Tea tree oil and dogs is a popular combination. This oil is a leaf extract that is often used as a natural, topical flea treatment. People also use it for dogs’ ears or yeast infections in their pups.
However, there is very little evidence for the toxicity of tea tree oil on fleas. And, there are no long term studies on the safety of this product for our pups.
So, it is tough to say whether this supplement is safe for our pets.
Let’s take a closer look at the evidence that is out there to help you make an informed decision.
What is Tea Tree Oil for Dogs?
Tea tree oil (TTO) is an extract from the leaf of the tea tree.
Despite its name, the tea tree isn’t actually used to make green or black tea. Instead, it gets its name from the group of sailors that first found the tree.
These sailors used the tree to make a nutmeg-scented tea, and then gave the tree its name.
Today, using the tree to make tea is uncommon. But the tea tree is used for its oil.
What are its Uses?
This oil is extracted from the leaves of the plant, and is used as a natural treatment for a number of disorders.
It is advertised to treat coughing when added to bath water. Some even say that it can treat everything from acne to toothaches to sore throats.
But what about for our dogs?
It is used by some owners in an attempt to treat fleas, yeast and fungal infections.
But although there is some evidence it helps with some pests, we can’t be sure at this point that it’s safe. We will look at this in a little more detail later.
Tea Tree Oil for Dogs: Quick Links
Follow the links below to jump to more information about these common questions.
- Is tea tree oil good for dogs?
- Is tea tree oil safe for dogs?
- Using tea tree oil to treat fleas
- Tea tree oil for dogs’ skin
- Using tea tree oil for dogs’ ears
- Alternatives to TTO for dogs
Is Tea Tree Oil Good for Dogs?
This oil is mostly advertised to treat fleas in dogs. It is said to be able to both kill current fleas and prevent new ones from infecting your canine.
Some people use tea tree oil for dogs ears or even yeast infections. This is because tea tree oil might be able to kill bacteria and fungus.
And it can perhaps also reduce allergic reactions, so some use tea tree oil for dogs skin.
If these claims are true, then this oil could be a great natural remedy for certain issues in dogs.
Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Dogs
One of the most important questions to answer before using this new product is: is tea tree oil safe for dogs? Whether or not this product is safe for dogs depends on a lot of factors.
Firstly, it is important to note that there has been no long-term study done regarding the safety of this oil for pups. Because of this, we can’t really say for sure whether it is safe or not.
There have, however, been reported deaths attributed to tea tree oil in a number of other species.
For example, three purebred cats were reported by one vet to have died after their owner attempted to treat their flea infestations with tea tree oil.
But it’s hard to say if this means it could be dangerous to dogs too.
Using Tea Tree Oil for Dogs Safely
In order to be used safely, tea tree oil must be diluted. This is difficult to do at home due to the extremely small amounts needed.
Plus oil naturally separates from water. So getting the oil evenly spread throughout the formula can be difficult.
Because of this, many commercial oils are already diluted. But unlike prescription treatments, tea tree oil is not regulated.
You really have no idea what you’re getting when you buy it. Some products will be more diluted than others.
Since tea tree oil is naturally produced, the exact composition of the oil can change dramatically from region to region and even tree to tree.
Some tea tree oil could be safe, while other variations could be dangerous.
Tea tree oil also does not have to pass any safety standards.
So you really don’t know if the particular variant of tea tree oil that you purchase is even safe. This leads to the question: is tea tree oil toxic to dogs?
Dog Tea Tree Oil Toxicity
So, although safety is debatable – is tea tree oil toxic to dogs? Tea tree oil IS toxic if ingested in moderate amounts.
If you’ve ever had a dog, you know that they have a tendency to lick their fur in order to groom themselves. This can lead to ingestion quite easily, especially when the difficulty of proper dilution is thrown in.
It is simply too hard to get the particular amount of tea tree oil necessary to be used safely and effectively.
This can be made even more difficult due to all the subtle variants between certain types of tea tree oil for dogs.
TTO is just too difficult and variable to be safely used on any animal by someone who has not been properly trained.
Although there is limited evidence on tea tree oil for dogs, one 2014 study looked at the effects of this oil on 337 dogs and 106 cats over 10 years.
It found that in all dogs, signs of central nervous system depression, paresis, ataxia, and tremors began to show within three hours. These symptoms of toxicosis lasted up to three days.
Using Tea Tree Oil for Fleas on Dogs
Some pet owners have begun to use this oil as a natural, topical flea treatment. Fleas are incredibly uncomfortable for our pets. They’re itchy and can even cause sores.
Plus, they are very hard to get rid of. They live on couches and in carpets, on sheets and in dog beds.
There are a lot of great claims about tea tree oil for fleas on dogs. But how effective is it really?
What Studies Say
There is very limited evidence describing the toxicity of tea tree oil against fleas. One study investigated which natural oil was most effective against mange mites in pigs.
Tea tree oil was discovered to be one of the most effective. But this study was performed on pigs, not dogs. And the toxicity of mange mites was tested, not fleas.
Plus only natural oils were tested, so we really don’t know how tea tree oil stacks up against modern, synthetic treatments.
Another study reviewed the current evidence involving the use of tea tree oil against all sorts of insects.
