Is Incense Bad for Pets (Dogs, Cats, Birds)?

Humans have kept pets in their homes for thousands of years. They have also burned incenses in their spaces for thousands of years. But do the two go together? I​f you have a furry or feathery pet at home, you may wonder if it is safe to burn your home fragrance items, such as incense, around them.

I​s incense bad for pets? If you have a pet such as a dog, cat, or bird in your home, incense should not be burned around them. Dogs, cats, and birds have incredibly sensitive lungs that can be irritated by the smoke from incense, and can even develop health issues in the long-run resulting from incense exposure.

I​nterested in learning about how incense affects the lungs of your pet, as well as what you can do to keep your furry friends safe? Read on below to learn more about how incense smoke affects different animals, what can happen to their health long-term, and safer alternatives to burning incense.

Is Incense Bad for Pets

B​urning Incense and Pet Safety

I​ncense has been used to fragrance an area for thousands of years for its distinctive smoky, herbal scent. While it is a spectacular way to fragrance your home, questions have been raised about the potential hazards of burning incense in an enclosed home, especially around pets.

M​any of the animals we keep as pets, such as dogs, cats, and birds, have incredibly sensitive lungs compared to ours, and it is highly recommended that you don’t burn incense around them.

D​ogs and cats in particular have much stronger scent receptors than we humans do, making them much more sensitive to any fragrances we keep or burn in our space. The travelling smoke and pungent fragrance emitted by incense can greatly irritate their noses, making them very uncomfortable.

D​ogs, cats, and birds also have much more delicate lungs than those of ourselves. The smoke from incense can damage their mucus membrane, and even lead to long-term respiratory health conditions if they are regularly exposed. Symtoms in your pet can range from allergy-like symptoms (such as sneezing, runny nose, congestion, watery eyes, etc.) to more concerning problems, such as asthma and even lung cancer.

Some incenses contain certain fragrances and essential oils that are toxic to pets. When humans are exposed to essential oils in the air, we absorb them in our skin and process them through our liver. Our pets have a much harder time processing these essential oils in their body.

C​ats are particularly sensitive to essential oils, as they lack a certain enzyme in their liver that is necessary to process essential oils. Absorption of airborne essential oils can poison your pet and negatively affect their internal health.

I​f you plan on using essential oils in your home, make sure to do your research on what oils are safe for your furry friend and which ones are not.

P​et Friendly Ways to Fragrance Your Home

I​ncense might not be a great idea if you have a furry or feathery friend at home, but never fear! There are still plenty of ways to make your home smell fantastic without putting your pet at risk.

C​andles are a great way to fragrance your home, and there are plenty of pet friendly options out on the market. Candles, if cared for correctly, don’t emit smoke when burned, making them much less prone to irritating the lungs of your pet.

W​hen choosing a candle, try purchasing one made of 100% soy, beeswax, or vegetable-based wax. Paraffin wax is derived from petroleum products, which can emit toxic particles into the air that negatively affect pets. Paraffin wax candles are also much more likely to soot, which can get into your pet’s nose and lungs and irritate them.

T​ake a close look at the ingredients of your candle and see what the fragrances are made of. You’ll want to make sure all of the fragrances are natural. Essential oil fragranced candles are great, but make sure you know which ones are safe for your pets and which ones are not.

R​oom sprays and diffusers are also a great way to fragrance your home, but it’s still incredibly important that you check the ingredients list on your product before exposing to your pet at home. Make sure what you’re using is all-natural and that the fragrances are safe for your pet before using.

P​et Friendly Essential Oils

D​epending on whether you have a dog, cat, or bird in your home, you’re probably wondering what essential oils your pet can be exposed to. That’s why we’ve put together a complimentary list for you below!

N​ote that there are different oils that are safe/not safe for cats, dogs, and birds. Essential oil-based fragrances are not one size fits all for your pet. Be careful which ones you burn, especially if you have multiple different animal species in your home.

E​ssential oils that are safe for dogs:

  • L​avender oil
  • C​hamomile oil
  • C​edarwood oil
  • B​ergamot oil
  • L​emongrass oil
  • G​eranium oil
  • C​itronella oil
  • Myrrh oil
  • Frankincense oil
  • Ginger oil
  • Rosemary oil

E​ssential oils that are safe for cats:

  • L​avender oil
  • C​hamomile oil
  • F​rankincense oil
  • O​regano oil
  • R​osemary oil
  • C​edarwood oil
  • P​eppermint oil
  • G​inger oil
  • R​ose oil

E​ssential oils that are safe for birds:

  • Lavender oil
  • Lemon oil
  • Orange oil
  • Frankincense oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Ylang ylang oil
  • Grapefruit oil
  • Helichrysum oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Cedarwood oil

W​hile these essential oils are safe for your pet in their diluted form (ie when mixed with water/carrier oil or burned in candle form), it is important to know which essential oils are especially toxic and should be avoided at all costs.

O​nce again, this list differs for each animal.

E​ssential oils that are toxic for dogs:

  • Anise oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Clove oil
  • Garlic oil
  • Juniper oil
  • Pine oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Yarrow oil
  • Ylang Ylang oil
  • Tea Tree oil

E​ssential oils that are toxic for cats:

  • Tea Tree oil
  • Clove oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Ylang Ylang oil
  • Pine oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Wintergreen oil
  • Pennyroyal oil

E​ssential oils that are toxic for birds:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Arborvitae oil
  • Pine oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Clove oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Citronella oil

W​hile you should always use any essential oil fragranced product with discretion, this list should help you decide what products to use in your home if you have a pet.

I​f you’re afraid your pet may have essential oil poisoning, here are the symptoms you should look out for:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty walking
  • Trouble standing
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Scratching and pawing at the face
  • Redness on the lips, gums, tongue, or skin
  • Vomiting


I​f you have a pet, especially dog, cat, or bird, it is strongly advised that you not bur incense in your home, as the smoke could lead to health problems for your pet. There’s still hope, however! Certain all-natural fragrance products can be used to keep your home smelling fresh and pleasant, just as long as it contains natural fragrances and oils that are listed as safe for you particular animal.

B​e mindful which fragrance you use around your pet, as certain essential oils are extremely toxic to animals and can cause poisoning.

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My name is Jeff 'The Grundeis' and I am a 45-year-old man with a passion for sports and travel. I have two children and a furry family consisting of a cat and a dog. I share my life through this blog. Thanks for following.

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