Tea tree oil is an essential oil from the Australian tea tree <italic>Melaleuca alternifolia</italic> and is sometimes promoted as a natural or herbal treatment for fleas in pets. Although products containing low concentrations of tea tree oil are not expected to be a problem in pets, the use of pure tea tree oil directly on the skin is potentially very serious in pets and should never be used. Exposure may cause ataxia, salivation, lethargy, coma and tremor. Dermal exposure to tea tree oil may also result in dermatitis as the oil is irritant to skin. Even a few drops of pure tea tree oil applied dermally can cause clinical signs, and deaths have occurred in pets treated with pure tea tree oil. Treatment includes dermal decontamination and supportive care.
Nicola Bates - Senior Information Scientist, Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), 2nd Floor, Godfree Court, 29-35 Long Lane, London SE1 4PL