Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Pets? ©

Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia or Melaleuca leucadendron oil) has become quite common in households, either in its pure form or in products. It offers a host of antimicrobial benefits (primarily due to Terpunen-4-ol, alpha-terpineol and linalool constituants), which has made it popular for everything from minor injuries to acne.

The popularity of Tea Tree Oil for human use has naturally extended to pets. It can be found in everything from pet shampoo to flea treatments. This isn’t because it has unique abilities. It’s simply a popular essential oil for humans which they will recognize, associate with something wonderful, and purchase. However, the safety of Melaleuca oil for pets continues to be debated.

Melaleuca oil is quite a powerful essential oil so it doesn’t require much to be effective. The general consensus is that most animals tolerate heavily diluted Tea Tree Oil, be that dilution in a base oil or a drop in a large bottle of shampoo. Limited use of heavily diluted Tea Tree Oil shouldn’t be a problem for most dogs, ferrets, horses and fish, but there is a higher risk if the treatment is somewhere the animal can lick. It isn’t recommended for use on rabbits or cats.

Generally speaking, the smaller the pet is, the more chance there is of any essential oil reaching toxic levels. Animals with preexisting conditions that are irritated or triggered by Tea Tree Oil will obviously react badly to its use in any dose.

Most reports of Tea Tree Oil toxicity have been under the following circumstances:Melaleuca alternifolia Tea Tree Oil Safe for Pets

  • Small dogs
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Undiluted use
  • Overuse
  • Preexisting conditions
  • Ingested (contains cyclic terpenes)

Symptoms of Melaleuca oil toxicity include:

  • Muscle Tremors
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Depression or behavioral disorders

Symptoms may be apparent immediately, but more likely two to eight hours after use.  See a veterinarian if your pet has any of these symptoms.

If you decide to use Tea Tree Oil:

  • Purchase formulations from reputable sources, preferably with the percentage of Melaleuca oil stated on the bottle.
  • We suggest that you not use Tea Tree Oil on cats due to their high degree of sensitivity to essential oils.
  • Never use undiluted essential oils on any animal.
  • Avoid eyes and other sensitive areas.

There are many other essential oils for pets that offer the same benefits with less risk, so you may want to play it safe and explore those instead. Niaouli (Melaleuca viridiflora) is a relative of Melaleuca alternifolia with similar properties in a milder form. You can also try Sweet Marjoram (Origanum marjorana), Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum), Grapefruit seed extract, Ravensare (Ravensare armomatica) or Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), to name a few. Hot spots with excessive licking can be safely treated with Calcium Montmorillonite Clay.

For aquarium use, most fish-keepers use a Tea Tree product called Melafix to treat external injuries and infections (primarily gram-positive bacterium). You can make your own diluted Tea Tree Oil treatment using a dispersant, but it still won’t be dispersed as effectively as Melafix due to a process the manufacturer uses to effectively remove the oil from Melafix. I’ve made my own formula and it appeared to work, but a refined product would be more effective and less messy. Note that there are conflicting reports of Tea Tree Oil tolerance levels in Labyrinth fish.

Blog Comment - Tea Tree Oil Safe for PetsWhat have your experiences been using Tea Tree Oil products for pets?

Sources:

Villar D, Knight MJ, Hansen SR, Buck WB. Toxicity of melaleuca oil and related essential oils applied topically on dogs and cats. 1994.
C. F. Carson, K. A. Hammer, T. V. Riley. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties. 2006.
Wynn, Susan G. DVM.  Emerging Therapies: Using Herbs and Nutraceuticals for Small Animals. American Animal Hospital Assn. 1999.
Bell, Kristen Leigh. Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with AnimalsHolistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols

You may also be interested in reading:
Natural, Organic Flea Treatment and Control (With Herbal Rinse Recipe)
Natural Tick Treatments for Dogs (With Anti-Lyme’s Bite Recipe)
Natural First Aid for Pets – External Applications of Montmorillonite Clay

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33 Responses to “Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Pets? ©”

  1. Loraine says:

    You settled an argument between my husband & I and I win. You’re right. He thought if it’s natural and safe for humans it must be ok. OH HONEY…… ;-)

  2. I’d rather be safe and avoid potential problems with maleuka oil. I’ve used products containing it before but I’m a groom and I don’t know every client’s sensitivity. Thanks for the heads up on behalf of groomers everywhere!!

  3. Shawna says:

    I think you’re right and a tiny bit in something is probably fine for most dogs.

  4. Jarod says:

    I think I’ve had dog shampoo with tea tree oil in it but not now. I’m a little worried about what our groomer uses so I’ll have to ask him.

  5. Tim says:

    I used tea tree oil on my dog last night because he had an infected area he was constantly licking. I thought the remedy would stop the red area. He is sick this morning. Trembling and weak rear legs though he took a walk and was able to urinate and dump. I would not ever use it again though. I will take him to the vet once it opens in a couple of hours.

