My Dog Ate A Citronella Candle

There is nothing quite like the scent of one of those candles as you sit out on your patio or decking on a summer’s evening.

And to think that the candles may help to protect you from some of those nasty flying and biting insects is an absolute bonus.

Until you realise that your dog is a keen fan of the candles as well. 

And maybe a little too keen on them- as for some bizarre reason he seems to be eating them?

And so this article is for all citronella loving and worried dog owners out there who might be thinking “Help! My dog just ate a citronella candle.”

[1] What is citronella?

Citronella oil is extracted from the leaves and stems of lemongrass plants.  

And it is widely used in candles, soaps and perfumes.

As well as having a very beautiful citrus like smell to it, citronella oil is a bit of a “super substance.”

As well as adding a wonderful scent to candles and soaps, it is recognised as being a natural insecticide and it has anti fungal properties as well. 

In fact, some believe that essential oils such as citronella have been used to deter insects for thousands of years

It has even been certified to be used in foods. 

[2] Is it toxic for dogs?

Yes, citronella is very toxic for dogs as it can be for humans.

This is because citronella as an essential oil is very strong and potent.

If it is used as a spray, skin cream or oil, it needs to be heavily diluted.

If neat citronella oil is applied directly onto skin, it will most likely cause a burning sensation and nasty skin irritation.

If citronella essential oil is inhaled it could easily lead to stinging and watering eyes and breathing difficulties. 

All of these reactions go for people and their dogs.  

[3] Are citronella candles toxic for dogs?

Citronella oil is incredibly toxic for your dog but a citronella candle is much less toxic for your dog because so little of the candle contains citronella oil. 

This article suggests that a citronella candle may at most only contain 5% citronella oil in it. 

And so we need to be sensible about this.

If you are using a citronella candle in a small, unvented room that your dog is also in, then your dog could easily develop breathing difficulties.

If the candle is being used outside on the patio (which is the location that most of these candles are used in) then the threat to your dog is much less. 

What to do if your dog eats a citronella candle?

If your dog eats a citronella candle, then the dangers of eating the wax in the candle are far greater than the dangers of eating the citronella.

As I said earlier, the best citronella candles on the market only have about five percent citronella in them.

That leaves about 93% for the candle wax and 2% for the candle wick!

The citronella content alone won’t do your dog any serious damage but the candle might. 

And it depends on how well chewed the candle was before your dog ate it.

The real danger of a dog eating a candle, of any sort, is that it gets stuck somewhere on its journey through your dog’s body.

If your dog “wolfed it down” with little or no chewing then the candle might get stuck in the throat or further down in the intestine. 

The symptoms to watch out for in terms of the candle getting stuck in their throat are that your dog is coughing or retching.

These will appear almost immediately and if your dog doesn’t vomit out bits of candles within a couple of minutes, you need to phone the vet’s and ask for an emergency appointment. 

If the candle gets stuck in the intestine, then the symptoms are slower to appear but will include lethargy or vomiting and diarrhea.

Otherwise, most candles (or bits of candles) are soft enough to move through a dog’s system without causing any long term harm to them.

And the candle won’t have been digested and so it will be visible in your dog’s poop in the coming days. 

This might cause a dog to have some sort of allergic reaction to their skin or irritation

[5] Are citronella plants toxic for dogs?

A greater threat to your dog than a citronella candle could be citronella plants.

Citronella oil is derived from types of lemon grasses.

Now, I’m not sure that these plants are that widespread in the US or UK.

But such is the attraction of citronella, with its intense citrus aroma and its insect repelling properties, that it is been “engineered” into other plants.

One of these plants is the citronella geranium, which is a popular plant.

And it is often placed on patios to provide a beautiful aroma and ward off any nasty insects.

What is to stop a dog chewing the leaves of the plant.

After all, many dogs will happily chomp on a bit of grass.

Your dog might have such sensitive skin that they could get a reaction from merely brushing past the plant.  

We have kind of mentioned a few symptoms of citronella poisoning in passing but we haven’t focused on them much. 

But let’s do that now. 

[2a] What are the signs of citronella poisoning?

If your dog is unlucky enough to experience citronella poisoning, these are the signs to watch out for.

Breathing in too much of the scent could lead to breathing difficulties. 

Listen out for any gasping, coughing or reverse sneezing sounds. The good news is that these signs are fairly easy to detect. They are very frightening to witness though.

And they need to be responded to very quickly. 

If they don’t stop within a couple of minutes, you need to phone your vet and ask for an emergency appointment. 

Ingesting citronella will lead to vomiting and/ or diarrhea.

The vomiting might happen soon after ingestion but it could be delayed by an hour or two.

Any diarrhea will take a few hours to appear- lucky you!

[5a] How else in citronella used with dogs.

Hopefully I have made it pretty obvious that your dog should avoid getting too close to citronella and after a few Google searches, I have discovered that citronella is being used as a deterrent with dogs.

The first way in which it is being used is in anti- barking spray collars.

These are the collars that “naughty” dogs wear.

When a dog barks, a nozzle within the collar sprays a dog in the face.

I’m against the use of such devices in the first place but for these collars to be used with something as potentially harmful as citronella is disgraceful. 

The next way in which citronella is used with dogs is in a spray gun and not collar.

The spray gun is held by the owner and the dog is sprayed every time that they do something wrong. 

If you are going to use such negative training tactics, surely water is all that you need?!

The third and final way in which citronella is being used with dogs is an anti- peeing and pooping deterrent.

It can be sprayed on carpets in the house, or grass in a no go area of the garden can be sprayed with citronella.

I think the way that it is used as a deterrent in this example is better than the previous examples because the risk to your dog or eating grass which has watered down citronella sprayed on it is low!

Closing Thoughts

If you are worried that your dog has just eaten a citronella candle, I would try not to panic.

In all likelihood your dog will be fine and that the real danger will come from the size of the candle and the amount of wax that your dog ate.

The amount of citronella oil in your candle is too low to cause your dog any real harm beyond an upset stomach.

But keep a careful eye on your dog and if they seem out of sorts in any way, have your vet’s telephone number close at hand!

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!