When it comes to holistic remedies, tea tree oil is an all-star. It is known for its powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties. From acne to cuts, tea tree oil can treat a variety of pesky skin conditions.1
Tea tree oil can also kill hair lice. But does tea tree oil kill fleas? Can it help your cat or dog? In short, yes. Tea tree oil has a flea-repelling chemical called d-limonene. But using tea tree oil incorrectly or in excess can be extremely toxic for an animal, especially cats. If you’re not careful, your pet’s life will be in danger. Here’s what you need to know.
Yes, If Tea Tree Oil Is Used In Low Concentrations
You should never let your pets ingest tea tree oil. Even when applied topically, tea tree oil is safe for pets at very low concentrations like 0.1 to 1 percent. Dogs may tolerate it a tad better than cats; a 2004 German study found that a 10 percent tea tree oil cream can treat dermatitis in dogs without any negative effects.2
Some stores may even sell anti-flea products with tea tree oil. Unfortunately, this isn’t foolproof. It’s possible for adverse effects to develop even after following the directions on the package.3
With that said, always talk to your vet first. She can recommend the best products or remedies for your pet. If she gives you the OK, use a low concentration of tea tree oil. Even then, it should still be diluted in a lot of water. Never use 100 percent tea tree oil on dogs or cats.
In Higher Doses, It Has These 5 Side Effects
Toxicity is a result of misuse. At high doses, tea tree oil will cause these 5 side effects.
1. Central Nervous System Depression
In both humans and animals, tea tree oil poisoning causes depression of the central nervous system. Common symptoms include confusion, disorientation, and hallucination. In cats, toxicity is linked to nervousness and trembling.
2. Liver Damage
Tea tree oil toxicity has been shown to elevate liver enzyme levels in cats. This is because the active compounds in tea tree oil called terpenes, making up roughly 50 to 60 percent of the oil, are mostly metabolized in the liver, making liver damage more likely.
3. Skin Irritation
Terpenes are easily absorbed by the skin. High levels will cause irritation, redness, and inflammation. The risk is even greater if there cuts or nicks on the skin.4
In dogs, vomiting is a common symptom of toxicity.5 It can also affect cats, who are more likely to groom themselves and ingest the oil. Keep this in mind when applying products with tea tree oil.
5. Hypersalivation Or Excessive Drooling
If your pet is hypersalivating, pay attention. It’s a tell-tale sign of poisoning. This symptom is more common in cats but may be seen in dogs as well.6
Understandably, you want to get rid of fleas at the soonest, but before using essential oils, talk to your vet. A natural remedy might put your furry friend at risk! A less risky home remedy for fleas is diatomaceous earth. Also remember, tea tree oil isn’t 100 percent safe for humans, either. Direct contact with concentrated oils can be dangerous. Use a pair of gloves.
|↑1||Tea Tree Oil. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|
|↑2||Reichling, J., J. Fitzi, K. Hellmann, T. Wegener, S. Bucher, and R. Saller. “Topical tea tree oil effective in canine localised pruritic dermatitis–a multi-centre randomised double-blind controlled clinical trial in the veterinary practice.” DTW. Deutsche tierarztliche Wochenschrift 111, no. 10 (2004): 408-414.|
|↑3, ↑5, ↑6||Genovese, Allison G., Mary Kay McLean, and Safdar A. Khan. “Adverse reactions from essential oil‐containing natural flea products exempted from Environmental Protection Agency regulations in dogs and cats.” Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care 22, no. 4 (2012): 470-475.|
|↑4||Bischoff, K., and Fessesswork Guale. “Australian tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil poisoning in three purebred cats.” Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 10, no. 2 (1998): 208-210.|