Which Essential Oils Are Safe For Shih Tzu? And Which to Avoid

Essential Oils Safe for Shih Tzu     by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 06-14-2023

Essential oils are becoming increasingly popular for household and room scenting. But beyond that, they’ve been used by humans to help cure or quell non-life-threatening ailments like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

We love our fur babies and want the best for them in terms of lifestyle, care, fun, and health. So, can this alternative treatment be used in our Shih Tzu as well? Yes and no. Like any medicine, there are essential oils that are beneficial to our pets and some that aren’t. 

Essential Oils Safe for Shih TzuEssential Oils Safe for Shih Tzu

How to Apply Essential Oils to Shih Tzu

Oil Diffuser: 

Use a store-bought or DIY essential oil diffuser like normal, and let your pet inhale the scent. Make sure to monitor their mood and behavior as they interact with the oil. Be careful where you place the diffuser as you do not want it to tip over.


Since Shih Tzu are a small breed, dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba at a 9:1 ratio before applying topically. Never apply it directly to the skin even if it is considered safe for dogs.  Undiluted essential oils could make them sick.

Carriers include oils such as coconut oil, avocado oil, Aloe Vera, sunflower oil and sweet almond oil.  Most of these are available in your local grocery or online. To dilute, you should add one drop of essential oil for every tablespoon and a half of carrier.  Before using, apply a small drop to the skin for about 15 minutes.  If your Shih Tzu seems unconcerned, then it should be safe to apply.

Mixed With Soap:

Mixing the essential oil with your dog’s shampoo or soap can make a fun and great-smelling bath time experience. Just add a drop or two of your favorite oil into your shampoo and see what happens.

Which Oils are Pet-Safe? 

To get you started on your natural wellness journey, fragrance company FragranceX has compiled a list of oils that are sure to keep your Shih Tzu safe, and some that should be avoided. Though these essential oils are safe for pets, we still recommend checking with a vet before starting your dog on an essential oil routine and monitoring your dog’s behavior while the oils are in use. 

Which Essential Oils are Dangerous to Dogs

Even though Essential oils are natural, some do not agree with dogs. There are so many essential oils that are helpful.  But, unfortunately, there are some essential oils that are harmful, even toxic.

Even in their concentrated form, safe essential oils can be dangerous.  Toxic doses can occur when your Shih Tzu walks through oil, got some on their coat or  when highly concentrated oils are placed directly on their skin. If pets lick up spills of  oils, they can experience chemical burns in the mouth and other toxic effects. 

If this happens, watch for symptoms that include

  • Unsteadiness on the feet
  • Depression
  • Low body temperature (in severe cases)

Citrus Oils

While some sources state that citrus essential oils are toxic for dogs, others say that lemon essential oils can help stimulate immune functions and other benefits. Citrus oils include many types of oranges, limes, and lemon.  Unfortunately, Citrus oils can bring on vomiting, lethargy and even induce seizures in our dogs.


When you think Pine you may also pair it with Cinnamon especially during the holidays.  But pine doesn't always agree with dogs and neither does Cinnamon.  Pine oils are derived from Pinus sylvestris or the Scots Pine located in Europe. In fact, it is the national tree of Scotland.

Pine oils are used as a natural disinfectant, deodorizer, household cleaning products and massage oils.  When dogs ingest pine oils or have these oils applied to their skin, they can suffer from gastrointestinal irritation, bloddy vomiting, drooling, weakness, ataxia, and central nervous system affects.  There is also possible liver and renal affects.  

Tea Tree

Tea tree oil has been shown to show benefits for people, but not so much for dogs. Tea tree oil originates from the leaves of the Australian tea tree. These exposures often occur when pet owners try to treat their pet for various skin conditions or external parasites such as fleas.  Toxicity can occur when these oils are absorbed through the skin or when given orally. 

Most commercially prepared shampoos that include very low dose concentrations of tea tree are not dangerous.   Signs of toxicity include depression, ataxia (very uncoordinated gait), paralysis of the rear legs, vomiting, hypothermia (low body temperature), and dermal irritation.  

Ylang Ylang

Ylang ylang is often an additive to perfumes because it has a beautiful scent. But for our dogs, it is not nearly as beneficial.  It can cause breathing difficulty, cause a sense of weakness and vomiting.

Vomiting is likely the first symptom you will notice especially if you are running a diffuser near your Shih Tzu.  The best way to avoid this scenario is to observe your dog while running your diffuser and cut it off after about 10  minutes.


Toxicity symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea—often bloody—as a result of liver failure. You may notice your dog acting lethargic. Seek immediate veterinary care as Pennyroyal toxicity can cause death in dogs.

More Essential Oils that are Not Safe for Shih Tzu Dogs

According to Michelson Found Animals, additional oils that are dangerous include: 

  • Cinnamon
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Sweet birch
  • Wintergreen
  • Anise
  • Clove
  • Thyme
  • Juniper
  • Yarrow
  • Garlic

If you have applied an essential oil topically to their skin, and the oil does not agree with your dog, you may see some symptoms of essential oil poisoning:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle tremors

What to Do if Your Shih Tzu Comes Into Contact with A Harmful Essential Oil

If you believe that your Shih Tzu has ingested or come in contact with essential oils,  call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) immediately. The sooner you seek treatment, the better the prognosis and outcome for your dog.

Also, please do the following:

  • Do not induce vomiting or give activated charcoal to your dog. This may worsen your dog’s condition.
  • Put the essential oil vial in a sealed plastic bag, and take it with you to the veterinary clinic.
  • If any product is on the skin or fur, quickly wash it off using hand dish washing detergent such as Dawn.

What to Expect at the Vet Clinic

Your vet may perform blood work to determine if the liver and kidneys have been affected. The veterinarian may prescribe Intravenous (IV) fluids may be used for hydration.  If there is evidence of chemical burns in the mouth or esophagus due to ingesting essential oils, a soft diet or feeding tube may be needed.  You may also expect anti-vomiting medications or medicines to protect the stomach to be give.   Sometimes antibiotics and pain medicines are offered.  

As noted above, some essential oils are toxic so recovery will depend on the type of oil ingested.   There is no antidote for this poisoning; however, with early intervention and supportive treatment, most dogs can survive. 

Best Advice for Using Essential Oils Around Your Shih Tzu

  • Keep essential oil vials tightly sealed and away from your Tzu.
  • Avoid using the diffuser where your Shih Tzu may have access to the oils.
  • Do not use in enclosed areas where they cannot escape.
  • Do not leave your diffuser operating unattended, and limit the time it’s used.
  • Use oil-containing pet products only as directed; never apply undiluted oils directly to your pet.

Watch for signs of toxicity. (See above).  If you notice any symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately.

References Used When Investigating Essential Oils Safe for Shih Tzu

American Kennel Club

Pet Poison Healthline

Rover: Essential Oils for Pets

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About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and Smart-Knit-Crocheting.