Nowadays we will discard anything with chemicals and go for all-natural products because we have been told that nature is best. Unfortunately, sometimes nature kills; even water, which has been said to be life, sometimes causes death through drowning. Everything in moderation and the citronella plant and oil are no exception. However, while some people advocate for its use, saying it has no adverse effects in pets, animal welfare organizations believe citronella can be fatal. This brings us to ask: should you use citronella with your dog around? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and side effects so you can make an informed decision.
Uses of citronella as a deterrent
It is frustrating to have a beautiful garden, yet every time you go to water the flowers, all you see are holes that your furry friend has been digging. You do not have to worry about such a mess in your yard anymore because citronella oil is a digging deterrent. According to DailyPuppy, spraying some citronella oil in that spot your canine has been digging will keep him from doing so again since the scent is repulsive to dogs. Alternatively, the article also advises spraying the oil directly on the dog’s nose so that the smell will keep him from going ahead with his destructive behavior.
Moreover, if you notice that your dog does not get along with other dogs and is always picking a fight, spraying his nose with the citronella oil will keep him in line. On the other hand, if you can barely sleep because your canine cannot stop barking at everything that moves, then getting an anti-barking collar can solve your problem. The collars are made in such a way that if the dog barks, a little citronella oil is sprayed, and once the dog smells it, it stops barking. With time, your furry friend will interpret that his barking causes the unpleasant smell hence eventually stop the unnecessary barks. Unfortunately, it is not effective in some dogs while in some, it is so effective that the dogs stop barking altogether.
Why you should avoid citronella on dogs
Before you go rushing off to get that anti-barking collar, you should know that the canister labeled as citronella spray is not 100% citronella. According to Awesome Dogs, such canisters contain only 1% of the citronella; the other ingredients are 10% ethanol and 90% tetrafluoroethane. Since barking will cause the canister to spritz some oil into the air, the article goes ahead to say that while we know that ethanol causes drunkenness, the effects if its inhalation is yet to be known.
However, it is safe to assume that it is not a pleasant effect because inhalation causes faster intoxication. Tetrafluoroethane, on the other hand, is used as a refrigeration coolant, and any drug addict who cannot get a hold of his choice of drug will go for it for an immediate rush. If that is the effect in humans, you can only picture the kind of damage it will cause to our furry friends who have much less body mass.
As for deterring the barking, the citronella does not stop the barking entirely; instead, you will only be addressing the symptom without knowing the problem. The spray consequently causes the dog’s barking behavior to be suppressed, and it could also damage the sense of smell. Therefore, experts recommend finding out why your dog is barking instead of stopping him from doing so.
The conflicting studies
Itchy Dog Solutions claims that citronella oil is a safe insect repellent compared to other topical insecticides because while other insect repellents use alcohol, it uses water as a carrier. Besides, other insecticides are absorbed into the bloodstream through the animal’s skin, causing adverse effects on the nervous system. The US Environmental Protection Agency, therefore, advocates for the use of citronella because it has little to no toxicity when used as a topical insect repellent.
ASPCA (American Society for The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) also agrees that while citronella oil can be harmful to pets, its minimal use in anti-barking collars is not dangerous. On the other hand, the ASPCA also says that members of the geranium family are toxic to dogs because they contain linalool and geraniol. It even warns that dogs that come into contact with citronella plant will experience some skin irritation and if they ingest it, vomiting, lethargy and diarrhea can be the aftermath.
With such conflicting reports from the animal welfare societies we look upon to guide us in making the right decision concerning our pets, it is safe to conclude that keeping the citronella plant or oil away from dogs is the best alternative. It makes no sense to apply any oil that will cause skin irritation or have your dog wear a collar that will affect its sense of smell and barking behavior.
Essential oil poisoning in dogs
Besides citronella whose use you have to be careful when around dogs, some other oils like garlic, tea tree, peppermint, among others are harmful to dogs. TuftsNow advises that you should never apply any essential on your canine unless you have consulted with your veterinarian because, in their 100% concentration form, they are dangerous even when applied topically. You can tell if your dog is suffering from essential oil poisoning by observing its general behavior. Changes such as weakness, fatigue, vomiting, drooling and difficulty in breathing should be cause for alarm. The smaller the animal, the more severe the symptoms will be; therefore, you should act fast upon noticing such signs.
All the same, if your vet gives you the go-ahead to use citronella oil on your dog, the first step is to get it used to the smell. Using a diffuser or spraying it on yourself can enable the dog to get accustomed to the smell with time instead of spraying it directly on the pet’s nose. If you are using it as a topical pesticide, diluting with water is recommended so that if they lick it, the side effects will be minimal, if any. If it causes skin initiation, do not use it again and ask the vet for other alternatives.