Are Candles Safe For Pets?

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No matter if you prefer floral, gormand, or woody scents, candles can help you relax after a long day and create the right ambiance. With that said, however, if you have a pet at home, it’s important to recognize just how harmful and dangerous candles can be for our furry companions.

While it’s obvious that an open flame has the potential to cause trouble, whether that’s burning our pets if they get too close or being knocked over by our pets when we aren’t looking, we must also be aware of which ingredients in candles are particularly toxic to pets. 

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at exactly what makes candles bad for pets, but also teach you how to choose a pet-safe candle and give you some safety tips on how to burn candles around your pet. 

Are Candles Bad For Pets?

Are candles bad for pets? The answer to this question is somewhat complex. In general, if you have a pet but really want to enjoy the benefits of burning a candle, you must pay close attention to what ingredients make an appearance in your candle of choice. Unfortunately, candles, especially scented candles, often contain chemicals that are toxic to pets. 

Here are some common ingredients in candles that are unsafe for pets:

Ingredients in candles dangerous to pets

Essential Oils

While essential oils are known to reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost positive moods in humans, they can threaten the health of our pets.1 Depending on the concentration of essential oil  in your candle, your pet may experience anything from mild irritation to poisoning from touching, ingesting, or even inhaling essential oils. 

If your pet is showing any of the following signs, take them to a vet as soon as possible:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Incoordination
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Burns on mouth2

In this case, your pet may have eaten a large enough amount of essential oil to need medical attention. If your pet is experiencing gastrointestinal issues but none of the signs listed above, they likely only ingested a small amount of essential oil. Alternatively, your pet may be dealing with an underlying issue independent of essential oil exposure. If you notice any of these signs, consult your veterinarian immediately.

You might be surprised to learn that peppermint oil is unsafe for dogs, but there are certain essential oils that are particularly dangerous to our pets. For cats and dogs, you’ll want to avoid these common essential oils at all costs:

  • Citrus
  • Tea tree
  • Wintergreen
  • Pine
  • Ylang ylang
  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus3 

Paraffin

Candles made out of paraffin wax are not safe for either humans or pets. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is against the burning of paraffin candles.4 If you are looking for pet-friendly candles, make sure to steer clear of ones that contain paraffin wax.

Paraffin is a byproduct of distilling petroleum and can emit toxins, including carcinogens like acetone and benzene, when burned.4  

Lead

Certain candles have lead-cored wicks, which present a lead poisoning hazard to humans and pets alike. Although this type of candle has been banned in the U.S., it never hurts to check that your candle is lead-free, especially if you bring a candle home from another country with different regulations. 

Lead poisoning can cause intense behavioral changes in pets, such as hiding, aggression, hysteria, depression, and more. It can also result in a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures.5

When looking for a pet-safe candle, pay close attention to its ingredients. While lit candles can be a hazard for pets, particularly when unsupervised, what makes a candle “bad” is its harmful ingredients. 

How To Choose Pet-Safe Candles

Now that you know what ingredients to avoid, here are some things you should look for on your search for pet-safe candles:

  • Candles that are specifically marketed as “pet-friendly candles” or “pet-safe candles”: Pet-safe candles can be readily bought in stores or ordered online. While you still need to monitor your pet while you burn them, most pet-friendly candles have “cleaner” ingredients, often containing no parabens, sulfates, or dyes. They tend to be better for the environment as well.
  • Candles that use natural wax: Natural wax candles don’t have the same toxins and pollutants that are in paraffin candles. You and your pet won’t be inhaling any harmful chemicals when burning soy, coconut, or beeswax candles. In addition, natural candles often have longer burn times than paraffin candles. 
  • Candles with cotton wicks: Not only do 100 percent cotton wicks burn better, but they are also much safer than other types of wicks. They provide a constant burn that fills a room evenly with aroma.
  • Flameless candles: All in all, if you are just looking for some ambiance and light, flameless candles or battery-operated candles are possibly the best pet-friendly candles. You won’t have to worry about your pet knocking over these candles to create a mess or put themselves in danger. 

Having a pet doesn’t mean you can’t ever have candles in your home. Just make sure to choose the right type of candle to ensure your pet’s health, safety, and well-being. 

Safety Tips For Pet-Friendly Candles 

Even if you only light the most pet-friendly candles, it’s still key to keep a number of safety tips in mind. 

