Is tea tree oil safe for dogs? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no. Despite claims to the contrary, tea tree oil contains volatile compounds that can be toxic to canines and cause serious harm to their liver and central nervous system.
As dog owners, it is important to understand the dangers of this essential oil and why it may be found in some dog products.
What Is Tea Tree Oil?
Tea tree oil or melaleuca oil is an essential oil derived from the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) through steam distillation.
Tea trees originally came from the southeast coast of Australia. Native tribes used the plant as a herbal medicine and antiseptic thanks to its antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Later on, the tea tree plant was introduced to America and proliferated in Louisiana and south of central Florida. Its essential oil became a hit for its numerous medicinal qualities to humans such as:
- Repelling insects
- Reducing body odor and bad breath
- Disinfecting wounds and hastening their healing
- Alleviating skin problems
- Eliminating athlete’s foot and nail fungus
- Sanitizing hands and surfaces from harmful microbes
Today many cosmetic products contain tea tree oil in varying concentrations. Some of the most common are mouthwash, cleansers, sanitizers, skin creams, and lotions.
How Does Tea Tree Essential Oil Put My Dog at Risk?
Tea tree oil consists of a group of volatile compounds known as terpenes. They are responsible for their potent bacteria and fungi-fighting properties.
However, terpenes are toxic to pets, both cats and dogs, and should be avoided. These chemicals cannot be metabolized appropriately, whether they are consumed orally or applied topically.
Absorption of terpenes from tea tree essential oil into the canine body may cause severe liver damage.
Some dog enthusiasts wonder: “Can the smell of tea tree oil hurt dogs?” The smell of tea tree oil can hurt dogs as it can irritate their respiratory system if inhaled too long. Causing an onset of toxicity is a possibility too.
How Toxic Is Tea Tree Oil to Dogs?
Tea tree oil is highly toxic to dogs, especially in its pure form. Records of canine poisoning cases show that it only took 7 to 8 drops (10 to 20 milliliters) of undiluted tea tree oil to cause fatalities in dogs.
In other cases, even as little as 0.1 milliliters of 100% concentrated tea tree oil induced life-threatening toxicity. This essential oil’s definitive minimum toxicity threshold is yet to be discovered.
However, doses between 0.8 to 2.2 grams per pound (1.9 to 5 grams per kilogram) or 0.8 to 1.1 milliliter per pound (1.9 to 2.6 milliliter per kilogram ) are considered lethal.
If your dog weighs 20 pounds, exposure to 16 to 44 grams per pound or 16 to 22 milliliters per pound of tea tree oil may cause deadly poisoning.
Why the Use of Tea Tree Oil in Dog Products?
Proponents of tea tree essential oil claim that it offers plenty of medicinal uses to dogs when properly diluted, including:
- Warding off pesky fleas
- Managing skin conditions
- Easing ear infections
Some pet companies back preliminary research about the health benefits of diluted tea tree oil to canines. But these studies are inconclusive and must be taken with a grain of salt.
In relation to this discussion, let us answer the question: “Is diluted tea tree oil safe for dogs?” Unfortunately, diluted tea tree oil is not entirely safe for dogs. While it has a lower concentration of terpenes, it does not eliminate the risk of toxicity.
Never buy pet products that do not specify the concentration of tea tree oil used.
Most pet products contain less than 1 to 2% tea tree oil, which is believed to be the safe concentration for our four-legged friends. But as we have said, this does not guarantee that poisoning will not take place.
Thus, steer clear from tea tree oil products for dogs. We suggest looking for safer natural remedies for canine ailments unless no other options are available.
Watch Out for Cleaning Products with Tea Tree Oil
One of the notable benefits of tea tree oil is its ability to eliminate bacteria effectively. Hence, it is a common ingredient in many household cleaning products, such as detergents and laundry soaps.
Many DIY websites recommend adding tea tree essential oil to homemade cleaning agents. Different blogs use different formulations. Some DIY cleaning products might be highly concentrated with tea tree oil.
Avoid using these items to keep your canine companion safe from tea tree oil poisoning. Before purchasing, always check the ingredients list to ensure the product does not contain tea tree essential oil.
What Are the Signs of Tea Tree Oil Toxicity in Dogs?
The most common signs of tea tree oil toxicity in dogs are neurological problems such as tremors, depression, and incoordination.
