If you’re wondering whether candles are bad for dogs, we’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good: Candles are only bad for dogs if they contain specific ingredients or are consumed in large chunks. The bad: Dogs who eat candles could have some serious digestive issues. A dog’s size, the amount of candle he’s ingested or inhaled, the ingredients involved and the dog’s existing health conditions are all factors in how serious the situation will be.
Poisonous candle ingredients
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquid compounds made from plants. They’re often used to give candles strong, delicious scents. Unfortunately, essential oils are very toxic to dogs. VCA Ark Animal Hospital says wintergreen, tea tree, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, cinnamon and citrus essential oils are some of the most harmful. Essential oils have been known to cause liver and nervous system damage in canines, not to mention they can cause irritation in the mouth and throat.
Dr. Katie Pagan, Partner Doctor of Heart + Paw Fells Point, adds that burning candles made with essential oils is okay if your dog isn’t prone to eating random decor. “Scented candles are not necessarily bad for dogs to inhale, but just like some people there are certain animals that can be a bit more sensitive to smells,” says Dr. Pagan. “You should never apply or feed essential oils to an animal.”
Dogs with existing conditions like asthma or impaired breathing shouldn’t be exposed to tons of candles. A strong scent could also trigger an allergic reaction. If you notice your dog sneezing, coughing, itching relentlessly, wheezing or excessively watery eyes, it could be an allergic reaction to a candle.
Paraffin wax is another ingredient to avoid. Mass-produced candles are usually made with paraffin wax which emits carcinogens when it burns (no, thank you). For you and your pup, it’s best to stick to organic soy, coconut or beeswax candles. However, this doesn’t mean chowing down on an organic wax candle is good for dogs. The wax could still get caught in their digestive tract, leading to an upset stomach or diarrhea.
Finally, don’t forget about the wick. Candle wicks are often secured with small pieces of metal that could cut up your pup’s insides if he scarfs it down. The wicks themselves could become choking hazards or cause uncomfortable digestive issues.
Since every candle contains unique ingredients, it’s important to check with the manufacturer (or read the label carefully) to determine what you’re dealing with. Small dogs will also be more susceptible to illness or infection since their bodies are smaller; they may have a worse reaction than a larger breed.
If your dog eats a candle, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 to find out your next steps.
The best candles for pet owners
Definitely go with soy wax, coconut wax or beeswax candles. Not only are they better for everyone’s respiratory systems, but they also break down more easily if accidentally ingested. Unbleached, cotton wicks are also ideal. Unscented candles present less risk if your dog has been diagnosed with asthma or breathing problems.
If possible, pet owners with puppies and rambunctious dogs should stick to flameless, battery-operated candles. This eliminates the likelihood dogs will ingest harmful substances or chemicals. Plus, if your dog knocks anything over, you won’t have to worry about a fire breaking out (this may actually apply more to cat owners, who are familiar with a cat’s tendency to knock anything and everything off the table).
However, small flameless candles could mean there’s a chance your dog will eat plastic in lieu of wax. Placing candles out of reach of pets and kids is always a smart move. You can also buy large votives to prevent sneaky hands and paws from getting near the flame.
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