Recently, tea tree oil has gained popularity for treating skin conditions in humans. This has led to the creation of several veterinary skin care products containing small concentrations of the oil. Unfortunately, numerous pet owners believe that this potent oil is totally safe for use on pets. This simply isn’t true. Using over-the-counter tea tree oil, which contains 60-100% oil, is extremely dangerous to pets. Products used on pets should never contain more than 1% tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil contains chemicals known as terpenes. These chemicals make the oil effective against bacteria and fungi. Unfortunately, terpenes are toxic when ingested or absorbed through the skin. Since pets are more likely to groom themselves and swallow the oil, topical application is twice as likely to cause a problem for pets.
Symptoms of Tea Tree Oil Toxicity
Symptoms of tea tree oil toxicity in pets will vary depending on how much oil is ingested and/or absorbed by the skin. These symptoms generally appear two to twelve hours following exposure. Drooling and vomiting are common with the ingestion of small amounts of oil. Animals that ingest a moderate amount of tea tree oil may appear weak, have difficulty walking, or appear partially paralyzed. Severely ill pets might have life-threatening symptoms such as tremors, seizures, or coma.
There is no cure for terpene ingestion. Treatment depends on the type and level of exposure and might include skin decontamination followed by support therapy using intravenous fluids. Medication is sometimes given for severe symptoms.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure!
It’s far easier to prevent tea tree oil exposure than it is to successfully treat a pet that is experiencing symptoms from exposure. Although tea tree oil is effective at treating certain skin conditions, it is not superior to other, safer medications. Never use anything with more than 1% tea tree oil. This includes any and all products designed for use on humans.
If your pet is experiencing itchy skin caused by the cold weather, we can help! Claws N Paws Day Spa offers soothing baths using our special mineral shampoo with green tea to moisturize the skin and prevent a number of winter-time skin conditions. Please call 714-962-1005 to set up a grooming appointment today!