This review came to the conclusion that “limited ecotoxicity data available indicate that TTO is toxic to some insect species but more studies are required.”
In other words, there is not yet enough evidence available to claim whether tea tree oil is really effective or not.
Despite this, tea tree oil is advertised commercially to get rid of fleas.
For example, there is one flea repellent formulation that is just tea tree oil mixed with water.
Tea tree oil is also used by various small-scale, organic farms to treat fleas and ticks in livestock.
Using Tea Tree Oil for Dogs’ Ears
As we mentioned earlier, tea tree oil is also a popular treatment for dog ear infections. Both for bacterial and yeast infections.
A 2018 study looked at the impact of tea tree oil solutions on ear infections in 28 dogs.
This study suggested that tea tree essential oil solution helped to reduce clinical signs of bacterial and yeast ear infections in all dogs tested.
However, they also noted that more studies need to take place, especially for the diffusion properties of tea tree oil.
Using Tea Tree Oil for Dogs’ Skin
Another reason that many people use tea tree oil on their dogs is to aid with allergic reactions on dog skin.
However, it is important to remember how dangerous pure tea tree oil can be. Not only can the oil irritate doggy skin, it can also cause more serious clinical symptoms.
A 2012 study found that a phytotherapeutic topical preparation which included tea tree oil was useful in treating dermatitis in dogs.
Other studies have suggested that tea tree oil can help to reduce histamine-induced skin inflammation in humans. But, this doesn’t necessarily transfer to dogs.
So, unfortunately, more evidence is required. Again, if your dog is experiencing allergies, or skin problems, you should speak to your vet for the best solution.
Tea Tree Oil Shampoo for Dogs
It is possible to buy tea tree oil shampoo for dogs. This is often advertised to help dogs that suffer from skin problems, such as those looked at in the previous section.
However, as we have seen, there is a lack of evidence about the impact of tea tree oil on dog skin.
Some pups may be fine with a tea tree oil shampoo, especially when the oil is present in very small amounts. But it could irritate your dog’s skin further.
Plus, it could be outright dangerous if not diluted properly.
If you’re unsure about the safest and most suitable shampoo for your dog, speak to your vet.
Tea Tree Oil Diffuser for Dogs
A tea tree oil diffuser will take concentrated tea tree oil and diffuse it around your room. They are popularly used in aromatherapy and spas.
But, is it safe for dogs?
As these diffusers use concentrated tea tree oil, they can be very dangerous for our pups.
In fact concentrated tea tree oil is listed as one of the main culprits of dog toxicity on the pet poison helpline.
Alternatives to Tea Tree Oil for Dogs
If you were looking at tea tree oil as a potential solution for one of the problems we’ve looked at today, don’t worry. There are other, safer options out there for you.
Here are a few articles that you should take a look at.
- Homemade dog shampoo
- Dog food for sensitive skin
- How to clean dogs’ ears
Tea Tree Oil for Dogs
Tea tree oil has been shown to be effective against some insects. However, no test has been done regarding its effective use against fleas or ticks.
Despite this, tea tree oil has grown in popularity over the years as a treatment. But just because something is popular does not necessarily mean it is safe.
It is extremely important to only use tea tree oil under the supervision of a veterinarian.
If your vet decides that tea tree oil is a good choice for your pooch, they can give you specific instructions on its use.
Many animals require a different formulation of tea tree oil to be used safely. Your vet can also give you clear direction on which tea tree oil to buy and the exact dilution needed.
Giving Tea Tree Oil to your Dog
Have you tried giving your dog tea tree oil? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
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References and Further Reading
- Magi, E. ‘Effects of Different Plant Products Against Pig Mange Mites’, Journal of the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Brno, Czech Republic (2005)
- Hammer, K. A. ‘A Review of the Toxicity of Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil’, Food and Chemical Toxicology (2006)
- Fitzjarrell, E. ‘Method and Formulation for Eliminating Fleas in Animals’, US Grants (1993)
- Lans, C. ‘Medical Plant Treatments for Fleas and Ear Problems of Cats and Dogs in British Columbia, Canada’, Parasitology Research (2008)
- Bischoff, K. ‘Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) Oil Poisoning in Three Purebred Cats’, Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation (1998)
- Khan, S. (et al), ‘Concentrated Tea Tree Oil Toxicosis in Dogs and Cats: 443 Cases (2002 – 2012)’, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (2014)
- Neves, R. ‘In Vitro and In Vivo Efficacy of Tea Tree Essential Oil for Bacterial and Yeast Ear Infections in Dogs’, Small Animal Diseases (2018)
- Bates, N. ‘Tea Tree Oil Exposure in Cats and Dogs’, The Veterinary Nurse (2018)
- Goode, P. (et al), ‘Preventing Tick Attachment to Dogs Using Essential Oils’, Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases (2018)
- Fitzi, J. (et al), ‘Phytotherapy of Chronic Dermatitis and Pruritus of Dogs with a Topical Preparation Containing Tea Tree Oil’, Schweizer Archiv fur TierHeilkunde (2002)
- Koh, K. (et al), ‘Tea Tree Oil Reduces Histamine-Induced Skin Inflammation’, British Journal of Dermatology (2002)
- Marshall, J. ‘Essential Oils and Dogs’, Pet Poison Helpline