  6. Thanks for giving us the information about tea tree oil…I was about to use it on my cat!

  7. Jiffy says:

    There are way too many greedy idiots out there selling tea tree oil products for pets! They obviously don’t know what they’re doing but they go ahead and exploit anyway. If they want to make money from pet remedies they should at least hire an expert.

  8. Marjorie says:

    I’ve used it on my dog’s hot spots to stop him from licking. He lick and he has lack of coordination. What a have to do ? I am scare.

  9. Tina Gates says:

    We have a small mixed breed dog that started shaking like a leaf when we used tea tree shampoo. At first I thought he was cold but he sort of collapsed and laid there panting. I got him to the vet and she said he might have had an allergic reaction.

  10. Shichon Mom says:

    I have been regularly bathing my little white bichon/shih tzu with Vermont Soapworks Pet Shampoo that has tea tree oil in it, but towards the end of the list of ingredients. There have been no bad effects from it. He is little. He was 5 lbs when I got him and 15 lbs now. I must say that it seems to repel fleas so that we have not had to use pesticides.
    Tte only scary allergic reaction he has had was NOT from this shampoo, but from his vaccinations.
    I just read on another site: http://blog.petmeds.com/ask-the-vet/tea-tree-oil-benefits-for-dogs/#.T_0rVvX4LB8,
    a vet says: “Try diluted version once. IF your dog reacts, then consider other natural shampoos.”

    • Denise says:

      What do I dilute with? My husband uses mineral oil for several things, would that be a good dilutant? Our bulldog has some BAD hotspots this summer, and no remedy that the vet has prescribed has helped. I thought maybe tee tree oil USING A Q-tip, but obvoulsy don’t want to make him sick. He weighs about 65 pounds, so he is not a small dog…. Any recommendations?

  11. Ella says:

    Thank you for your honesty about tea tree oil because I’ve heard answers across the board. I decided a long time ago not to risk it but its good to know for sure.

  12. Tina Blake says:

    I’ve used tea tree oil treatments for my dog’s ear infections without problems. I’d hate to give it up because it’s one of the few natural solutions that work.

  13. Veronica says:

    I’ve used some tea tree under a bandage on my dog before with no problems but now I’m more concerned about him getting the bandage off. I think I’ll find something else to use instead.

  14. Anna G. says:

    Hi, thanks for clearing this up, I was worried about trying it on my cat.

  15. René, Indiana says:

    Cats are extremely allergic to tea tree oil!!! My friend used it on his cat for a few days and she actually died a horrible death!!!

  16. Julia Stevens says:

    It’s true that we take safety of natural things for granted. Thanks for reminding me that what is safe for me isn’t always safe for my fur family.

  17. Cynthia says:

    I use a shampoo and conditioner on my dogs that has tea tree oil in it because they have skin conditions. It seems to help them and I don’t want to stop, but I’ll keep a closer eye on the tea tree oil products I buy from now on.

  18. Amélie says:

    Why risk it? If there’s any risk I avoid it and find another way.

  19. T. Blaney says:

    I’ve used it on my dog’s hot spots to stop him from licking. He doesn’t lick it because it tastes bad.

  20. Heather says:

    OMG!!! I’ve been using tea tree oil on my tomcat when he gets in fights (he’s a stray barn cat). I guess I won’t anymore. I feel horrible!!!

  21. Sabrina says:

    @Kelvin: I have used ear drops with tea tree oil on my st. bernard with no problem but it sounds like we should be more careful with it. I hope that helps.

  22. jenine says:

    i was wondering about using tea tree on my cat…glad I found this first. thank you!

  23. Rodney says:

    So relieved to have found your website and this information. I couldn’t get a straight answer from my Veterinarian.

  24. Jenna says:

    I use tea tree oil on my dog on a regular basis without a problem but I’m glad you posted this information just in case.

  25. Kelvin says:

    Just what I was looking for. I was looking at some dog ear drops online and researching the ingredients. Appreciate it, thanks.

  26. Sheila Beck says:

    Our miniature poodle started trembling violently an hour or so after I gave her a bath with tea tree oil shampoo. Never again will tea tree oil get anywhere near a dog of mine.

  27. Em says:

    We use tea tree oil sparingly in our practice for the reasons you have given here. Patients may think that natural remedies are safe and gentle by default but it isn’t the case at all. Thank you for providing accurate information to help pet owners & veterinarians make safe decisions.

  28. Chris says:

    I believe I’ll stay away from tea tree oil just in case. Like you said, there are other essential oils for pets that do the same thing. It’s amazing how people can be manipulated isn’t it? Just because tea tree oil is great for people we think it must be fantastic for the dog.

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