Beware: Tea Tree Oil Can Be Harmful To Pets

Every so often a product will come down the line that would appear to be a panacea, but when all is said and done, it may in fact do more harm than good. The weight-loss supplement fen-phen is a good example of this, or such prescription painkillers as Celebrex and Vioxx. The resulting public outcry is often enough to force the makers of such products to pull them from the shelves, or the company may even go out of business.

Tea Tree Oil or Snake Oil?

There should be a distinction between products that are simply ineffective – Kinoki footpads, for instance – and products which can actually be detrimental to the health of the user. Tea tree oil, at this point, would seem to straddle those two lines. An essence-oil derived from the Australian tea tree, it is supposed to relieve all manner of maladies in people and in pets – specifically, it is touted as a remedy for fleas and ticks.

The Potential To Do More Harm Than Good

The ASPCA, however, has issued a statement that contains the following information:

Clinical effects that may occur following dermal exposure to significant amounts of tea tree oil include loss of coordination, muscle weakness, depression, and possibly even a severe drop in body temperature, collapse and liver damage. If the oil is ingested, potential effects include vomiting, diarrhea and, in some cases, seizures. If inhalation of the oil occurs, aspiration pneumonia is possible.”

Veterinarians would caution that tea tree oil should not be used on cats or small dogs unless it is in an extremely diluted form. The dissemination of such valuable information is a good thing, and with the power of the Internet, it is also an easy thing. The only problem is that the potentially harmful effects only became known after the pet-medicine industry had sold tons of tea tree oil under the guise of it being beneficial. In the end, we should all stick to the golden rule of business: Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer beware.


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