Is Incense Bad For Dogs?

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Dogs are enriching to almost every part of our lives. Whether it’s the unconditional love and affection or just having someone who’s excited when we come home, there’s a lot to love about dogs.

But then…there’s the smell.

Some pups are a little more “potent” than others which means dog owners are always trying to find ways to make their home smell better. You’ve got a lot of options to choose from but one of the more popular choices is incense.

But is burning incense bad for dogs? Is it safe?

Incense is typically considered bad for dogs. Not only may the smell of the incense be irritating to a dog’s powerful sense of smell, but inhaling the smoke can cause mild respiratory symptoms and irritate a dog’s sensitive lungs. However, with proper ventilation and careful placement, the impact can be made milder. 

Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about incense and dogs.

Why Is Incense Bad For Dogs?

 There are several reasons to refrain from using incense in your home around your dogs.

Let’s start with the biggest problem first: smoke inhalation. 

Smoke Inhalation Risks

Smoke inhalation of any kind is bad for both you and your pet. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explained in a 2001 report that “Incense smoke can be a major source of particulate emissions in indoor air. The particulates produced when burning incense can deposit in the respiratory tract. These emissions may contain contaminants that can cause a variety of health effects, including mutagenic effects and airborne dermatitis.”

In other words, smoke can inflame your lungs and air passages, which will then lead to less oxygen getting into your system. That can cause health problems down the road. For our dogs, who have a much smaller and more sensitive set of lungs than we do, it can be even more problematic. 

Some breeds, such as brachycephalic breeds, will be at an even higher risk of smoke inhalation from incense. The term “brachycephalic” means “short-headed” and these are breeds like bulldogs, pugs, and Boston Terriers. These dogs will have more trouble breathing simply because of the shape of their head and muzzle. 

Because of these breeds’ short muzzles and noses, they already have shorter and more restricted airways. Even a little smoke can be damaging for these breeds. 

Even if your dog isn’t one of the high-risk brachycephalic breeds, smoke inhalation still isn’t good for them. It can lead to respiratory problems such as asthma, which is caused by your dog having an allergic reaction to something they’re smelling. Asthma causes inflammation in your dog’s air passages, which makes it very difficult for them to breathe. 

Irritating Smells

On top of the health problems burning incense can cause, your dog also just may not be a fan of the scent you’re burning. Dogs have incredible noses. Canine experts say that dogs’ sense of smell is so acute, most could smell one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic pools worth of water! Dogs’ noses are extremely sensitive compared to ours, so what we think of as a nice smell might be frustrating to your pet. 

Risk of Fire

Obviously, any time you put an open flame in your home, there’s a risk of fire. Add an open flame with an enthusiastic dog tail and you could be in trouble.

And honestly, what dog tail couldn’t be described as overly enthusiastic?

It’s tough to keep your eyes on your dog 24/7, but it only takes a second for a happy pup to knock over burning incense with their wagging and wiggly tail. 

Think about how incense is typically burned. It’s usually in stick form on a holder. That’s not a very secure open flame, and it could easily be knocked over by your dog if it’s placed in the wrong spot.

How To Safely Use Incense With Dogs

If you’re determined to burn incense in your home, we recommend taking a few precautions in order to make this practice as safe as possible for both you and your beloved doggo. 

Use Quality Incense

There are tons of incense brands and smells out on the market, and we encourage you to choose a high-quality incense. Speaking in general terms, there are really two different kinds of incense we need to focus on.

First, is traditional incense which is considered the purest kind of incense out there. It’s all-natural and consists of basic scents that can be combined to form different smells. It’s a long and arduous process to make traditional incense, which means you’ll pay a little more for it.

On the other hand, dipped incense is the more common, less expensive option. In addition to the incense itself, it may contain traces of sawdust or charcoal. There’s also a good chance the stick was dipped in a chemical mixture before being combined with the actual incense.

Clearly, neither you nor your dog should be breathing in any kind of chemical mixture that comes with dipped incense. If you’re going to burn incense, we encourage you to choose a traditional incense for your home since it typically burns cleaner. While you’ll pay a little more for it, it is much healthier for both you and your pet.

Ensure Plenty of Ventilation

While you’re burning incense, make sure your home has plenty of ventilation. Since smoke is the main culprit behind health problems, try to let out as much of that smoke as possible. Open up a window to both let the smoke out and let some fresh air in. Additionally, don’t trap your pet in the same room as the burning incense. Allow them to roam and get away from the incense if they need to. 

Choose A Safe Spot For Placement

Be careful where you burn your incense. It would be best to keep it in another room altogether from your pet, but at the very least, it needs to be completely out of reach from a dog’s excitable tail (no low side tables or coffee tables). 

Alternatives To Incense

Even if you choose not to burn incense, you still might be stuck with the ~smell~ of your doggo. So how do you make your home smell a little more pleasant? There are several safe alternatives to incense that still achieve the same goal of smelling better!  


In order to relieve the worries that Febreze is not safe for pets, Febreze partnered with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to study the effects of Febreze on a variety of household pets. The study concluded that Febreze is in fact pet safe. 

Febreze can be a great option for helping with the dog smell and keeping your home safe for your pet. If you choose to use Febreze, make sure to follow all instructions on the box. 

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers can help improve odors from pets by removing any smells from the air in your home. While it won’t make your home “smell good” the way incense or another scent product will, it’s actually removing the odors from your home rather than just covering it up. 

If you’re considering purchasing an air purifier, think about the size of your home. If you have a large house and only want to purchase one, you’ll most likely need to get a stronger air purifier that will be able to remove the scent from the entire house, rather than just the room it’s in. 

Create Your Own Kitchen Scent

Did you know you can actually create your own scents right at home in your kitchen? Using just your stovetop and a few basic ingredients, you can give your whole house a delicious, natural smell. And the best part? These are much safer for your pet, and just as effective! Check out any of these recipes to make your whole house smell great. 

You can also go the DIY route too:

Why Candles Aren’t Much Better

So what about candles? Are they any better for your pet? 

Even though candles aren’t directly toxic for your dog, candles really aren’t much safer than incense. Candles still create smoke, and smoke of any kind can be harmful to the respiratory systems of both you and your pet. 

While candles are typically a little more sturdy than the stick-and-holder method of burning incense, they’re still not safe from a happy dog tail (unless they’re burned on a high shelf away from your pet). 

Finally, heavily-scented candles can still create the kind of irritation to your dog’s sensitive nose that incense can cause. 

If you choose to burn a candle in your home, follow the same precautions that you would for burning incense: use a natural candle with no artificial smells, make sure there’s plenty of ventilation flowing, and place it on a high counter or shelf where your dog can’t reach it. 


Burning incense with a dog around may not be the best choice for their health, but with a few precautions, you can keep your dog safe from the potential harmful effects of incense. Keep careful watch over your dog as you’re burning incense. If you notice excessive sneezing, coughing, or watery eyes, it could be a sign that it’s time to switch to a healthier option for your dog.

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