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Home > Dogs > Tea Tree Oil for Dogs: Our Vet Explains Risks, Toxicity Signs & Benefits

Tea Tree Oil for Dogs: Our Vet Explains Risks, Toxicity Signs & Benefits

tea tree essential oil

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Dr. Sharon Butzke Photo

Written by

Dr. Sharon Butzke

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Many of us want to use more natural products for ourselves and our fur babies. However, it is essential to remember that “natural” does not automatically mean safe!

Have you heard the saying, “The dose makes the poison?” It is an often-quoted principle of toxicology credited to a doctor and chemist, Paracelsus, who lived around 500 years ago. Tea tree oil is a perfect example of this principle.

It is highly toxic to dogs in its pure form, but products containing a very low concentration of tea tree oil may be safe for some pups if used properly and with your veterinarian’s approval. Keep reading to learn more about tea tree oil and the dangers you should be aware of before using it on your dog.


What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil is an essential oil derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, which is native to Australia. It is also sometimes referred to as melaleuca oil. It can be purchased as 100% pure oil and is also found in various personal care products. Examples include skin cleansers, acne treatments, hair products, and toothpaste.

fresh tea tree twig and essential oil on the wooden board
Image By: AmyLv, Shutterstock

What Are the Potential Benefits of Tea Tree Oil for Dogs?

Tea tree oil has a wide range of reported health benefits for people because of its helpful properties:1

  • Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Itch-relieving

We do not currently have much clinical evidence to support using tea tree oil in dogs. However, that has not stopped companies from marketing it as an active ingredient in natural pet shampoos, skin creams, ear-cleaning solutions, and insect-repellant products.

Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Dogs?

Pure, undiluted tea tree oil should never be considered safe for dogs! Just a few drops applied to their skin or licked by accident can result in severe signs of toxicity. Products containing dilute concentrations of tea tree oil (less than 1-2%) may be safe when used as directed, but please check with your veterinarian first.

medical treatment of sick husky dog in vet clinic
Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

What Are the Signs of Tea Tree Oil Toxicity in Dogs?

A retrospective study looked at 337 cases of tea tree oil toxicity in dogs reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center over a 10-year period. All cases involved exposure to 100% pure tea tree oil.

Signs of toxicity appeared in as little as 2 hours (although some dogs had a delayed response, up to 12 hours) and lasted for up to 3 days.

Reported signs included:
  • Excessive drooling
  • Subdued mental state
  • Very low energy (lethargy)
  • Weakness +/- collapse
  • Muscle tremors
  • General incoordination (ataxia)

In severe cases, tea tree oil toxicity can result in a coma and death.

Is Tea Tree Oil Toxicity Treatable?

Unfortunately, there is no specific antidote for tea tree oil toxicity. If recognized and treated quickly, however, affected dogs can make a full recovery.

If you suspect that your dog might have come into contact with or ingested tea tree oil, please contact a veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline right away.

Treatment of Tea Tree Oil Toxicity

1. Decontamination

The goal of decontamination is to limit further absorption of the tea tree oil. This may include bathing with mild dishwashing liquid (only under the direction of a veterinarian and if the dog is stable) or administration of activated charcoal to bind toxins in the gastrointestinal tract.

It is not recommended to induce vomiting in cases of tea tree oil toxicity due to the risk of aspiration.

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog sick with vet
Image By: Zontica, Shutterstock

2. Supportive Care

The goal of supportive care is to manage the clinical signs associated with toxicity. Affected dogs may need to stay in the hospital for intravenous (IV) fluid therapy, temperature monitoring and regulation, supplements to protect their liver, and medications to control muscle tremors (if necessary).



Products containing a small amount of tea tree oil (concentrations less than 1-2%) may be safe for some dogs if used according to the label directions. However, given that we do not currently have good clinical evidence to support the use of tea tree oil in pets, the risk of accidental toxicity probably outweighs any potential benefits.

If you decide that you are still interested in trying a tea tree oil product for your pup, please check with your veterinarian first and remember the following:

  • Never apply 100% pure tea tree oil to your dog
  • Make sure your pup does not lick any product containing tea tree oil off their skin (or yours)

If either of these situations happens by accident, please contact a veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately.

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Featured Image Credit: ronstik, Shutterstock

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