Tea tree oil was the magic stuff of my childhood. Got a cut? Put tea tree oil on it for healing. Got zits? Ditto. In fact, I used an entire line of tea tree oil products for acne from The Body Shop, and for the most part, they worked on that teenage skin woe. Now in this essential oils-obsessed world, I started to wonder about tea tree oil. Not just for humans, though: what about tea tree oil for dogs? Does it help dogs in any way? Is it safe to use? What type of tea tree oil can you use for a dog? In fact, what even is tea tree oil?
I realized I didn’t even know, so let’s begin with a quick explanation of what tea tree oil is.
What is tea tree oil?
My grandma still calls tea tree oil “melaleuca,” and now I know why: tea tree oil is derived from the melaleuca tree originally found in New South Wales, Australia. Tea tree oil has a number of proven benefits.
First, it contains terpinen-4-ol, a bacteria and fungus-killing compound. The oil can be used as a natural hand sanitizer — it’s been proven to kill common bacteria (so stock up on the stuff as flu season hits!). I can totally see tea tree oil as a hand sanitizer; for one thing, it has a very strong smell and can burn your skin if you apply 100% pure undiluted tea tree oil to a persistent zit too many times. (Yes, I know this from experience.) This makes one wonder just how healthy tea tree oil can be for a dog — but we will talk about that in a moment.
In addition to its bacteria-fighting properties, tea tree oil is a natural insect repellent. It’s so strong in repelling bugs that a scientific study found that it worked better than DEET! (Can you start to see how this would be useful to dogs, now?) Not only that, but applying a tea tree solution to a bug bite can soothe the area and help it heal.
But there’s more! If you (or your dog) get a cut, cleaning the affected area with tea tree oil can not only kill harmful, infection-causing bacteria, but it can also speed up the healing process.
Not convinced that this is a magical oil yet? Tea tree oil can also be used as a natural mouthwash. Move over, Listerine!
It should be clear by now that tea tree oil has the potential to help dogs in many ways. But is it safe?
Eira inspects the tea tree oil. Is it safe for dogs?
Is tea tree oil safe for dogs?
Yes — and no.
Here’s the thing. Tea tree oil is safe for dogs in small concentrations, and it’s beneficial in the things we listed above — it can help treat burns (as counterintuitive as that seems), sores, cuts, and bug bites. It’s less harmful, when applied correctly, than applying DEET or other synthetic chemicals. It’s totally worth using a tea tree oil as a base for a bug repellent for your dog, or a burn cream. You can even use it to fight yeast or fungal infections in your dog.
But you need to know the correct dilution. You must NEVER, under any circumstances, give your dog 100% tea tree oil. Dropping even one drop of undiluted oil can make your dog extremely sick. So, be sure to keep the oil completely out of reach.
If you notice your dog drooling or vomiting and you suspect she has come into contact with an entire bottle of tea tree oil, call your vet immediately. Other symptoms of tea tree oil overdose include tremors and even seizures.
In order to safely use tea tree oil for your dog, you need to dilute it. A lot. Here are a couple ways you can use it.
- Anti-itch tea tree oil bath. Dilute 1-2 drops of 100% pure tea tree oil into a quart or more of warm bathwater. Make sure your dog DOES NOT drink the water. Bathe your dog in the water every week or so to keep allergy- and bug-related itches at bay.
- Bug spray. Combine 1 drop of tea tree oil, 2 cups of water, and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Shake well. Pour into a spray bottle. Spray your dog’s coat lightly to ward of mosquitos. Make sure you do not spray her face or genital area.
You can find tea tree oil like this one for a relatively low price on Amazon.
Eira sniffs — but does not come into contact with! — the bottle of tea tree oil.
A favorite 100% diluted tea tree oil is this one from Nature’s Truth:
Remember never to apply this directly to your dog in any way. It must ALWAYS be diluted.
Always be careful to let only one drop at a time escape from the tea tree oil bottle. It should last you a very long time!
But that’s not the case for every tea tree oil product. Here are several additional tea tree oil products we love for dogs.
Doggie Dailies Pet Ear Cleaner with Tea Tree Oil
Did your dog roll around in the mud? Does she seem to have a bug trapped in her ear, or excessive ear wax and dirt? These Doggie Dailies Tea Tree Oil ear drops can clean out your dog’s ear and prevent odors and muck from building up in there. In addition to tea tree oil, the drops contain aloe vera, witch hazel, and echinacea. It’s specially formulated and diluted for routine use in dogs, so you don’t have to worry about doing that careful work yourself. The solution will not burn or sting your dog’s delicate ears.
Even better, these tea tree oil ear drops for dogs are made in the USA in a FDA-registered facility, after which they’re independently tested for safety and quality control by an independent third party.
Speak Pet Products Natural Moisturizing Tea Tree Relief Spray
Is your dog covered in mosquito bites? Is she going crazy itching or scratching at dry skin? This spray from Speak Pet Products contains small amounts of tea tree oil, along with emu oil, coconut oil, water, and aloe vera, to produce a magical skin-conditioning spray that will relieve even the nastiest itches. All without introducing harmful synthetic chemicals into your dog’s body! There’s no alcohol in this spray, either. You can use it during your dog’s bath or afterward, rubbing it into her skin and fur.
John Paul Pet Tea Tree Oil Shampoo
We used to use a tea tree oil based dog shampoo with Bella, and it made her smell fresh and light for days after bathing. She also didn’t seem affected by Oklahoma’s notorious chiggers when she was using it, which was a huge relief.
Bella plays in Missouri’s Big Sugar Creek — another chigger and mosquito-heavy place, especially in the summer. With her tea tree oil based shampoo, no bugs bothered her.
This shampoo can do a similar thing for your dog. If you live in an area with persistent bugs, using a tea tree oil shampoo like this one can keep your dog comfortable during itchy summer and spring days. Does your dog suffer from hot spots? This shampoo can help with that, too. This Paul Mitchell formula is made from the same human-grade ingredients as Paul Mitchell’s hair supplies, so you can rest easy knowing that your dog is getting quality care.
Whatever you do, make sure that you don’t overuse tea tree oil with your dog. If you combine all three tea tree products featured above at once, you might be giving your dog too much tea tree, so take it easy with the stuff! The thing that makes it toxic to dogs is the same thing that makes it toxic to bacteria: the terpinen-4-ol. That’s why it’s so important to always properly dilute tea tree oil and store it safely out of reach.
With safe and careful use, tea tree oil products can make your dog’s life more comfortable.
Laura Ojeda Melchor grew up with two beloved German shepherd dogs—Clancy and her daughter, Bella. From the time her family brought Clancy home, Laura took on the duty of pooper-scooper and potty trainer. As a teenager Laura helped her mother care for Clancy during her pregnancy. She still remembers fondly the exciting, frigid winter night when the seven special puppies were born. Laura kept the youngest puppy—Bella—and potty trained her, too. She taught Bella important commands, took her for long walks, and spent hours throwing tennis balls for her.
In November, Laura brought home a sweet new puppy, Eira Violet. Eira is half Alaskan malamute and half German shepherd, and Laura loves her deeply. She chose not to use a crate to potty train Eira and was pleasantly surprised at the results. She now has a sweet, energetic dog who always uses the potty outside, plays well with Laura’s toddler, and enjoys long family walks in beautiful Alaska. If you were to meet Eira, she’d bound up to you with a wagging tail and get you running around the yard with her in no time.