Are Car Air Fresheners Bad for Dogs?

If you’re a pet owner, you’ll know that ‘dog smell’ can linger in your vehicle for a surprisingly long time. High-quality car air fresheners are ideal for eliminating unwanted odours and keeping your car smelling great.

But is car air freshener bad for dogs? When used correctly and for short periods of time, car air fresheners should not pose a problem for most dogs. However, air freshener can be toxic if swallowed, and some dogs may be allergic to certain fragrances.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the risks of using car fresheners around dogs, and how to spot an allergic reaction. We’ll also share the most safe air fresheners for dogs.

Is Car Air Freshener Dangerous for Dogs?

As a conscientious pet owner, you may wonder whether car air freshener’s safe for dogs. After all, their powerful noses are sensitive to even the faintest smells. So, can air fresheners make dogs sick?

Air fresheners can be poisonous to dogs if swallowed or absorbed through the skin. However, the question of whether their aroma can be harmful when inhaled is more complicated.

It largely depends on how frequently your dog is exposed to the scent, and for how long. Also, no two dogs are the same – some are more sensitive than others.

Dogs and Volatile Organic Compounds

All scented products, including car air fresheners, release chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Although VOCs are naturally-occurring, some are toxic when inhaled in large amounts, or over long periods.

Many VOCs harmful to dogs – such as benzene – are banned in the UK. Others are strictly regulated by HSE. All air fresheners must be tested to ensure they do not exceed safe VOC levels.

This means that car air fresheners sold in the UK should not be dangerous to dogs when used sparingly. However, dogs are more sensitive to VOCs than we are, so it takes less exposure to make them sick. Even products labelled as ‘natural’ can be harmful if overused.

What Are the Symptoms of Air Freshener Poisoning in Dogs?

Air freshener poisoning is uncommon when dogs are exposed to small amounts of air freshener for short periods of time. However, it can be risky for dogs to breathe in VOCs too often, for too long, or in poorly ventilated spaces.

Essential oils, such as citrus, peppermint and cinnamon, can be particularly dangerous. In 2019, a dog was poisoned after inhaling tea tree oil fumes, according to The Mirror.

Car Cologne diffusers do not contain essential oils. Nevertheless, certain other ingredients – such as ethanol – can also be toxic if inhaled in large quantities. Air freshener poisoning symptoms in dogs may include:

  • Respiratory problems e.g. coughing, sneezing, wheezing, difficulty breathing
  • Gastrointestinal problems e.g. vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, lack of appetite
  • Neurological problems e.g. muscle tremors, weakness, dizziness, lethargy, aggression or confusion

Poisoning can also occur when car air freshener is ingested or absorbed through the skin. If your dog is showing signs of air freshener poisoning, take them to a vet as soon as possible.

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Air Fresheners?

Allergies occur when the immune system mistakes an ordinarily harmless substance for something dangerous. Not all dogs are allergic to car air fresheners, but some are. If your dog is sensitive to fragrances, even a small amount of dog-friendly car air freshener could trigger a reaction.

Symptoms of car air freshener allergies in dogs may include sneezing, coughing and discharge from the eyes or nose. You may also notice skin problems such as excessive scratching, redness, swelling or hives.

Fortunately, not all fragrances will necessarily set off an allergic reaction. If you have any concerns, stop using the air freshener and ventilate the area.

What Is the Safest Car Air Freshener for Dogs?

Unless they are allergic, most dogs are fine when exposed to car air freshener in small amounts, and for short journeys.

The safest type of car air freshener for dogs is car mist. This delivers quick bursts of scent, rather than releasing fragrance slowly over time. Use it between journeys and allow the spray to dry completely before letting your dog into the vehicle.

Here are some further safety tips to consider:

  • Always seek veterinary advice before using a new fragrance or brand of car freshener around your dog
  • Avoid using car air freshener spray while your dog is in the car
  • Never allow air freshener to touch your dog’s skin
  • Ensure the car is well-ventilated while your dog is on board: open your windows or set the air conditioning system to ‘fresh air’
  • If using card fresheners or diffusers, hang them safely out of your dog’s reach

When using a new product, watch your dog for signs of a negative reaction. If you notice any signs of illness, or you think your dog ate air freshener, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Shop Car Cologne for High Quality Car Air Fresheners

We are Car Cologne, the UK’s leading luxury car freshener brand. If you’re looking for quality car air fresheners inspired by high-end colognes and perfumes, you’re in the right place.  

Some of our best-selling products include our car diffusers, card fresheners, air-con cologne and car mist. Our mist sprays, designed to quickly eliminate unwelcome odours, are great at battling ‘dog smell’ and keeping your car fresh!

You can view our full collection of Car Cologne air fresheners here. If you have any questions about our products or ingredients, contact us today.

Ex financial contractor turned E-Commerce brand owner. with a strong passion for both the automotive and fragrance industries. This passion led me to starting Car Cologne in 2018, indirectly creating a new niche in the process, providing long-lasting, luxury car freshening products on a global scale.

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