Holiday Hazards 2: Potpourri and Candles


Fall and holiday aromas are in the air! Scents for fall and winter such as pumpkin spice, cinnamon, or pine can fill a room with pleasant smells and even create nostalgia. With such a large variety of fragrant products available, it is important to consider what risks the products may pose to your pets.

Classic potpourri: Many components of dried potpourri can cause gastrointestinal irritation and upset (vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia) when ingested. If larger pieces are ingested, intestinal obstruction can also occur. Also, depending on the individual make-up of the potpourri, other toxic concerns may be present.

Scented burning candles: Curious pets can have the unfortunate consequence of being burned if they get too close to the flame. An additional important consideration is that pets can cause house fires when burning candles are inadvertently knocked over. These problems can easily be avoided by keeping the candles out of pets’ reach, only burning candles when pets are supervised, or using battery operated candles.

Liquid potpourri (e.g. scent burners, liquid plug-ins, reed diffusers): These can contain cationic detergents and essential oils that can be harmful to pets. Cats seem to be more sensitive to the effects, but dogs can also be affected. Licking the oils can create chemical burns in the mouth, esophagus, and gastrointestinal tract depending on how much is consumed. Pets that have licked or ingested the oils may show signs such as excessive drooling, mouth discomfort, or vomiting. Oils on the skin can create skin irritation or chemical burns. If the oils are splashed in the eye, ocular irritation or even corneal ulceration may result. Respiratory signs and fever are also possible.

We hope this information will help you in your scent product choices. And remember, what smells good to you may not smell good to your pet – be sure they have a place to get away in case they don’t prefer the smell.

Be sure to check back next week for our next series installment!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS