Is Bakhoor Safe for Your Pets?(Science Explained )

In many corners of the world, the smoky aroma of Bakhoor signifies celebration, tradition, and luxury.

Originating from the Middle East and swiftly finding its home in countless households, the question arises: As its allure wafts through air vents and under doorways, is Bakhoor safe for the furriest members of our families?


What is Bakhoor?

Bakhoor, a blend of woodchips saturated in fragrant oils, creates a dense, captivating smoke when ignited.

Typically derived from the Agarwood tree, its unique scent owes itself to both natural and artificially crafted ingredients.

Depending on the region and specific recipe, the woodchips may soak in oils for weeks, months, or even years, intensifying its aroma.

What are the Ingredients in Bakhoor?

Beyond the heart of Bakhoor, which is Oud or Agarwood, a myriad of ingredients contributes to its iconic scent.

Sandalwood brings warmth; amber offers a honeyed touch; musk introduces depth, while floral tones like jasmine and rose breathe in fresh, uplifting notes.

Some Bakhoor variants even have hints of saffron, cedarwood, or patchouli. But with this complexity arises a crucial question: which of these components could potentially harm our pets?

Is Bakhoor Safe for Dogs?

Dogs, with their keen senses and unique physiological characteristics, react differently to environmental changes and exposures than humans do. When it comes to Bakhoor, the question of its safety for dogs can be broken down into the following considerations:

  • Olfactory Sensitivity: Dogs have an astonishingly developed sense of smell, boasting an estimated 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses. The intense aroma of Bakhoor can be overpowering for them, leading to potential sensory overload. This might manifest as anxiety, restlessness, or even attempts to escape the scented area.
  • Potential Respiratory Irritation: Just as second-hand smoke from tobacco can be detrimental to humans, the particulates in Bakhoor smoke can be harmful to dogs. This is especially true for breeds with existing respiratory challenges, such as brachycephalic dogs (like pugs or bulldogs). Exposure to Bakhoor might cause symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or wheezing in these breeds and others.
  • Ingestion Risks: Dogs are curious creatures. If there’s any residue or unburned Bakhoor within their reach, they might try to ingest it. Depending on Bakhoor’s specific ingredients, this can lead to gastrointestinal issues or even poisoning.

In conclusion, while Bakhoor’s scent can be delightful and culturally significant for humans, it might not be entirely safe for dogs.

The potential risks it poses to their respiratory system, coupled with the sensory overload from its strong fragrance, makes it advisable for dog owners to exercise caution.

If choosing to use Bakhoor in a household with dogs, it’s crucial to ensure the area is well-ventilated and that the dog can easily access a Bakhoor-free space if they seem distressed or overwhelmed.

Is Bakhoor Safe for Cats?

Cats, though seemingly aloof and robust, are remarkably sensitive creatures. Their physiological makeup, especially their liver, can’t process certain compounds present in various aromatic ingredients.

  • Aroma Sensitivity: Essential oils like eucalyptus, citrus oils, and even some floral oils can be harmful to cats. Their liver struggles to metabolize these, leading to potential toxicity.
  • Potential Risks: Prolonged exposure might not just lead to temporary discomfort. There have been instances where cats, after prolonged exposure to intense fragrances, developed respiratory issues.

How Bakhoor Affects the Air Quality

The romance of swirling Bakhoor smoke might mask an underlying issue: air quality. As with any incense, burning Bakhoor releases particulates.

  • Potential Allergens: For pets with existing respiratory issues or allergies, Bakhoor smoke might exacerbate their condition. It’s crucial to note that even non-toxic ingredients, in smoke form, can irritate lungs and eyes.
  • Air Quality Comparison: Studies have shown that frequently burning incense can lead to indoor air pollution, akin to cigarette smoke, if proper ventilation isn’t maintained.

The relationship between pets and aromatic products, including Bakhoor, has been an area of emerging concern, especially in areas where the use of such fragrances is a significant part of cultural practices.

Does Burning Bakhoor Harm Your Pets?

Veterinary Reports

  • Jeddah Animal Clinic, Saudi Arabia (2018): Veterinarians recorded an increase in respiratory distress cases in both cats and dogs during festive seasons. Though no direct correlation was established with Bakhoor, it was identified as a potential irritant given its widespread use during the times these cases spiked.
  • PetCare Hospital, Dubai (2019): A study conducted on feline patients showed that out of the cats that were admitted with signs of allergic reactions, 12% were from homes where Bakhoor was used daily. Symptoms ranged from watery eyes to more severe respiratory issues.

Anecdotal Evidence

  • Pet Forums and Blogs: Numerous accounts from pet owners, especially those from the Middle East, express concerns about their pets’ changed behavior when Bakhoor is burned. Symptoms described include sneezing, coughing, and in some cases, lethargy. While these are individual experiences and not broad studies, they provide valuable insights into potential risks.
  • Interview with Dr. Aisha Al Rahim, a Veterinarian from Riyadh: In an interview conducted by Pet Arabia Magazine in 2020, Dr. Al Rahim stated, “While Bakhoor has been a part of our rich tradition, it’s essential to adapt to modern findings. I have had cases where pets, especially birds and cats, showed distress due to heavy aromatic environments. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.”

While direct and concrete evidence linking Bakhoor to pet health issues is still under research, initial findings and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest a cautious approach. It’s imperative for pet owners to be informed and to closely observe their pets for any signs of distress, adjusting their practices accordingly.

Precautions for Using Bakhoor Around Pets

Safety first. If Bakhoor’s allure is irresistible to you:

  • Ventilation: Open windows, use exhaust fans, and ensure smoke doesn’t stagnate.
  • Pet-Free Zones: Dedicate a Bakhoor room. After burning, allow time for the smoke to clear before letting pets enter.
  • Monitor Your Pets: Observe and adjust. If your pet seems distressed, it might be best to reserve Bakhoor for special occasions or use it sparingly.

Alternatives to Bakhoor for Pet Owners

The craving for a fragrant home needn’t compromise your pet’s comfort.

  • Pet-Safe Air Fresheners: Research and invest in brands that prioritize pet safety.
  • Natural Fresheners: A pot of simmering water with cinnamon, cloves, and citrus peels can be just as enchanting without the smoke.


The intertwining of tradition, luxury, and modern pet care raises essential questions. While Bakhoor’s rich legacy is undeniable, it’s paramount to prioritize our pets’ well-being.

As we wait for more research, observance, caution, and love will guide the way.

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