Citronella Essential Oil For Dogs: How Can Citronella Help Your Pet?

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Cats, Dogs, Gerbils, Oompa Loompas!… Yup. Pets make pretty good companions in this life. They will be there for you when you’re having a bad day. They will cheer you up, give you love, guilt you into giving them yummy scraps, and occasionally even pull some overweight, candy-guzzling, insolent boy from the depth of your chocolate river (this last one may apply more to Oompa Loompas).

It seems essential oils have always been a part of human existence. Since the beginning of recorded history, we have been taking plant life of all kinds and using its stems, barks, flowers, leaves, fruits, and peels to produce oil. One such oil, which is considered useful and beneficial for pets, is citronella, which is also known as Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus.

What Is Citronella Oil? How Can It Help My Pet?

Birds eye view of essential oil bottles and flowers.

Citronella essential oils.

The citronella plant is native to Southeast Asia, places like Indonesia, Java, and Burma. Citronella looks and smells a lot like lemongrass but its appearance is slightly different. It is also usually not as tall as lemongrass. It is considered a plant which is easy to grow and cultivate and it is highly useful, whether in plant form or in the form of essential oil.

The essential oil of citronella is usually extracted by means of steam distillation since that is the optimal method for harnessing the various nutrients and chemicals which make it so medically and therapeutically beneficial. Citronella oil can be found in a variety of common cleaning products, detergents, deodorants and beauty/cosmetics products, due to its antifungal and antibacterial qualities, as well as the large amount of antioxidants it contains.

Many times, it is an oil which is used to keep pests and insects from coming too close to our homes and bodies. There are many insecticides out there, but too often they have harsh chemicals and potentially-toxic substances in them. Now, obviously, this is done so the formula will be effective. You can’t sell an insecticide without a proper insect-repelling agent. Doing so would kind of defeat the purpose, be highly counter-productive, and ultimately cause you to lose some money.

Citronella, on the other hand, is natural, and when used properly there are no known side effects. Furthermore, it uses water or a vegetable oil as a carrier, unlike many commercial insecticides which use alcohol.

A 2013 review published in the International Journal of Advanced Research states: “Citronella oil is very promising towards antifungal, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and insect repellent as demonstrated by many research literature reviews. Plant derived (herbal) repellents based on Citronella biomass (spent grass) is also pacing up in the research field.” Whether used actively (topically) or more passively, this oil has a ton of benefits for pets and humans.

Citronella oil is especially popular with dog owners Fleas are a nuisance, but in some cases, they can cause your pet to develop a more serious reaction, known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Not all pets develop this condition, but some do. Citronella – whether burned above a candle or used in a pet shampoo, can help to prevent fleas from attaching themselves to your pets.

Citronella has a lovely lemony scent, and it can help cover up unwanted odors and keep your pet’s skin clean and healthy. To use topically, apply the properly diluted oil to a rag or paper towel, and proceed to rub it into your pet’s coat. Avoid contact with any openings: eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and anus. Contact with such areas may result in a negative reaction.

Remember, our pets are a lot more susceptible to irritation, since they have very different skin than we do, with varying levels of pH. What we find normal and soothing, they may find annoying and highly irritating. Always check with your vet before going ahead with any at-home solutions for your pet.

In a 2018 profile published by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, it states re: citronella: “As a pesticide, the essential oil is primarily used as a mosquito repellent, but also has other insecticidal, acaricidal and herbicidal activity. It is not considered harmful to humans and pets but may cause skin irritation.” This pretty much echoes what was known so far to be true, and citronella oil is still immensely popular.

This is the place to note that this is not an absolute. It is not a cure for anything, nor is it a miracle-working substance. It could very well be that your cat or dog will have no reaction to the citronella, one way or another. It happens. Which is also why citronella is not the only essential oil recommended for pets. Different strokes, you know?

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Warnings And Safety Tips

As mentioned, essential oils have been mankind’s friends for thousands of years. They help strengthen our systems and heal from injury. They provide physical, mental, and spiritual balance, and help us to stay focused. With humans, we always recommend consulting a healthcare professional and also advise that small children and nursing/expecting women, should avoid topical use, direct inhalation and over-exposure to oils of different kinds.

This is done as a precaution because essential oils can also be toxic to certain individuals and in certain amounts. When it comes to pets, you need to be even more careful. An oil like citronella can be very helpful, but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Because of that, it is imperative that you get the green light from your vet before beginning any kind of treatment on your pet, and follow instructions closely.

Lack of appetite, acute lethargy, abnormal amounts of scratching – these could all be possibly indicative of an issue. If you have a feeling the oil is not agreeing with your pet, discontinue use and get in touch with your vet.


Alright, I confess. Oompa Loompa’s are not traditional pets. In fact, they aren’t pets at all. They come from Loompaland, they have orange faces and I’ve never seen them or petted one once in my life. There, I said it. So, would Oompa Loompas also enjoy the lemony scent of pure citronella oil? I don’t know. Go ask your dog!