Thursday, February 25, 2016

Warning: Tea Tree Oil May Be Toxic To Pets

Many people use Tea Tree Oil as a natural treatment for skin problems such as cuts, burns, rashes, yeast and bacterial infections.  The oil can be found in a variety of human products such as soaps, toothpaste and skin creams.   Tea Tree oil has a smell like camphor and is touted for its bactericidal and fungicidal properties.

In small concentrations (.1% to 1%), tea tree oil is tolerated and safe for cats and dogs.   Thus,  it is found in many pet shampoos and sprays.  But, what most pet owners don't realize is that in anything but the tiniest, most dilute dose, tea tree oil is actually toxic for pets and can result in death.  If taken orally, Tea Tree Oil is toxic but even application of 100 percent essential tea tree oil in high enough amounts, has the potential to cause liver failure and death.

Unfortunately, the oil's popularity has resulted in larger numbers of households with bottles of 100 percent tree tea oil, and accidental ingestion or improper dilutions of this highly concentrated oil can be harmful to pets.  Most pet owners that use the oil assume  it is a safer alternative than using medications.

Tea tree oil contains chemicals called terpenes that work effectively against bacteria and fungi.   However, terpenes are rapidly absorbed whether taken orally or applied on the skin. This means that if a pet owner topically applied  concentrated oil to a pet's skin, it could 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 very dangerous. Symptoms follow within a few hours after exposure.  If you have accidentally applied this to your pet, please contact your veterinarian immediately and try to wash the oil off the skin right away. 

Symptoms of toxicity vary depending on the dose of  Tea Tree Oil that the pet was exposed to.  Drooling or vomiting can occur with mild doses of the oil.  More serious symptoms include tremors, seizures,  difficulty walking, symptoms of liver failure.  If your pet displays these signs, please don't hesitate to take your pet immediately to an emergency veterinary clinic.  While tea tree oil pet products tout their benefits, the products may not contain enough to make them worthwhile or worth the risk of overexposure.  It's unfortunate that this wonderful natural supplement for humans is quite problematic for pets.