Is Lemongrass Oil Toxic to Dogs?

Lemongrass oil with its citrusy aroma seems like it could be the perfect scent to diffuse in any home. Plus, there are various benefits of using lemongrass oil. It can improve your dog’s skin, repel ticks and fleas, and benefit your doggo’s mood if they are suffering from depression. 

In fact, lots of pet-friendly products use lemongrass oil as an ingredient. But is lemongrass oil toxic to dogs – whether your pooch licks the oil or inhales it via an essential oil diffuser? 

Let’s find out because some sources say yes, lemongrass oil is safe for dogs while others say it’s toxic. So here’s what you can believe AND keep your beloved dog safe.     

Is Lemongrass Oil Toxic to Dogs?

Lemongrass essential oil is toxic to dogs because the oil contains high concentrations of cyanogenic glycosides that turn into cyanide and results in hypoxia and possibly death. Other reasons lemongrass oil isn’t safe for dogs is because of all the chemicals in the essential oil and the high citral content that can burn your dog’s skin. If lemongrass oil is ingested by a diabetic dog, their blood glucose levels can also decrease to dangerous levels.      

What Is Lemongrass? 

A tropical grassy herb that includes more than 50 species native to Asia, Africa, Australia, and tropical islands, lemongrass is also called barbed wire grass, oil grass, Cochin grass, Malabar grass, citronella grass, fever grass, citronella, or silky heads.   

Lemongrass contains cyanogenic glycosides, which are toxins that herb make to help it survive by protecting it against pathogens and herbivores. When your pooch ingests cyanogenic glycosides, the chemical hydrolyzes and turns into cyanide, which is toxic. 

When the cyanide mixes with iron in the enzyme cytochrome oxidase, cellular respiration and terminal electron transfers are blocked. The result is hemoglobin doesn’t release oxygen, which means your dog’s body tissues don’t get oxygen, leading to your pooch becoming hypoxic as their brain and cells don’t get enough oxygen to remain functional. 

If action isn’t taken early, your dog may die because of cerebral hypoxia.  

Lemongrass Essential Oils and the Risks to Dogs 

When lemongrass is turned into an essential oil via cold-pressing or distillation, the quantity of cyanogenic glycosides becomes highly concentrated. This means that while your dog may be okay when they eat a few lemongrass stems, ingesting the oil is highly toxic. 

Lemongrass oil also contains various chemicals that are present in essential oils, like phenols, alcohols, ketones, esters, and more. Once these are absorbed into your dog’s body and metabolized, your puppy, senior dog, or dog suffering from liver disease can be negatively affected. 

With a high citral content, lemongrass oil can also possibly burn your pooch’s skin. And if your dog is diabetic or uses hypertension medication, lemongrass essential oil can also dangerously lower their blood glucose levels.  

Essentially, it is best to keep your dog away from lemongrass oil, and this becomes even more important if you have a puppy, pregnant dog, nursing dog, or a dog that has health issues, like liver disease. 

Your pooch should never get access to a bottle of lemongrass essential oil to lick or wholly ingest. It’s best to also keep the essential oil away from your dog’s skin or fur. 

What About Dog-Friendly Products That Use Lemongrass Oil? 

Products that are marketed as being dog-friendly that use lemongrass oil like shampoos, flea collars, sprays, and more are safe for your dog. These products are manufactured with your dog’s safety in mind, after all. 

Essential to ensuring these lemongrass oil pooch-friendly products remain safe is following the instructions for safe use. For example, for a lemongrass essential oil, you may need to dilute it in a carrier oil like coconut, olive, or jojoba to a certain ratio (X lemongrass oil: Y carrier oil) before using it on your dog.

Plus, you’ll need to use the right amount of lemongrass essential oil depending on your dog’s size.    

What Happens If My Dog Smells Lemongrass Essential Oil?

If your dog smells or inhales lemongrass essential oil, it can cause an irritation in their airways and result in coughing, sneezing, drooling or vomiting. 

A dog’s sense of smell is a lot more sensitive (between 1,000 and 10,000 times!) when compared to that of people. 

Essential oils are also lipophilic, so your dog’s skin and mucous membranes can readily absorb the oil even via a passive or active diffuser. Once absorbed, the oil is carried into your dog’s bloodstream and then metabolized by the liver. 

Lemongrass essential oil can also float in the air, traveling through the nose to your dog’s olfactory nerves and to the amygdala, where an emotional response is triggered. So while lemongrass essential oil can help improve your dog’s mood when they smell it via a diffuser, it can also have the opposite effect.  

Inhaling large amounts of lemongrass essential oil can cause negative health issues for your pet, especially if your pooch has respiratory problems. Plus, with an active diffuser, microdroplets fall on objects nearby, so your dog can easily ingest the oil while grooming their fur. 

What Happens If My Dog Licks Lemongrass Essential Oil?

What happens if your dog licks lemongrass essential oil depends on how much oil they ingest and the concentration of the product. Lemongrass essential oil that hasn’t been diluted with a carrier oil is more concentrated, so it’s more dangerous. If your dog ingests enough lemongrass oil to result in poisoning, your dog will display various symptoms from drooling and coughing to panting and liver failure.  

Here’s all the symptoms you need to watch out for if your dog has ingested lemongrass essential oil: 

  • Watery eyes 
  • Watery nose 
  • Vomiting 
  • Drooling 
  • Panting 
  • Redness of skin, lips, or gums 
  • Coughing 
  • Wheezing 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Decreased heart rate 
  • Decreased body temperature 
  • Wobbliness 
  • Muscle tremors 
  • Lethargy 
  • Liver failure 
  • Death 

What to Do If My Dog Licks Lemongrass Essential Oil?

When your dog has ingested lemongrass essential oil, keep a close eye on your pooch and see if any symptoms develop. A small lick may mean your dog is perfectly fine, while ingesting a larger volume of highly concentrated lemongrass essential oil means you need to act fast. But don’t induce vomiting. Rather call your vet or take your dog for an emergency appointment.  

If your dog shows signs of lemongrass oil poisoning, follow these steps: 

  • Don’t give your dog activated charcoal. 
  • Don’t induce vomiting. 
  • Take the lemongrass essential oil with you to the vet in a Ziploc baggie. 
  • Wash the oil off your dog’s fur if any got on them. 
  • Call your vet. Give them as much detail as you can – what your dog ingested, how much, when or how long ago, and what symptoms are you noticing. 
  • If your dog is showing severe symptoms of lemongrass essential oil poisoning, take them to your local vet for treatment ASAP.

Before treatment, your vet will want to determine if the kidneys and liver have been affected. Then they may insert an IV drip if your dog has chemical burns in their mouth and esophagus so your pooch can stay hydrated. Anti-vomiting medication, pain medication, antibiotics, stomach protectants, and medication to protect your dog’s liver may also be administered.