A frequently asked question…. Is tea tree oil safe for pets? Below we have some data complied to help you discover the concerned faced with using tee tree oil in Cats and Dogs.
The simple answer to this is NO, and below we illustrate why it is not safe for Cats or Dogs….
Tea tree oil (melaleuca) is an essential oil produced from the Australian tea tree plant. Tea tree oil is known for its anti fungal and antibacterial properties, and possibly for its anti-pruritic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic effects. Tea tree oil is often found in varying concentrations and high concentrations should never be used on pets. As little as 7 drops of 100% oil has resulted in severe poisoning, and applications of 10-20 mls of 100% oil have resulted in poisoning and death in both dogs and cats.
Poisonous to: Cats, Dogs
Level of toxicity: Generally moderate to severe, life-threatening
Common signs to watch for:
- Low body temperature
- Walking drunk
- Inability to walk,
- Increased liver enzymes
Upon further research….
Tea tree oil contains various types of chemicals called terpenes. These are the chemicals that make the oil effective against bacteria and fungi. They are also the toxic agent. Terpenes are rapidly absorbed into the body whether taken orally or on the skin. This means topical application of concentrated oil can result in the same toxicity as accidental oral ingestion. Given the tendency of pets to groom, especially cats, the toxicity risk of topical applications is amplified.
Symptoms of toxicity vary depending on the dose of terpenes ingested. Minor symptoms like drooling or vomiting may be found with mild doses of oil. Animals with moderate illness may appear weak, have difficulty walking, or seem partially paralyzed. Severely ill animals have life-threatening symptoms like tremors, seizures, greatly reduced level of consciousness, or coma. Symptoms follow 2 to 12 hours after exposure.
There is no antidote for terpenes. Treatment is based on the level of toxicity. Skin decontamination and support therapy with intravenous fluids is the standard treatment. Vomiting, muscle tremors, and seizures are treated with medications as needed. Treatment may be necessary for up to 72 hours after exposure. Terpenes are toxic to the liver which will also require supportive care after initial treatment is initiated.
The concentrations of tea tree oil suggested for many skin problems far exceed the concentrations found in most pet products (.1%-1%). The attraction of using a natural product as opposed to a man-made synthetic treatment may not be worth the risk. The use of dilutions of 100 percent tea tree oil should be avoided in pets. It is too easy to miscalculate the amount of oil to use. Finally, oil should be safely stored away from pet access, especially the ingenious, inquisitive cat.