Using Tea Tree Oil on Animals- or not!

Good morning all!

This morning I want to talk about the use of Tea Tree oil on you pets and the fact that it’s really not a good idea.  When I was working in the vet clinic I was in for 2 years I learned one day from one of the vets that tea tree oil on your pets can be very dangerous.  We had a receptionist come in with her sister and her sisters dog.  While someone was playing with the puppy they mentioned how good he smelt.  His owner was a cosmetologist(hairstylist) and she said that the last time she gave him a bath she used Paul Mitchells shampoo that had tea tree oil in it.  Well one of the vets, we called him Dr. Zebra because he would always get the strange and odd cases so he was a doctor with many stripes because he would always find out what it was and be able to treat it sometimes in the strangest ways.  Any way Dr. Zebra jumped on his soap box about tea tree oil and how much he hates it and people need to be aware of how dangerous it can be on their pets.  None of us were following so someone told him he needed to elaborate on his rant.  He then explained that he had a dog come in on emergency one night that was seizuring and showing many neurologic signs.  He finally figured out what was causing it and it was tea tree oil. =S
Image result for tea tree oil

A lot of people will use tea tree oil in their pets for multiple reasons from attempting to treat ear mites, to using it for a skin infection because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties and anti-inflammatory properties.  A lot of products will come in various concentrations, the ones with high concentration should NEVER be used on a pet.  As little as 7 drops of 100% tea tree oil has caused severe poisoning and death in both cats and dogs.  Products that say they have 2% or less of tea tree oil in it are generally considered to be non-toxic, but for me personally I wouldn’t use it anyway because once you see the side effects that in itself will make you leary about using it on your pets.  The Clinical signs/side effects are as follows:  Minor effects are excessive drooling and vomiting.  Moderate effects are low body temperature, weakness, ataxia(walking drunk), inability to walk.  Severe and life threatening effects are tremors, coma, increased Liver enzymes, seizures, and lastly death.  Symptoms can come on 2-12 hours after exposure.  In Australia 100% tea tree oil is categorized as a level 6 toxin, the packaging of this product in Australia requires child proof containers and cautionary labeling BUT that is not required in the USA or Canada.  There was a 10 year veterinary study that showed that 89% of pet owners who used 100% tea tree oil assumed that it was safe to use on pets.  Imagine how upset those owners were when they ended up with a horrendous vet bill because there was no labeling on the product?  I’d be pretty upset.  That’d be like giving someone an OTC drug and not labeling the effects if you take too much.  HELLO!  It’s even considered toxic to humans if you use 100% so why wouldn’t you label it with AT LEAST a cautionary label?
The oil contains chemicals called Terpenes.  These are the chemicals that help the oil fight bacteria and fungus and also the toxic agent within the oil.  These chemicals are rapidly absorbed whether you put it on the skin or ingest it.  So you put it on an animal that cleans themselves often, say a cat, and you make the risk of toxicity even higher.

Treatment.  Unfortunately there is no antitoxin out there for the terpenes, so it is going to be based off of level of toxicity.  A mild case may just need to have the skin decontaminated with a bath, inducing vomiting is NOT recommended.  To be honest the only time you should ever induce vomiting is after you call your vet and get the ok because there are products out there that just shouldn’t be brought back up and if it is it can sometimes make the situation ten times worse.  So when in doubt before you induce an animal to throw up CALL YOUR VET! Anyway, if vomiting is induced with this there is a heightened risk of aspiration pneumonia, which like I said thats an entire other can of worms you don’t want to open.  The moderate and severe levels of toxicity treatment will depend on how your vet wants to take care of it.  It really will all depend on what type of clinical signs, if the pet is having seizures then they will need anti-seizure medication, they will more than likely need IV fluids and spend a few nights in the hospital.  Moderate and Severe clinical signs aren’t something you can treat at home and hope for the best, odds with pulling that card is death unfortunately.
Image result for dog hooked up to IV

Despite how wonderful it may smell and relaxed it can make a person, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use it. I understand how there are many out there that would rather use a natural remedy to treat a skin issue compared to a man made synthetic treatment, BUT is the extremely high risk of toxicity and possibly death worth it?  I myself don’t believe so, I would never use a product that has even 1% the concentration of something so powerful that could seriously put someone/thing I love at risk of possible toxicity even if it does only require skin decontamination.  I’m not one who will play with something just to see if it really will affect my pet.  That’s just reckless and I’m not that type of person, plus knowing my luck I’d end up being the person who ends up with a horrendous vet bill and a dead pet. With any product you use on your pets you should research it or ask a vet before using it.  Just because pet stores sell it or some online pet stores that claim they are “organic” and use only pet “safe” products doesn’t mean it’s true.  Be a smart and proactive pet owner and your likely hood of having misfortunate accidents will decrease.  Stay on top of what is going on and in your pet, if you wouldn’t gamble with your own well being why would you do it to your pet?

Be smart, safe and remember when in doubt CALL YOUR VET and that goes for ANYTHING!  They are there to help you with any questions you have.  They have about 8 years of schooling and interning under their belts to be vets and your techs have from 2-4 years plus interning under theirs.  You add up the years of schooling and on the job experience and I promise you they do in fact KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT AND DOING a lot more then your breeders or pets store associates do.  Trust me I’m a trained professional 😉


References: › Our Pet Experts › Dr. Nancy Kay › Blogs › The Daily Vet


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