The Benefits of Tea Tree Oil for Dogs

September 27, 2019
Tea tree oil has multiple benefits that your dog can take advantage of, learn about its unique antibacterial properties here today.

Tea tree oil has many benefits. It’s a botanical product commonly sold in health food stores and usually extracted from the leaves of the Australian tea tree, scientifically known as Melaleuca alternifolia. This tree species is endemic to Australia.

The tea tree belongs to the Myrtaceae family, also related to Eucalyptus and Myrtus. Due to its lipophilic (oily) nature, tea tree oil is easily absorbed through the skin. Just like its cousin eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil has a pungent smell.

Medicinal herbs, including this oil, are becoming more common in pet care. This is because people are increasingly looking for natural health care products for them and their families.

Benefits of tea tree oil – antimicrobial

A dog at the vet.
Tea tree gets its name from the group of sailors who used the tree. Those sailors used the tree to make a nutmeg-scented tea, hence the name. Today, using the tree to make tea is uncommon and we mainly consume it in the form of essential oil.

100 years ago, an Australian chemist named Arthur Penfold reported that this oil has 11 to 13 times more antimicrobial activity than phenol. Its powerful properties are directly linked to a long list of compounds.

The most prominent is terpinene-4-ol, which appears in high concentrations in the preparation. This compound has a powerful antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiprotozoal activity.

1. Antibacterial use

Of all the properties claimed for this oil, its antimicrobial activity is undoubtedly the one that receives the most attention. To date, scientific reports clearly show that this oil’s broad-spectrum activity includes antibacterial activities. Not all activity is properly characterized, but the data is promising.

Its antibacterial activity against antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains is well demonstrated. Such is the case of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which got the most attention so far. Scientists also showed that vaporizing this oil can inhibit the bacteria that cause respiratory diseases.

2. Oral health use of tea tree oil in dogs

A vet helping a dog breath using tea tree oil.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the costs of medical care, serious side effects and resistance to medications for clinical use. Thus, many pet owners seek alternative medicines to treat periodontal diseases.

As in humans, you can treat periodontal diseases in dogs and cats with four objectives:

  • Eliminate accumulated plaque and tartar
  • Fight the bacteria that cause infection
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Stop bleeding

Note that tea tree oil is very good for the first three tasks.

Tea tree oil has bactericidal and bacteriostatic effects against the most prevalent oral bacteria. Additionally, this oil also has antioxidant properties, which are greatly beneficial for a patient, by reducing the immunoinflammatory responses caused by bacteria.

3. Antifungal use of this oil in dogs

Malassezia pachydermatis yeast is part of the normal skin microbiota of most warm-blooded organisms. This species of yeast could be responsible for various skin diseases such as seborrheic dermatitis, especially in dogs and cats. It’s also commonly involved in, and can perpetuate, inflammatory reactions in the ear canal.

In order to find an alternative therapeutic agent, several groups of experts examined the activity of Australian tea tree oil. These researchers found that a number of M. pachydermatis are highly susceptible to this oil.

In clinical trials, the treatment of otitis externa in dogs with a 5% tea tree essential oil lotion showed effectiveness comparable to treatment with nystatin, without detecting adverse reactions.

4. Tea tree oil benefits in the treatment of dermatitis

Studies reveal that 10% tea tree oil cream is as powerful as any anti-inflammatory treatment. This effect, together with the aforementioned efficacy of working against other microorganisms associated with pruritic skin lesions, makes it a valid choice to treat localized acute and chronic pyoderma.

Safety and toxicity

A puppy scratching while another watches.

When applied correctly, and in diluted form in pets, this oil can be very effective in the treatment and prevention of topical bacterial and fungal or yeast infections. Due to its effectiveness, you can find this oil in many pet grooming products in different concentrations.

Tea tree oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce skin inflammation that causes itching and irritation. It also has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties that help prevent and treat a lot of skin problems.

Routes of administration of tea tree oil

Keep in mind that tea tree oil in dogs can be highly toxic if ingested, and so oral administration is not permitted. As for dermal toxicity, the oil can cause irritation and allergic reactions when applied undiluted. You must apply it topically and appropriately diluted. Various commercial products already contain diluted amounts.

As with any new product, always seek the advice of your veterinarian before giving it to your dog. However, you mustn’t use it on cats.

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