Tea Tree Oil Diffusers Are Toxic to Dogs

A popular essential oil used in aromatherapy, tea tree oil is toxic to dogs when ingested. Here's why you must use plenty of caution when using essential oils for pets.

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While some essential oils can benefit dogs, others are extremely dangerous – especially when used in concentrated forms. Tea tree oil demands extra caution around dogs, cats and small children. Although exposure to any essential oil is generally most concentrated when it directly contacts skin, tea tree oil diffusers and liquid potpourri present specific health concerns to dogs. These items release essential oils like tea tree continually into the air, risking exposure by inhalation.

So Tea Tree Oil is Completely Dangerous to Dogs?

Some dogs are safely treated topically with tea tree oil for skin conditions. The toxin found in tea tree oil is metabolized by the liver, making diluted tea tree oil safe for topical use on most dogs – but always consult your veterinarian before exposing your dog to it. Cats, on the other hand, have less of the liver enzyme necessary to metabolizing tea tree and should never be exposed to the oil in any form. (Birds are especially sensitive and should never be exposed to essential oils; these toxic effects extendeven to fish, reptiles and rodents.)

According to a recent report published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, there have been numerous instances of tea tree oil toxicity in dogs and cats from a decade of data collected from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

tea tree essential oil
Getty Images / Amy_Lv

Owners should always exercise caution when using 100 percent essential oils either on themselves or in the home. Essential oils should never be left out or open when there are pets in the house. If used on dogs topically, essential oils must be diluted to be safe.

If you choose to diffuse essential oils with dogs in the house, do so only for short periods of time and in a room where the dogs do not have direct exposure. Be sure to keep the oils and diffusers out of reach even when they’re not in use. Open windows when you’re done and take your dog outside frequently during and after diffusing tea tree oil. Never leave your dog in the house unattended with an essential oil diffuser on. Different dogs may have different reactions to inhaling any concentrated oil. Monitor your dog closely.

Topical Tea Tree Oil Uses for Dogs

Because tea tree oil is effective in treating certain human skin conditions, some dog owners have used it to treat similar maladies in their dogs. Skin allergies and hot spots are two of the more common conditions, as are ear infections and yeast infections. Tea tree oil shampoo for dogs is believed to provide a variety of benefits for coat and skin health, as well.

However, you should never apply essential oils to your dog without the advice and direction of your veterinarian, and be sure to inform your veterinarian of any other pets living in your home. It’s important to purchase a high quality essential oil and not look for a bargain, which will likely be an inferior (and perhaps dangerous) product.

Signs of essential-oil poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, depression, lethargy, weakness, wobbliness, tremors and abnormal behavior. There’s a direct correlation between the severity of illness and the dog’s weight and age. The smaller and younger a dog is, the sicker they are likely to get.The same applies to dogs with liver disease.

tee tree plant
Getty Images / Dewin’ Indew

Essential Oils Most Toxic to Dogs

  • Tea tree oil
  • Citrus
  • Oil of cinnamon
  • Peppermint
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Sweet birch
  • Ylang ylang
  • Wintergreen
  • Pine oils

If you suspect that your dog may have ingested or inhaled a toxic essential oil, promptly call your veterinarian, a veterinary emergency room or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

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