Can I Spray Perfume on my Dog? Vets Answer Fragrance Questions

dog smelling rose

Last Updated on 5 months by Dr. Shannon Barrett

The short answer is No.

As a veterinarian, I don’t recommend spraying perfume on your dog. Are there some scents that may be ok? Read on as we delve into the world of fragrances and your pet!

With their incredible sense of smell, dogs and cats are far more sensitive to fragrances than we might realize.

Key Takeaways

  • Dogs have a stronger sense of smell and are more affected by fragrances than us.
  • Some fragrance ingredients are hidden under the term “fragrance” on labels, posing risks to pets‘ health.
  • Essential oils can also be harmful to dogs and cats, with some causing severe toxicity or allergic reactions. Avoid using essential oils around pets without proper knowledge about their safety.
  • When choosing scented products for your dog, prioritize items with that are fragrance free

The Harmful Effects of Fragrances on Dogs

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While we might love the pleasant lingering scent of a fresh fragrance, our canine companions do not share our enthusiasm—fragrances can pack more punch than we realize when it comes to a dog’s well-being.

Remember your dog has 50 times the smell receptors you have. So the perfume smells 50 times stronger to them.

This makes your furry friend far more sensitive to fragrances than you are. Just imagine a scent that seems mild to you—like the one from a dog perfume or air freshener is much stronger to them.

For example, have you ever smelled someone before they were even near you? If so, you probably thought “Wow, that is a lot of fragrance”. That’s how your dog feels when you spray them with perfume except they cannot walk away from it.

Potential Allergic Reactions

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Fragrances might smell amazing, but for your dog, they can trigger serious allergic reactions. With their powerful sense of smell, our pups are exposed to every tiny particle in the air.

Signs your pet is having an allergic reaction include itching, redness, and hair loss. More severe signs are excessive panting, trouble breathing or weakness.

Switching to products that say “allergen-free” or “hypoallergenic” may help keep your furry friend safe and comfortable. It’s worth taking extra caution when choosing grooming items like shampoos or sprays.

I always tell my clients to bring their own shampoos and conditioners for grooming appointments. That way, you know your dog can tolerate these products.

Always check the label: if it lists “fragrance,” consider reaching out to manufacturers to request more details on the ingredients—they should be transparent about what’s inside that bottle!

Dermatitis and Skin Inflammation

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Dermatitis (inflamed/irritated skin) can be a real pain for your furry friend. It’s like an itchy rash that makes dogs scratch, bite, and rub their skin raw. Imagine having a mosquito bite you just can’t leave alone—that’s what dermatitis is like for dogs.

They get redness, flaking, and even hair loss from all the irritation. And if you love snuggling with a pup that smells amazing and has a soft coat, seeing them suffer through this isn’t fun at all.

The culprit could be lurking in products you use to keep your pet smelling fresh. Those great-smelling shampoos or sprays might have artificial fragrances hiding toxic secrets—like phthalates—which are no good for your dog’s skin or overall health.

They mess with hormones and can cause nasty reactions over time. Instead of using harmful scents, look for natural options that won’t turn cuddle time into discomfort and scratching sessions for your beloved pet.

Related Content: Eye Discharge in Dogs

Understanding Fragrances

When we lavish our homes and pets with sweet-smelling scents, little do we realize the shadow side of those fragrances.

Lack of Ingredient Disclosure

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Companies often hide what’s in their fragrances. They just label them as “fragrance” without listing the specific stuff inside. This secrecy can be bad for your dog. You might not know that a product has dangerous chemicals.

Pet care brands sometimes focus more on how strong a scent is than if it’s safe for pets. Because of this, you and your furry friend could come into contact with harmful substances without even realizing it.

Always check what’s inside before you decide to spritz anything on your pet’s coat or use scented grooming products.

Presence of Toxic Chemicals in Fragrances

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Fragrances are not just smells; they’re a mix of chemicals that can affect with your dog’s hormones. The endocrine system controls everything from growth to mood, and when it gets disrupted, health problems can happen. Some fragrances contain these Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

A research study from 2023 looked at Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) found in some household products including perfume.

