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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tea Tree Oil Toxicity

Today's blog was sparked by a comment a friend of mine made on Facebook (we'll call him "Bob").  A mutual friend had said that his dog had some irritation on her skin that she was scratching at.  "Bob" suggested applying tea tree oil to soothe the skin.  I had to step in and caution that this substance was actually potentially toxic to pets and shouldn't be used.

"Bob" was likely thinking of the benefits that tea tree oil has in humans.  It is known for having antifungal and antibacterial properties, as well as potentially decreasing inflammation and itchiness.  Sounds great, right?  Well, in humans that's okay.  But this is a situation where we can't make extrapolations across species, as pets can actually die from tea tree oil.  Yes, it can be fatal.

Using as little as seven drops of the 100% oil has caused severe poisonings, and using 10-20 mls (2-4 tsp) has caused death.  Symptoms can include a low body temperature, weakness, walking as if they were drunk, not being able to walk, tremors, increased liver enzymes, coma, and sometimes death.

Once again, people should not use any treatments at all unless they first talk to a vet.  While many over-the-counter medicatons are perfectly safe for pets as they are in humans, others are not.  Avoid a tragic situation and talk to your vet before doing anything to treat your pet at home.  If you do use a human drug or supplement and see potential side effects, immediately call a veterinarian, or if you're in the US you can also call the Pet Poison Helpline (, they're not advertising and I'm not associated with can also find their link in the sidebar).