Are Humidifiers Good For Dogs?

By: Evan Scoboria, Last updated: June 25, 2023

Humidifiers can benefit dogs by alleviating dry skin, irritated eyes, and respiratory issues caused by dry air. However, it's important to use cool mist humidifiers instead of warm mist humidifiers, which can potentially burn dogs' sensitive skin. Humidifiers with fragrances or essential oils should also be avoided as they can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation. To safely use a humidifier for dogs, it's necessary to keep it out of reach, use distilled water, clean it regularly, and monitor the dog's behavior for signs of discomfort or respiratory distress.

Dog and Humidifier

The Role of Humidity in a Dog's Health

The humidity level in the environment can significantly influence a dog's health. Too little humidity can dry out a dog's skin and respiratory passages, leading to itching, flaking, and discomfort. Dry air can exacerbate respiratory conditions like bronchitis or sinusitis and cause dryness in a dog's eyes.

On the other hand, excessive humidity can be just as problematic. High humidity levels can promote mold growth, mildew, and dust mites, triggering allergic reactions in dogs. It can also make the air feel hotter than it is, leading to overheating and possibly heat stroke, especially in brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs, who already struggle with heat regulation.

Maintaining an optimal humidity level of 30-50% can help preserve the health of a dog's skin, respiratory system, and overall comfort. In climates or seasons where maintaining this humidity level naturally is challenging, a humidifier can be a valuable tool. It can help add moisture to the air in dry conditions or the case of a dehumidifier, help to remove excess moisture in overly humid conditions. Regular monitoring and adjusting of humidity levels can aid in ensuring an optimal environment for a dog's health.

Understanding a Dog's Respiratory System

Canines, with their extended tracheas, are naturally equipped to intake more air during each inhalation. The unique design of their nostrils, which flare out, permits an even greater volume of air to be taken in through the nose.

Unlike humans, dogs rely heavily on nasal breathing, rarely resorting to mouth breathing unless under stress or exertion. Therefore, the condition of their nasal passages is critical, and any obstructions can profoundly impact their ability to breathe.

Their lungs feature specialized structures called alveoli, responsible for the effective exchange of gases, critical for maintaining their overall health and well-being.

The role of humidity in all these respiratory aspects cannot be understated. The humid air helps maintain the moisture levels in the nasal passages, promoting easier breathing and reducing the risk of obstructions due to dryness or irritants. Moreover, the moisture-rich air can enhance the function of alveoli, facilitating better gas exchange. However, striking a balance is crucial, as excessive humidity may lead to the proliferation of respiratory pathogens. This underscores the importance of maintaining an appropriate humidity level for your dog's respiratory health.

Are Humidifiers Safe for Dogs?

Cool mist humidifiers are safe for dogs as they do not emit hot steam that can potentially burn their sensitive skin. On the other hand, warm mist humidifiers can be dangerous for dogs as they emit hot steam that can cause burns and scalds. Additionally, warm mist humidifiers can increase the risk of accidentally ingesting hot water by dogs, leading to severe injuries.

It's also important to note that some humidifiers come with fragrances or allow for the use of essential oils. While these may be pleasing to humans, they can harm dogs. Essential oils and perfumes can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, and even toxicity in dogs. Therefore, avoiding humidifiers with fragrances or essential oils around your furry friends is best.

In summary, cool mist humidifiers are safe for dogs, while warm mist humidifiers can be potentially dangerous. To avoid potential harm, it's also important to be cautious when using humidifiers with fragrances or essential oils around dogs.

Are Vicks Humidifiers Safe for Dogs

Vicks VapoPads and VapoSteam, which contain menthol, camphor, and other essential oils, should not be used around dogs. These substances can be toxic to dogs if they are inhaled or ingested in large amounts.

Hot vs. Cold Mist Humidifiers for Dogs: Which is Safer?

Both hot and cold mist humidifiers can offer benefits to dogs in terms of maintaining proper humidity levels. The choice between the two depends primarily on safety considerations and the dog's specific needs.

