Tea tree oil poisoning in dogs

Updated April 17, 2017

Tea tree oil is a natural oil, which may have health benefits for humans but can be deadly for dogs. According to the ASPCA, weakness, depression and liver damage are all possible with over exposure to tea tree oil in dogs. Tea tree oil is easily absorbed through a dog's skin and in high doses it interrupts the normal processes of the nervous system, according to an article in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation. Toxic levels of tea tree oil occurs with both long and short term exposure, so it is important to discuss any use of herbal health treatments with your dog's veterinarian.

What is Tee Tree Oil

Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil, comes from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia in Australia. Humans use this oil for cosmetic benefits, including to alleviate acne, eczema, warts, burns and insect bites. Tea tree oil is a common ingredient in soaps and shampoos, including preparations for children and infants.

Medical Uses for Dogs

Typical uses of tea tree oil in treatments for dogs include flea control and skin infections. Dog owners who are aware of the human benefits of tea tree oil might be tempted to use the oil on their dogs. Although some benefits have been found with small amounts of tea tree oil, the level of toxicity varies greatly from one animal to the next and can be difficult to determine until the dog is too ill to recover.

Possible Negative Effects

Skin irritation can occur from tea tree oil on the dog's skin. Dogs absorb the oil through their skin. It is not possible to predict intolerance to the oil. Ingestion of the oil presents the great danger for dogs; they lick or bite the area that has been treated with oil, and ingest it. Ingested tea tree oil in dogs leads to severe nervous system problems.

Signs of Poisoning

Possible signs of tea tree oil poisoning in a dog include difficulty standing or walking. Gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea can also occur in dogs that have been over exposed to tea tree oil either through absorption or ingestion. Other signs of poisoning include depression, seizures and poor motor control. A dog experiencing any of these symptoms needs to be seen by a veterinarian.

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About the Author

Lindsay Zortman has worked as a writer since 2001. Her work focuses on topics about cancer, children, chemical dependency, real estate, finance, family issues and other health-related topics. She is a featured writer with the National Brain Tumor Foundation. Zortman is a nationally certified counselor and holds a Master of Arts in counseling from the University of South Dakota.