The study detailed how these EDC’s can interfere with hormonal systems, leading to various health issues. These include cancer, interfering with your pets hormonal system and thyroid issues in cats.

Table of EDCs
Courtesy of Animals 2023, Pocar et al

You have to be a bit of a detective and read the labels of any product you use on your pet, including pet perfume.

However many pet and human products don’t tell you they contain these harmful chemicals. Consider checking the the Environmental Working Group website when purchasing new products. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit group. They are well-known for their comprehensive databases and reports on the safety of consumer products, including cosmetics, household products, and food. For more details, you can visit their mission page here.

They mark fragrances with a high hazard score due to allergy risks and immune system harm.

You can also consult the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) website. They are dedicated to ensuring the safety and enjoyment of fragrances, focusing on safe use and sustainability. They provide standards and guidance for the fragrance industry to protect consumers and the environment. You can use IFRA’s resources to learn about fragrance safety.

Look for pet care items that are transparent about ingredients, such as those certified by ECOGEA or featuring IFRA-certified fragrances at low concentrations.

Choosing Safe and Natural Fragrances for Dogs

In selecting fragrances for your furry friend, prioritize their health by opting for products that boast natural, non-toxic scents—read on to ensure every cuddle is both safe and sweet-smelling.

Opting for Allergen-Free, Natural Fragrances

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If you really want to use a fragrance, choose allergen-free, natural ones. These options are better for dogs since they don’t contain harsh chemicals.

Look for products with packaging that list their ingredients clearly and make sure they’re free of toxic substances like phthalates. It’s best to go for certified organic or cruelty-free labels—they often use safer ingredients.

Avoid products that say “long lasting” as these tend to last longer on your pet and can be harder to remove if they do have an allergic reaction.

Remember that just because a fragrance is natural, it can still be harmful. Remember, grapes are natural but toxic to dogs and cats.

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The Dangers of Essential Oils for Pets

While essential oils may seem like a natural choice for pet owners seeking fragrant environments, they can pose serious risks to our furry companions.

Toxicity of Certain Essential Oils for Dogs

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Many essential oils that people enjoy can hurt dogs. Oils like cinnamon, citrus, and peppermint smell great to us but are dangerous for pups. If a dog gets into these oils or breathes too much in, they could get sick.

Signs your dog might not feel well include drooling, weakness, difficulty walking, or even liver failure.

Keep your pet safe by avoiding risky essential oils. The Pet Poison Helpline has great articles on essential oils and pets. Here is a list of essential oils to avoid (from Pet Poison Helpline). This list does not include all the essential oils to avoid.

  1. Melaleuca (Tea Tree) oil – depression, tremors, incoordination, vomiting
  2. Citrus oil – skin irritation, excessive salivation, lethargy, tremors, incoordination
  3. Wintergreen oil – vomiting, depression, weakness, tremors, seizures, coma, liver and kidney damage
  4. Pennyroyal oil – depression, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, seizures, liver damage and death
  5. Camphor – vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritation
  6. Liquid potpourri – respiratory irritation, skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression

If you have any questions about using an essential oil around your pet, make sure to contact your veterinarian.

Sensitivity of Cats to Essential Oils

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Cats have a unique sensitivity to essential oils. Their bodies process these oils differently than ours or dogs’. This means they can get sick even from small amounts of certain oils.

For example, if a cat breathed in eucalyptus oil, it could lead to problems.

Cats lack certain liver enzymes needed to metabolize many of the compounds present in these oils. This means they are unable to properly eliminate these substances.

Essential oils that are especially toxic to cats include those high in phenols and monoterpene hydrocarbons, such as:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

These oils can cause symptoms ranging from mild irritation to severe systemic illness, including liver damage, neurological issues, or even death.

Here’s a downloadable PDF about cats and essential oils courtesy of the Pet Poison Helpline.

What Smells do Dogs Like?

