic for their liver. The same is also true of peppermint plants and peppermint tea, with the high levels of menthol being responsible for causing a wide range of dangerous – and potentially fatal – side effects. These include:
- Watery, burning eyes
- Skin irritation, redness, inflammation and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Liver failure
Even when used in small amounts, there are significant risks to using peppermint oil for your dog, and even if they only experience a low-level reaction, it is something that is best avoided.
Peppermint oil and dogs with liver or kidney disease
Extreme caution should be taken when it comes to dogs that have liver or kidney disease. Exposure to peppermint and other types of essential oil can cause strain on these organs, which can lead to poisoning and the associated reactions.
If you have peppermint oil in your home you should avoid:
- Diffusing the oil around your dog: A dog’s sense of smell can be 1,000 to 10,000 times stronger than a human’s, which also means they can be extremely sensitive to strong smells and odours. This includes peppermint oil and because the oil can cause nausea, vomiting and more extreme reactions, so it is better to avoid diffusing it when they are around.
- Applying it to your dog’s skin: We do not recommend using peppermint oil – even when diluted – in any form for your dog. This is especially true for their skin, as if applied incorrectly it could cause skin irritation, inflammation or chemical burns that will be extremely painful for your dog to experience.
What should I do if my dog has ingested peppermint oil?
Whether it’s peppermint oil or any other type of essential oil, if your dog accidentally ingests it, you should get in contact with a local vet as soon as possible.
Do not try to induce vomiting on your own, as it can make the situation worse. This should only ever be done by a licensed vet, who will know the correct techniques and procedures that are appropriate for treating your dog. They will hopefully be able to remove the toxins and determine if any long-term damage has been caused.
However, peppermint oil can be particularly toxic for dogs, so the treatment will vary depending on how much they have consumed. You can minimise the risk posed to dogs by ensuring you store your oil out of the reach of any pets in your home, as licking, sniffing or eating could cause mild or potentially severe reactions.
Whilst essential oils are not chemical based, they can still pose a risk to anyone who uses them incorrectly. This is true of peppermint oil which is not a suitable fit with dogs and you should look for alternative methods that will be milder and kinder to their bodies. If you are considering using any essential oil for your dog, the best course of action is to first speak with your local vet to ensure it is an appropriate treatment.