Is Sandalwood Incense Safe for Your Pets? (Dogs&Cats)

Many pet owners enjoy the calming fragrance of sandalwood incense but may not consider the potential effects it could have on their furry companions. While sandalwood incense is generally safe for dogs, certain precautions should be taken. Your dogs, especially those with respiratory conditions, can experience discomfort such as coughing or sneezing from the smoke of incense. Those symptoms indicate that the indoor air quality is important for your pet’s health, just as it is for yours.

However, when it comes to cats, the situation is a bit different. Cats have a unique metabolism and their bodies process certain compounds differently, which means that a safe substance for humans and dogs might be harmful to your feline friends. Ensuring good ventilation is crucial when burning incense if cats are present in the household to help minimize any possible risks.


Understanding the potential risks associated with burning sandalwood incense around your pets is essential. Recognizing signs of distress in your pets, such as difficulty breathing or changes in behavior after exposure to incense, is key for maintaining their well-being. If your pet exhibits any adverse reactions, it is best to discontinue use and consult your veterinarian.

Composition of Sandalwood

Sandalwood oil primarily contains sesquiterpenic alcohols, with the main constituents being α-santalol and β-santalol. α-Santalol makes up about 50–60% of the oil, while β-Santalol comprises about 20–25%. These components are responsible for the characteristic scent and properties of sandalwood oil.These components can be harmful to pets if ingested or inhaled in concentrated forms. 

When it comes to inhalation, the smoke from burning sandalwood can irritate a pet’s respiratory tract, leading to coughing, sneezing, or more severe respiratory issues, especially in cats who are particularly sensitive to airborne pollutants (Humane Society of the United States). It’s best to use such products in well-ventilated areas away from pets or to seek out pet-friendly alternatives.


Is Sandalwood Incense Safe for Cats?

Cats can be particularly sensitive to sandalwood incense.

Exposure to sandalwood incense may cause your cat to experience sneezing, coughing, vomiting, or general weakness.

Additionally, the smoke from sandalwood incense can lead to respiratory problems and even aggravate pre-existing conditions like asthma. Your cat may also develop skin irritation and eye issues if exposed to the smoke. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Is Sandalwood Incense Safe for Dogs?

While sandalwood incense is generally safe for dogs, they can still experience health problems when exposed to sandalwood incense.

Dogs with respiratory issues, such as asthma, may have difficulty breathing when around burning incense.

Some dogs may exhibit sneezing, coughing, or weakness as a result of inhaling the smoke.

Moreover, skin irritation can occur if your dog comes into direct contact with incense. If your dog shows any signs of distress or discomfort, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian.

Recognizing Symptoms of Incense Poisoning

Incense poisoning in pets, particularly dogs and cats, can manifest through various symptoms that should be carefully observed as they may indicate distress or a serious health issue. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Coughing and Sneezing: These are common initial signs that your pet may be reacting to the irritants in incense smoke. Persistent coughing or sneezing suggests that the respiratory tract is irritated.
  • Vomiting: If a pet ingests part of an incense stick or is exposed to too much smoke, it might lead to vomiting. This is the body’s way of expelling the toxic substance. Ingestion of incense can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Look for signs such as wheezing, labored breathing, or a pet that stands with its neck extended as if struggling to take in air. This could indicate inflammation or obstruction in the airways.
  • Lethargy: A decrease in energy levels or a noticeable disinterest in activities that a pet usually enjoys can be a sign of poisoning. The pet may seem unusually tired and unresponsive.
  • Diarrhea: Along with vomiting, diarrhea is a common symptom of gastrointestinal upset due to the ingestion of substances that are not meant to be consumed, like incense.
  • Nausea and Dizziness: Dogs have much more sensitive noses than humans, so the strong smell of incense can quickly irritate them and cause nausea and dizziness.
  • Seizures: In severe cases, exposure to toxic substances in incense can lead to neurological symptoms such as tremors or seizures.

It’s important to note that the reaction can be immediate or delayed, depending on the amount of exposure and the pet’s sensitivity. If you notice these symptoms, it is crucial to act quickly. Remove the pet from the area with the incense to allow them to breathe fresh air and prevent further inhalation of irritants. If symptoms persist or if the pet has ingested part of an incense stick, seek veterinary care immediately as some ingredients in incense may be toxic and require professional treatment to prevent more serious health issues.

How Pets React to Different Scents

As a pet owner, it’s essential to be aware of the various scents and how they affect your furry friends. In this section, we will explore reactions to essential oils and other natural scents.

Reactions to Essential Oils: Citrus, Peppermint, Clove, Eucalyptus, and Tea Tree Oils

When introducing essential oils to your home, you may notice your pet reacting differently to each scent. Some essential oils are known to cause adverse reactions in pets, while others can be safely used around them.