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A study on canine smell preferences showed that “the scents that dogs choose to put on their fur differ strongly from those of common cosmetics. Dogs choose mostly intense, animal-derived smells, such as feces or carcasses, so there is a need to differentiate between canine and human smell preferences.”

I can’t think of any pet parents that want to use these scents. The study did try to find scents that are appealing to both dogs and people.

They found that dogs prefer the following scents:

  • Blueberry
  • Blackberry
  • Mint
  • Rose
  • Lavender
  • Linalol

This doesn’t mean you should purchase dog perfume that smells like blueberries. This is just the first step in trying to find a common “scent” ground between dogs and us. A lot of research is needed to find out more about which smells dogs actually like.

Why Spray Perfume on your pets?

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This is always my first question to clients when they ask about pet perfume. In the majority of cases, it’s because they feel their dog smells. Instead of spraying perfume to try to cover the foul smell, we should be trying to understand the source of the smell.

Many things can cause your pet to smell “off”. Here are some of the most common reasons your pet may smell:

  • Ear or skin infections
  • Dental disease causing bad breath
  • Anal gland issues causing your pet to have “fishy” breath

Before you reach for pet perfume, make sure you find the underlying problem first. Adding perfume may make them smell better temporarily but the problem is still there. Perfume and dog colognes can cause some additional health hazards.

Safe Use of Fragrances in Pet Products

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When it comes to pampering our furry friends with scented products, safety takes center stage.

Here are a few I recommend if you want to try. I prefer mousses and shampoo’s made by veterinary companies.

You can also use fragrance free products to clean your pet. They won’t provide the smell of perfume but if your dog has a clean coat, this can definitely help with the smell.

Douxo is one of my favorite pet product lines. They offer shampoo’s, mousse’s and sprays.

How to remove Perfume from your dog or cat

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If your pet has come into contact with scented products that are irritating, you can try to remove it with Dawn Soap. Yep, the same stuff you use for ducks in oil spills. It works well to remove grease and oily substances. It is also gentle on their skin. However if your dog has red, irritated skin take them to your veterinarian.

Also, if your pet is showing any signs of severe reaction such as vomiting, diarrhea, weakness or trouble breathing, take them to a vet ASAP.

Final Thoughts

Your pet’s health matters. Make wise choices when it comes to scents around them. Choose safe, natural options for your furry friend. Remember, what smells good to you might not be good for them.

Keep their tails wagging and paws dancing!


Is it safe to spray my dog with perfume?

Think twice before spraying perfume on your furry friend! Dogs can be susceptible to harm from fragrances – their skin may react, and they could even develop central nervous system disorders.

Think twice before spraying perfume on your furry friend! Dogs can be susceptible to harm from fragrances – their skin may react, and they could even develop central nervous system disorders.

What symptoms should I watch for if my dog is exposed to fragrances?

Watch out for unusual signs post-perfume application like coughing, sneezing or skin issues; these symptoms could mean the fragrance isn’t sitting well with your pup.

Can dogs have trouble just from smelling strong scents?

Yes, indeed—dogs’ noses are powerful but sensitive! If they’ve smelled something potent like a fragrance, it might lead to discomfort or health troubles.

Are there safer ways to keep my dog smelling fresh without using perfumes?

Absolutely – go easy on them by choosing a simple bath with water and gentle soap instead of cosmetic products that contain pesky poisons or pesticides!

Dr. Barrett veterinary blogs

Dr. Shannon Barrett brings an exceptional blend of academic excellence and professional expertise to the world of veterinary medicine. With a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Western University of Health Sciences, where she graduated with honors, and dual Bachelor degrees in Biological Sciences and Psychology, her depth of knowledge is extensive. A member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Barrett's insights and contributions to pet health have been featured in leading publications such as Rover, MarketWatch, and Newsweek.

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Dr. Shannon Barrett

Veterinarian with a Passion for Educating Pet Parents

Pets change our lives for the better and we are always trying to do the same for them. This site is a combination of tips and product recommendations to enhance the lives of our pets and the people owned by them.  Thanks for stopping by!

Dr. Shannon Barrett

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