Tea tree oil has been used for the prevention and treatment of intestinal parasites, asthma, bronchitis, sarcoptic mange, flea repellant and wound infections. However, tea tree oil fell out of favor when antibiotics became widely available.Therapeutic Uses of Tea Tree Oil For Pets
There is little question that tea tree oil is an effective antiseptic, active against many bacteria and fungi. It also possesses a penetrating quality that may make it particularly useful for treating infected wounds. However, it is probably not effective when taken orally as an antibiotic.
Safety Issues of Tea Tree Oil For Pets
- One of the main active ingredients is cineole, which is relatively nontoxic. Terpinen-4-ol, another ingredient, has germicidal activity. Other ingredients include various terpene hydrocarbons (pinene, terpinene, cymen) and small amounts of sesquiterpene hydrocarbons and oxytenated sesquiterpenes.
- Australian dentists frequently use tea tree oil mouthwash prior to dental procedures and as a daily preventive against periodontal disease.
- Tea tree oil also appears to possess deodorant properties, probably through suppressing odor-causing bacteria.
- In pets and people, tea tree oil has been used externally for arthritis and muscle pain, and toothaches; in pets, it’s used to repel fleas and external parasites, and for treating sarcoptic mange. Internally, the oil has been used for treating parasites, asthma, bronchitis, and sore throat.
- For people, tea tree preparations contain various percentages of tea tree oil. For treating acne, the typical strength is five to fifteen percent; for fungal infection, 70 to 100 percent is usually used. It is usually applied two to three times daily, until symptoms resolve. However, tea tree oil can be irritating to the skin, so people are encouraged to start with low concentrations.
- The best tea tree products contain oil from the alternifolia species of Melaleuca only, standardized to contain not more than 10 percent cineole (an irritant) and at least 30 percent terpinen-4-ol.
- Like other essential oils, tea tree oil can be toxic if taken orally in excessive doses. Since the maximum safe dosage has not been determined, many doctors recommend using it only topically, where it is believed to be quite safe. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established; similar precautions are probably warranted in pets.
- Do no use in cats. Small-breed dogs may also be sensitive to undiluted oil. Dilute the oil with vegetable oil (at least 50:50). Test a small patch of skin prior to use, as some pets may be sensitive.
Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!
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