Tea tree oil, the oil of a plant native to Australia, is frequently used as a topical treatment for many skin and hair issues. The oil is often added to moisturizers, acne treatments, shampoos, and a variety of cleaning products and perfumes as well as treatments for skin infections. Because it is naturally derived, many assume that the oil is safe for all members of the family, including pets. But as many pet owners know, some things that are safe for us are not safe for our furry friends.
According to PetMD, 100 percent pure tea tree oil is toxic to both humans and pets if ingested. When the oil is applied to skin or fur, it is safe in small doses for pets. Products containing 0.1% to 1.0% tea tree oil are not harmful to cats or dogs.
The toxicity of tea tree oil to pets (and humans) is caused by chemicals called terpenes. Terpenes are naturally occuring and give tea tree oil its antibacterial and antifungal qualities. Unfortunately, terpenes are also toxic to cats and dogs, not just bacteria.
Symptoms of tea tree oil poisoning in pets may vary depending on the amount they have come into contact with. A safe dose applied to a pets fur may become an ingestion risk because of the animals habit of grooming itself. Symptoms typically appear between 2 and 12 hours after exposure. Lower doses cause symptoms such as drooling and vomiting in mild cases. Moderate cases may exhibit symptoms can be identified by symptoms like weakness or difficulty walking. In extreme exposure, pets may have seizures.
If your pet has been mildly exposed, washing them with dish detergent may help to remove the oils from fur and skin. If your pet experiences symptoms of poisoning from tea tree oil, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Although tea tree oil is an all natural ingredient and can help with certain skin ailments, it is important to consider the options before administering it to pets. It is perfectly normal to want to understand what goes into the treatments for our beloved furry family members, but sometimes “all natural” just isn’t the way to go. If your pet is having skin or fur problems, you should consult a veterinarian before giving any kind of treatments.
For more information on tea tree oil and its effects on household pets, see https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/ken-tudor/2014/january/tea-tree-oil-safe-pets-31282