Other notable symptoms of toxicity that may appear are:
- Slow heartbeat
- Low body temperature
- Hind leg paralysis
- Mobility difficulties
Clinical signs of tea tree oil poisoning in canines typically appear within 2 to 8 hours after exposure.
Worst forms of neurological signs will appear if immediate treatment is not provided. Watch out for seizures, tremors, and coma. Your dog’s liver enzymes may abnormally increase, leading to liver failure.
When It’s an Emergency
The onset of convulsions and fainting indicates that tea tree oil poisoning in a dog has reached drastic levels. Failure to provide urgent medical care greatly lowers the chances of survival.
What If My Dog Has Signs of Tea Tree Oil Poisoning?
What if my dog licked tea tree oil? If you have witnessed your dog lick tea tree oil, inform the vet about the predicament as soon as possible. Ingesting even a small amount of the oil can lead to poisoning, especially if it is undiluted.
Avoid inducing vomiting on your canine companion. Neurological clinical signs caused by terpenes, like seizures, may cause this first aid process to go wrong. It will lead to more life-threatening complications such as aspiration pneumonia.
Prioritize collecting details pertaining to your dog’s exposure to tea tree oil. Record the time of the incident’s occurrence and the amount of oil ingested.
List down its percentage of concentration too. If possible, bring the bottle to the vet so they can check the product for other toxic ingredients.
Treatment for Tea Tree Essential Oil Toxicity in Dogs
The standard treatment procedures for dogs experiencing tea tree oil poisoning are as follows:
The vet will wash your dog’s fur with a pet-safe shampoo to remove any residues of tea tree oil.
Antiemetics will be administered to reduce vomiting. Liver protectants such as SAM-e and silymarin (milk thistle) will be prescribed to decrease the risk of liver failure. Anticonvulsants are used to control seizures.
The vet may give your dog activated charcoal, which binds with the toxins. It prevents them from getting absorbed into the bloodstream.
However, its use is not recommended for canines suffering from severe tea tree oil poisoning. Otherwise, aspiration may take place.
Incessant vomiting depletes the water and electrolytes in your dog’s body. To prevent dehydration, he will be provided with intravenous fluids.
Depending on the severity of tea tree oil poisoning, hospitalization may last about 72 hours or more. Mild toxicity has a better prognosis than extreme poisoning.
FAQs About Tea Tree Oil for Dogs
1. Does tea tree oil help itchy dogs?
Tea tree oil is believed to help itchy dogs, but this claim remains anecdotal. We recommend using a safer dog itchy skin home remedy.
2. Can you spray tea tree oil on dogs for fleas?
No, you cannot spray tea tree oil on dogs for fleas. It poses toxic risks even in its diluted form.
3. Is diffusing tea tree oil safe for dogs?
No, diffusing tea tree oil is unsafe for dogs. Breathing it in can cause respiratory problems and even poisoning.
3 Safe Essential Oils For Dogs
If you want to try using essential oils on your canine companion, here are some good picks:
Myrrh Essential Oil
It can be topically applied on the skin to disinfect areas affected by infection or allergies. Diffusing myrrh essential oil helps improve the mood of dogs. Applying it on the gums of teething pups relieves teething pains.
Frankincense Essential Oil
It acts as a pain reliever that helps alleviate soreness caused by inflammatory diseases. The scent of frankincense essential oil promotes relaxation and calmness in canines. Administering it orally can soothe digestive issues.
Ginger Essential Oil
The essential oil derived from ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that offer pain relief. When inhaled, ginger essential oil eases nausea caused by motion sickness. Oral intake supports good digestive function.
Whether these essential oils are dog-friendly or not, always dilute them with a carrier oil before use. Start with a heavily diluted concentration if it is your dog’s first exposure to essential oils to help his body adjust easily.
Essential Oil Diffusers and Pet Safety
When diffusing dog-safe essential oils around dogs, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Canines with respiratory troubles such as asthma should never be exposed to any type of essential oil.
- Aromatherapy sessions for dogs should be limited to 10 minutes to avoid breathing difficulties.
- Always air out the room afterward so your canine companion has room to breathe.
- Make sure to leave the door open as it serves as your dog’s escape route if the smell of essential oil becomes overwhelming.
Tea tree oil is unsafe for dogs despite its popularity. However, there are many other dog-friendly essential oils that offer numerous health benefits to dogs.
Check out our Oils section to learn how to use these oils to support your dog’s well-being. Keep your dog healthy and happy by being informed and careful when it comes to essential oils.