Keep Your Candles Out Of Reach

Having to look after your pet every time you burn a candle can be frustrating, especially since it is supposed to be a relaxing activity. Keep your candle somewhere your pet cannot reach to combat this issue. An area that is high up or some place they have been trained to leave alone can be good choices. Keep in mind, cats are great climbers, so cat owners should never leave the room when a candle is lit.

Add A Protective Cover

If you have a dog, keeping your pet-safe candles somewhere they cannot jump to may be enough, but cats are adept climbers and can reach the top of shelves with ease. In this case, you may want to add a protective cover on top of your candle. This can be a lantern or any type of cover that still lets light and fragrance through. Ideally, these protective covers should be heavy, so your pet cannot knock them over. In addition, if they have slats, your pet should not be able to put their paw through them. This is a solution that is both functional and decorative. 

Additionally, pet owners can temporarily confine their pet to their sanctuary space while a candle is burning.

Burn Your Candle In A Well-Ventilated Area

Even pet-friendly candles made out of natural wax can have scents that are too potent for sensitive pet noses. If you notice your pet leaving the room or even sneezing whenever you light your candle, try burning it in a well-ventilated area first before you decide to completely give up on candles. Fresh air can also help your room feel less stuffy, which your pet is sure to appreciate.

Supervise Your Pet

Supervision is crucial when it comes to burning candles in a household with pets. Even if you adhere to every tip we’ve provided so far, it is still important to check in on how your pet is doing after you’ve lit a candle. Make sure they stay out of trouble, but also see how they are reacting to its scent.

Exercise caution and monitor your pet closely when a candle is lit 

First Aid For Minor Burns In Pets

Follow these tips for first aid for minor thermal burns:

  1. Assess the wound and the condition of your pet. 
  2. Wear sterile gloves if possible.
  3. Cool the burn with running water. Do not use ice.
  4. Do not burst any blisters.
  5. Do not apply any topical ointments or creams.
  6. Keep your pet warm using a blanket to avoid shock.
  7. Apply a moist cool compress, such as a damp towel, to the burn while you transport your pet to the vet. 

Are Candles Safe For Pets?: FAQs

Are essential oils dangerous to pets?

While essential oils have a number of benefits for humans, they can be very dangerous to pets. They can be toxic whether they are inhaled, ingested, or applied topically. If you see your pet having a hard time breathing, vomiting, drooling, or becoming more lethargic and uncoordinated after being in contact with essential oils, contact a veterinarian right away.

Is potpourri safe for pets?

Potpourri is extremely toxic to pets, especially if it is fragranced by essential oils. Not only can its strong scent irritate the sensitive noses of pets, but a few licks and bites could also result in chemical burns in their mouth, choking, and poisoning. 

How do I make my house smell good without harming pets?

A pet-safe candle is one of your best options when it comes to making your house smell good without harming pets. Make sure your candle is made from a natural wax and has a 100 percent cotton wick. Additionally, place the candle somewhere your pet cannot reach. Make a habit of keeping your pet’s supplies and toys clean as well and remember to ventilate your space. 

Dog lying on a stack of cushions with candles in the background

Final Notes

So, are candles safe for pets? Yes, but there are a lot of conditions that you need to meet to ensure your pet’s safety. From purchasing pet-friendly candles to keeping a close eye on your furry companion whenever a candle is lit, you must be up to the task.

If you have more questions about how to decorate your home in a pet-safe way, don’t hesitate to speak with a Dutch vet. Whether you are interested in knowing which plants are toxic to cats or talking through how different habits of yours can interfere with your dog’s allergy treatment, Dutch is here to help. Get your pet affordable online care from a licensed veterinarian starting at just $15 a month. Try Dutch today. 

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References

  1. Ramsey, Tyler J. et al. "Essential Oils and Health." National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Jun. 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32607090/.

  2. "Are essential oils dangerous to pets?" Tufts University, https://now.tufts.edu/2018/12/21/are-essential-oils-dangerous-pets.

  3. Marshall, Jo. "Essential oils and dogs." Pet Poison Helpline, https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-safety-tips/essential-oils-dogs/.

  4. Knight, Levin L.A. et al. "CANDLES AND INCENSE AS POTENTIAL SOURCES OF INDOOR AIR POLLUTION: MARKET ANALYSIS AND LITERATURE REVIEW (EPA/600/R-01/001)." United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_report.cfm?Lab=NRMRL&dirEntryId=20899.

  5. Blakley, Barry R. "Lead Poisoning in Animals." Merck Veterinary Manual, Nov. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/lead-poisoning/lead-poisoning-in-animals

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