Hot mist humidifiers, also known as steam vaporizers, use heat to generate steam, which cools before exiting the machine. The warm mist can help create a comforting environment during cold seasons, benefiting dogs with arthritis or other cold-weather discomforts. However, there's a safety concern to consider. The heating element in these humidifiers can pose a burn risk to curious or unsuspecting dogs, especially if they get too close or knock the unit over.

On the other hand, cool mist humidifiers, which come in ultrasonic and evaporative models, emit room temperature or cool mist. They are safer around dogs as there's no risk of burns. Ultrasonic versions use high-frequency vibrations to produce mist. In contrast, evaporative models use a wick filter to absorb water, with a fan blowing the moisture off the filter and into the air. However, they are less comforting in the cold months and can disperse more allergens and microbes if not cleaned regularly.

Essential Oils and Fragrances

Dogs, being extraordinarily olfactory creatures, have a sense of smell thousands of times more powerful than ours. This heightened sensitivity makes them considerably more susceptible to irritation by strong fragrances and essential oils. When disseminated in the air via a humidifier, these substances can cause issues ranging from mild discomfort to severe respiratory distress.

In particular, some essential oils are known to be toxic to dogs. Oils such as tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, pine, sweet birch, wintergreen, and ylang-ylang can cause adverse reactions. These can lead to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, lethargy, weakness, muscle tremors, depression, and even burning their skin. In severe cases, exposure to these oils can lead to life-threatening conditions like liver failure.

Moreover, certain dogs may have specific allergies that make them even more susceptible to strong scents. Just as people can have allergic reactions to some substances, so too can dogs. These reactions can manifest as skin issues, like rashes and itching, or more severe respiratory problems.

How to Use a Humidifier Safely if You Have Dogs

Using a humidifier safely with dogs is essential to ensure their health and well-being. Here are some tips to follow:

1. Keep the humidifier out of reach: Dogs are curious creatures and may try to investigate the humidifier, which can lead to accidents. So, it's best to keep the humidifier out of their reach.

2. Use distilled water: Tap water can contain minerals and other impurities that can harm your dog's health if they inhale it. So, always use distilled water in the humidifier.

3. Clean the humidifier regularly: Bacteria and mold can grow if not cleaned regularly. This can cause respiratory problems for your dog. So, clean the humidifier at least once a week.

4. Monitor your dog's behavior: If you notice any signs of discomfort or respiratory distress in your dog, turn off the humidifier immediately and consult your vet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are ultrasonic humidifiers safe for dogs? Ultrasonic humidifiers can be safe for dogs, emitting a cool mist to benefit dogs with respiratory issues. Cleaning the humidifier regularly is essential to prevent bacteria or mold growth.

Can a humidifier help my dog's dry skin? Yes, a humidifier can help alleviate dry skin in dogs by adding moisture to the air. This can be particularly beneficial during winter when indoor heating systems create overly dry conditions.

How can I tell if my dog is negatively affected by humidity levels? Signs that a dog might be negatively affected by humidity levels include excessive panting, lethargy, or signs of heat stroke in high humidity or dry, flaky skin and discomfort in low humidity. If you notice any extreme changes in your dog's behavior or health, it's advisable to consult a veterinarian.

Are there any risks to using a humidifier around my dog? While humidifiers can be beneficial, they can also pose some risks. A dog might knock over a humidifier, which can cause burns if the humidifier contains hot water. Some essential oils used in humidifiers can be harmful to dogs. Please always make sure to use a humidifier safely around pets.

Should I use distilled water in my humidifier for my dog? It's usually recommended to use distilled water in a humidifier, whether it's for humans or pets. This is because tap water can contain minerals that promote bacterial growth in a humidifier and be dispersed into the air. This can be harmful to both humans and dogs alike.


Using a humidifier for your dog can offer numerous health benefits, such as improved respiratory health and alleviation of dry skin conditions. The choice between hot and cold mist humidifiers should be made based on safety considerations and the specific health needs of your pet. It's imperative to be cautious with essential oils or fragrances, as some may harm dogs. Regular maintenance and cleaning of the humidifier are also crucial to ensure it doesn't become a breeding ground for bacteria or mold. If you notice any unusual signs in your dog's health or behavior, seek advice from a veterinarian.