Tea tree oil (TTO) is a product that is used primarily topically in humans and other animals for various skin conditions such as acne, burns, insect bites, and impetigo to name a few. The use is due to TTO is known to have bactericidal and fungicidal properties. The oil has also been added to vaporizers to help treat respiratory disorders along with use in perfumes and aromatherapy.
The authors reviewed toxicological incidents resulting from the use of 100% TTO in dogs and cats reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center from January 2002 to December 2012. 106 cats (plus 337 dogs) were found to have evidence of exposure to 100% TTO. In both dogs and cats, the product was used intentionally for treatment purposes in 395 of 443 (89%) incidents. The most common route of exposure was cutaneous or a mixture of cutaneous and oral.
Cats were more likely to develop mild or major illness. Clinical signs usually developed within 2 to 12 hours and lasted up to 72 hours. The most common clinical signs in cats were increased salivation or drooling; ataxia; signs of depression, lethargy, or signs of listlessness; coma, recumbency, unresponsiveness, unconsciousness, or a semicomatose state; muscle tremors or fasciculation, hypothermia; and dermatitis, pruritis, or rash. Age and weight were the factors more significantly associated with the severity of illness. Severity was much worse for younger cats (infants or juveniles) and cats with a lighter body weight. Treatment of TTO toxicity primarily consists of stabilizing any central nervous system signs, decontamination of skin surfaces with dishwashing detergent, and supportive care with intravenous fluid therapy. No deaths were reported among the cat cases reviewed for this study. (VLT)