Lots of pet products now contain tea tree oil and as long as the concentrations are not too high, it is safe to use on both cats and dogs. However, if the concentrations are too high, then it can be a real problem but more so for cats than dogs. Before using any pet products or other, that contain tea tree oil on your pet, it's essential to check the levels of concentration or you may do more harm than good.
If a product contains small concentrations of tea tree oil which should be anything between 0.1% to 1%, you can usually use it on either a dog or a cat and this is especially true if the product has been produced by a well known and respected manufacturer. However, you should avoid buying any cheaper pet products containing tea tree oil. The other problem is that many people now use cleaning products and other household items that contain the oil in high concentrations and if a pet should accidentally ingest any of them, it could prove fatal.
The oil is extracted from leaves of a tree that's native to Australia which is very similar to a myrtle tree. However, the tree now grows in many other countries of the world including America. The oil itself boasts an odour that's not that dissimilar to camphor oil and research has shown that it has high antibacterial and anti-fungal properties which is why tea tree oil has become so popular over recent years.
In people, tea tree oil has been seen to be very effective in treating various skin conditions like acne and boils. It is also very popular when used for burns and insect bites as well as many other conditions that are commonly seen in humans. The oil is also very often used in soaps, lotions, skin creams and even toothpaste.
However, the oil is toxic both to humans and to pets if swallowed and in Australia, the oil at a 100% concentration is categorised as being a 6 toxin and which must be kept away from children and pets. A recent survey showed that many pet owners thought that using tea tree oil in high concentrations on their pets was safe and that they were totally unaware of it's dangerous toxicity to the dogs and cats.
Although the oil boasts a lot of good properties, it also contains lots of different chemicals which are called terpenes. It's these chemicals which are so effective at treating bacterial and fungal conditions but they are also highly toxic. The chemicals are very quickly absorbed by the body even if a product is used topically and in high concentrations, the oil can cause the same reaction as it would had it been ingested. Animals that constantly groom themselves, like cats, run the risk of being poisoned when they ingest an ointment, lotion or cream that contains high concentrations of the oil.
The symptoms of tea tree oil poisoning in pets varies as to the amount of the chemicals (terpenes) they have swallowed or ingested. Minor symptoms include the following:
Should a pet have swallowed or ingested more tea tree oil, the symptoms they develop are life-threatening and include the following:
Sadly, there is no antidote for terpenes poisoning in pets and therefore any treatment has to be based on the severity of the poisoning. If a pet has developed mild symptoms, just washing the skin with a pet specific product may prove an effective way of treating the condition. However, making a pet vomit is not some thing that vets recommend be done because of the dangers of aspiration this presents.
If you suspect your pet has tea tree oil poisoning, you need to get them to the vet as soon as possible so they can begin intravenous fluids and if your pet is suffering from seizures or muscle contractions, they would be able to administer the necessary drugs sooner rather than later.
The chemicals (terpenes) contained in tea tree oil affect liver function and therefore any treatment a pet receives has to support this as quickly as possible. Treatment would need to continue for several weeks following the diagnosis too.
It goes without saying that prevention is far better than cure when it comes to tea tree oil poisoning in both dogs and cats. With this said, there are some very good skin treatments which have been specifically formulated for use on pets which contain the right levels of tea tree oil (0.1% to 1%). The thing to bear in mind is that you should never dilute 100% tea tree oil and use it topically on your pet because it could cause them to develop symptoms of poisoning.
If you use any products in the home that contain tea tree oil, it is essential they be stored away in place where pets cannot get at them and accidentally ingest any which could result in them being very ill. This includes products you may use in the kitchen, bathroom and any sort of toiletries which contain high concentrations of the oil.