Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Dogs?

Published Apr. 2, 2024
blonde woman holding a medium-sized black and tan dog

Brothers91/E+ via Getty Images

In This Article

What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Essential oils have become increasingly popular for humans, but when it comes to your pets, there’s a narrow margin of safety. Although these oils can be considered organic, natural, and safe for people, many of them are harmful or even toxic to both dogs and cats.

But what about tea tree oil? Is tea tree oil safe for dogs? Unfortunately, this essential oil is not safe for dogs, and using tea tree oil will not kill fleas as some myths claim. Here’s what to know about tea tree oil and dogs.

What Is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is an essential oil that comes from the Australian tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia). It’s used in varying concentrations for its antibacterial and antifungal properties and for its possible anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and antiparasitic effects in people.

Tea tree oil can be found in human products, such as shampoo, creams, lotion, insect and parasite repellents and preventions, conditioner, and many other products made to help our skin, hair, and nails. Tea tree oil should only be used topically on the skin or as an oil—never taken orally due to potential toxicity in all species, including humans.

Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Dogs?

Pure tea tree oil is not safe for dogs. In fact, as little as seven drops of 100% tea tree oil has caused poisoning in dogs. Amounts as little as 10–20 milliliters have caused death in dogs and cats, according to the Pet Poison Helpline.

However, some veterinary products do contain tea tree oil in small (and safe!) amounts, such as shampoo/conditioners, ear wash, grooming wipes, and spot-on oils. Products containing tea tree oil concentrations less than 1–2% are generally considered non-toxic for dogs—if the product is used exactly as the label instructs.

Pet parents must ensure there’s a safe amount of tea tree oil in any product used for dogs. They must also monitor their dog after using the product, so their pup doesn’t lick the product off their skin.

Products containing tea tree oil concentrations less than 1–2% are generally considered non-toxic for dogs—if the product is used exactly as the label instructs.

Never use tea tree oil, or any essential oil, for fleas. Instead, use veterinary-recommended flea and tick preventatives.

Do not put pure tea tree oil, or any essential oil, directly on your dog’s skin. Additionally, dogs should never be in the same room as an essential oil diffuser, because inhaling these oils is equally unsafe for them.

Symptoms of Tea Tree Oil Toxicity in Dogs

One study on 336 dogs and 106 cats exposed to varying amounts of 100% tea tree oil found that all pets displayed neurologic symptoms to varying degrees. Symptoms began within two hours of exposure and lasted up to three days.

Symptoms of tea tree oil toxicity in dogs are:

If your dog is exposed to any amount of tea tree oil, speak to your veterinarian, take your dog to the clinic, or consult the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661) as soon as possible.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Tea Tree Oil Toxicity in Dogs

Tea tree oil toxicity in dogs is mainly diagnosed when the pet parent is aware that their pet was exposed to the essential oil. Essential oil toxicity is best treated as soon as possible, so taking your dog to the vet immediately is key to diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Your veterinarian will ask questions about any possible or suspected exposure methods, such as on the skin, by mouth, or through inhalation.

Tea tree oil is metabolized by the liver. Your veterinarian can assess your dog’s liver with blood work and an abdominal ultrasound, if necessary. If it’s available, bring the tea tree oil packaging with you to the vet’s office so they can see the concentration and the other ingredients.

Treating Tea Tree Oil Toxicity in Dogs

Tea tree oil and dogs do not mix, and treatment should begin as soon as possible if your pet was exposed.

If your dog had topical tea tree oil exposure, bathing them in a dishwashing liquid is advised. This removes any toxins that are still being absorbed through the skin. Always contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Hotline before washing tea tree oil off your dog. They may recommend that your dog seek emergency veterinary attention before bathing if they’re already displaying signs of tea tree oil toxicity.

Your veterinarian will then treat the symptoms your dog is displaying. Hypothermia is treated by providing heat sources, such as heating pads. Intravenous fluids will be given as supportive care and to flush toxins out of the body and the internal organs, including the liver and kidneys.

Medications can be given to help with tremors or seizures. Liver protectant medications such as SAMe and milk thistle can be started once the dog is stable enough to take oral medications. Your veterinarian may reommend Denamarin® to give your dog at home.

Antibiotics and oxygen therapy can be used to help dogs with inhalation pneumonia.

If your dog has ingested tea tree oil orally, inducing vomiting is not recommended if they’re showing neurological signs of toxicity—this can cause aspiration pneumonia. Instead, your vet will use activated charcoal to help prevent further absorption.

There is no scientific evidence that supports using tea tree oil on dogs. If you suspect your dog has gotten into tea tree oil or that it’s been applied to your dog’s skin, call your veterinarian right away for guidance.

Tea Tree Oil and Dogs FAQs

Will tea tree oil kill fleas?

Tea tree oil will not effectively kill fleas on your dog. Traditional flea preventions are strictly regulated for their safety, whereas essential oils are not. It is never advised to use tea tree oil to prevent or kill fleas on dogs, as it could cause them a significant toxicity.

Can I wash tea tree oil off my dog?

Yes, using degreasing dishwashing detergents (such as Dawn® soap) with warm water can remove tea tree oil from your dog’s skin. Make sure you lather and rinse your dog well to get all the residue off, and always contact your veterinarian before bathing.

Can you clean a dog’s ears with tea tree oil?

Full-strength, pure 100% tea tree oil should never be applied to a dog’s ears or skin. Ear cleaning solutions with tea tree oil in them should never be used unless under the direction of your veterinarian. Always make sure you’re cleaning your dog’s ears with a veterinary-approved product.

Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri Morrison was born and raised and currently resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She went to University of Florida for her...

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health