Citrus oils can be overwhelming for pets, especially for cats. Their strong aroma may lead to coughing and respiratory irritation. Peppermint oil is often used in homes to deter pests, but it can cause nausea, lethargy, and even seizures in pets when used in high concentrations.

Clove, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils are also harmful to pets, with both cats and dogs exhibiting similar symptoms when exposed to these essential oils. They can experience muscle tremors, drooling, loss of balance, and difficulty breathing. Be cautious when using these oils around your pets, and if you notice any signs of distress, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Reactions to Other Natural Scents: Cinnamon Sticks, Vanilla, Pine, and Rose

Apart from essential oils, other natural scents can also affect your pets.

Cinnamon sticks provide a warm and cozy fragrance but can cause irritation to your pet’s skin and respiratory system. Vanilla is a common scent in candles and air fresheners and is generally considered safe for pets. However, the synthetic versions of vanilla used in products can be harmful; make sure to use natural vanilla when incorporating it in your home.

Pine is another natural scent that can negatively impact your pets. It can lead to contact dermatitis or allergies in dogs, whereas cats may experience respiratory distress from the strong aroma. Lastly, rose is often used in scented candles and potpourris. While it is generally safe for pets, your pet may still have an individual reaction, so pay close attention when using rose-based products.

To maintain fresh air for your pets, consider using pet-safe alternatives like air purifiers or natural fragrance sources like herbs and fruits. Remember, keeping your pet safe and comfortable should always be a priority when introducing any new scent into your home.

Safe Use of Incense Around Pets

Ventilation and Air Purification

When using incense around your pets, it’s crucial to ensure proper ventilation. Make sure you are burning incense in a well-ventilated area, as the smoke can cause respiratory irritation in both dogs and cats. To help reduce the potential risk to your pets, consider using an air purifier to remove particles and improve air quality while using incense. Regular cleaning and dusting your home can also eliminate accumulated smoke particles and reduce respiratory risks.

Choosing the Right Type of Incense

Selecting a safe and non-toxic incense is essential for the health of your pets. Although sandalwood incense is generally safe for dogs, it’s important to note that sandalwood oil is known to be toxic for cats. Therefore, it’s essential to choose a non-toxic and pet-friendly incense to ensure the safety of your cats and dogs. Look for incense made from natural materials, and check the ingredients list carefully to avoid toxic substances.

Monitoring Pet Behavior During Incense Use

While using incense around your pets, it’s important to closely monitor their behavior for any signs of discomfort or distress. If you notice your pet coughing, sneezing, or showing any signs of respiratory distress, stop using the incense immediately and give them some fresh air. Even safe scents can sometimes cause irritation, so always put your pet’s health and comfort first. In case of severe or persistent symptoms, consult a veterinarian to address any potential health concerns.

Remember to follow these guidelines to keep your pets safe and healthy while enjoying the pleasant aroma of incense in your home.

Are there any pet-friendly alternatives to sandalwood incense?

Considering the potential risks associated with sandalwood incense, it’s natural to wonder if there are pet-friendly alternatives that can still fill your home with pleasant scents. Luckily, there are a few options you can explore to keep your furry friends safe and satisfied.

One popular choice is using pet-safe essential oils in a diffuser. You should always check that the essential oil you’re using is safe for your specific type of pet, as some oils may be harmful. Lavender, chamomile, and frankincense are generally considered safe for both cats and dogs. Just keep in mind that, as with any scent, proper ventilation is crucial to ensure your pets’ comfort and health.

Another alternative is scented soy candles. These candles have gained popularity for their eco-friendliness and generally produce less soot compared to traditional paraffin candles. Moreover, soy candles with natural scents tend to be pet-safe, as long as you keep the burning candle out of your pets’ reach.

Pet-safe air fresheners can be a great solution as well. Look for products specifically designed to be non-toxic for pets, and avoid ingredients like phenols, which can be harmful to animals. These can be found in various forms like plug-in dispensers, sprays, and even gel beads.

Finally, natural odor absorbers like activated charcoal or baking soda can be a simple and effective way to maintain a pleasant atmosphere at home, without exposing your pets to potentially harmful ingredients.

To ensure your pets’ safety and well-being, always double-check the ingredients and instructions of any product you’re using, and observe your pets for signs of discomfort or distress. By choosing pet-friendly alternatives and utilizing them responsibly, you can keep your home fragrant and pet-friendly!


In conclusion, while the warm and earthy scent of sandalwood incense can be a delightful addition to any home, pet owners must be mindful of the potential health risks it poses to their furry companions. Dogs and cats can be particularly sensitive to the smoke and essential oils from incense, which can lead to respiratory irritation, skin contact issues, and more severe health problems. It is crucial to ensure proper ventilation, select pet-friendly incense alternatives, and closely monitor your pets’ reactions when using these products. 

Scroll to Top