To Tea Tree or NOT to Tea Tree?
For many people in today’s world, they are constantly looking for different ways to treat their pets ailments and keep them in general good health. This can range for diet selections to home remedies and unfortunately can include some old wives’ tales or incomplete/improper information. I’m not saying they aren’t useful for some conditions, but they should be discussed with your veterinarian and if safer therapies exist they should be used first. Here in Kingston (like in many other parts of the world), one of the biggest concerns many pet owners have with their pets is the wicked flea!
These nasty little bugs can cause a multitude of diseases that many people may not see including tapeworms, Bartonellosis, and anemia. More often though the biggest problem bothering everyone is itching and skin problems. I can only recommend that you talk to your veterinarian about the best way to handle individual cases of flea problems. I DO want to keep you from making your pet sick however!
Many people have found information on the internet about using tea tree oil as a natural remedy for flea control. Firstly, there is no proven research behind this to prove any efficacy. And more importantly, it can be toxic to your cat or dog if used (cats do appear to be more sensitive) improperly. Full strength tea tree oil is sometimes mistakenly applied to the skin of the pet. Sometimes it is also mistakenly fed to an animal. When these types of exposures occur, a pet will begin to show signs of toxicity within a few hours. Most commonly this will include weakness, muscle tremors (twitching), depression, ataxia (walking like they are drunk), and development of hypothermia. Oral ingestion can lead to liver damage and electrolyte disturbances. I have personally seen signs disappear in adult dogs in 24 hours but when used in puppies or kittens, they will often be more serious and may require veterinary care. This was a kitten that I saw once that was so lethargic and depressed from a bath with tea tree oil that she almost died due to hypoglycemia because she was too lethargic to be able to eat.
While there is no way to reverse the effects or control neurologic signs without the help of a veterinarian, the first step taken at home should be to wash your pet with a liquid hand dishwashing soap that will de-grease the coat & skin. After taking this measure, you should contact your veterinarian for further advice. For oral exposures, you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
In short, it is best to avoid using any natural or home remedies without consulting your veterinarian. The same goes for any type of over the counter human medications. There are many safe and approved products for use in flea and parasite control. Ask your veterinarian what’s best to rid your pets and home of those pesky parasites!
Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.
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