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Just a head's up regarding Tree Tea Oil

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I am bringing this post from another board, in the hopes that this will never happen to anyone here!

I am posting a copy of a letter that I receieved from one of the Yahoo groups, in hopes that it might serve as a warning in the use of tea tree oil..............................................."I took my two M/C's to Petco on Thursday, 11 July for baths and
their summer haircuts (shoulders to bottoms leaving ruffs and tails
long). They have been to Petco before for baths and last summer had
haircuts. When they returned back home they were not happy campers but I
chalked this up to the usual reaction to car trips, baths and new
hairdos. As the day and evening wore on they still had not settled down
to normal but aside from increased grooming were not in obvious
distress. On Friday it was apparent something was not right and when I
touched them they were very hot. I rushed them both to my vet where
their temperatures were 105+ and they seemed to be in pain. Cool baths
were given immediately which temporarily lowered the fevers.
Prior to this I had called Petco to find out what exactly had they
been bathed with and the groomer said, "Shampoo with oatmeal and tea
tree oil followed by a conditioner with oatmeal". I was taken aback by
the tea tree oil as I am familiar with it with respect to human use and
think it is a good product. In fact I did some research on the web about
four years ago prior to buying some for myself. I told the girl the
cats were acting very strange and she said they used it all the time and
had never had any problems, all "natural " you know. I said I'd bring
the cats back to be rebathed to remove it but she said she was leaving
shortly and besides they didn't have space for drying them afterwards
but I could take them home wet/towel dried. Or, I could bring them in on
Sunday when she'd be back at work. I could tell this was getting nowhere
and at this point I stuffed them in the car for the vet.
Buddy (6 y/o brown classic-neutered male) was in worse shape than
Baby (5 y/o brown classic- spayed female). During his cooling bath a
large approx. 6" X 3" patch of hair fell out at the scuff of his neck
and the skin underneath looked like it had been blowtorched. He was
given subq fluids and sent home on Prednisolone 5 mg. Baby was bathed
and given subq fluids. Over the next 24 hours they ate and drank a
small amount, were restless and obviously felt bad. By Saturday mid
morning Buddy was very sick, becoming almost unresponsive, in great pain
and cold. I rushed him back to the vet. BTW, our regular vet was on
vacation so they were seen by different doctors at each visit. This
time a blood panel was drawn and was found to be essentially normal
except for a high bilirubin, an abdominal X-ray because of extreme
tenderness was negative, Dexamethazone injection and fluids via IV. I
asked my husband to pack up Baby and bring her in as she was almost in
the same shape but to a lesser degree. Her only treatment after exam was
subq fluids.
As this was Saturday, they close at 1pm so we transferred Buddy to a
24 hour emergency facility and Baby was taken back home only to be
brought to the ER clinic at the request of the attending Doc after
getting a look at Bud. While driving to the clinic I watched poor Buddy
and was pretty sure he wasn't going to make it home again. And despite a
good effort he died at 2:15 am. And it was a hard death, he suffered.
Baby was given more subq fluids, a blood panel which was normal
except for increased eosinophil s, and Baytril and Methylpred
injections. Then back home to hope for the best and try to get some
nutrients down her. This morning (Sunday) she went back for a check and
at last the news was slightly encouraging. Her temperature was almost
normal, she ate some Hills A/D and was moving a bit better but her
condition was only upgraded to Fair.

we took photos and I asked that tissue samples be taken from Buddy
including fat and they will be delivered to my vet's clinic in the
morning. I wish my usual Doc was back but she won't be. I think the
samples will go to UC Davis. What I learned from this awful experience
was that all the doctors, even the ones in the poison control center in
Chicago weren't familiar with tea tree oil in relation to cats although,
like myself, they all felt it was "not a good thing" and probably toxic.

Saturday night while Bud was at the ER and Baby was miserable here
at home, I did a search on Google for tea tree oil. There were 219,000
hits and I checked on about the first 30 or so. As when I looked some
years ago, most entries are in praise of it and many are companies
selling a product. Nothing wrong with that, I think the stuff is useful
and has properties that are beneficial, but not for cats. In fact it
should be very definitely contraindicated. Two sites that are
interesting for different reasons are: University of Western Australia
at www.meddent.uwa.edu.au/teatree which offers a long article on what
is it, what human studies they are undertaking, etc. Probably more than
you'd ever want to know. But the really interesting site is Tea Tree Oil
- Toxic to Cats. This is a five page report by a Sarah Hartwell and
copyrighted 1995, 1999. And there it is, all laid out waiting to be
read...with references! The web site is messybeast.com. although I
haven't had time to visit as yet. I made copies for the vets and hope
it gets distributed around. If I had to guess I'd say Petco was sold a
product that sounded great and no one, Petco or seller, had much
incentive to do much research.
I would ask you to read over some of these sites, probably there are
more. Spread the news if you would. I think tomorrow I will be speaking
to Petco. I also found a site named Vital Earth Products which
manufactures products with Aloe Vera, Avocado Oil and Tea Tree Oil. This
company has an extensive list of pet products marketed under the name
"Dr. Pottles" and is made and distributed in New Zealand. ZENA!?!,
perhaps Australia too. There is mention in the Toxic to Cats paper of
contacts with distributors in the UK and she reports, "there appears to
be no mention of possible ill effects or contraindications and little
awareness of its toxicity."
Tea tree oil appears to me to be neuro, hepatic and nephro toxic at
a minimum to cats, a little like drinking anti-freeze."
post #2 of 6
Hissy, thanks so much for this info!

I use tea tree oil on my face and will be extra-careful to make sure my cats keep out of it.
post #3 of 6
That is terribly sad! I am so very sorry for that family that was only trying to get their babes bathed!

I have never used this product, but have friends who are more into healthy things than I am. I am sending them this article!
post #4 of 6
It's not only tea tree oil, but possibly all essential oils that are unsafe for cats. Cats are much more sensitive to these things than dogs, and I for one would much rather be safe than sorry. Hydrosols are products that can be used on cats safely, but not essential oils. See these articles


The owner of aromaleigh, aromatherapy products for cats and dogs, is extremely knowledgeable on the subject, and has just published a book on this topic, if I recall correctly. I personally take her word on this, since I know she has done a huge amount of research and will only recommend using essential oils in a safe way, and never on cats. People often say that things are safe, because they are "natural", which is far from the truth! Natural products are often safer, but natural does by no means equal safe! Sorry, I know people in here probably know better, but it annoys me so much to hear this time and again (like this groomer's response).

Btw, tea tree oil can also be harmful for small dogs (sorry I don't have the references, didn't save them), so I would avoid using it with them also. After I found out about this warning, I stopped using it on my small dogs, I would rather not take the risk as there are other essential oils and products out there to do the same job.
post #5 of 6
Hi Hissy
that was scary. Ihave never before heard of that oil and when I looked it up on the German net I found it was called the catkiller.
Today Iasked my herbalist about it and he told me that a few years ago it had been highly praised and recommended for just anything and that its effect was highly exagerated. It smellsand acts like pure chemistry.By chance I found a product for catson the net German e-bay that contained that oil and sent a warning to that person.I believe the report should be published in the general forum. I received a mail from Debby who didn´t know about the existence of that oil either let alone about its lethal effect on 4paws.Well that´s all for today All the best Elisabeth
post #6 of 6
Something like this happened when we tried to bathe one of our cats w/ flea killer stuff. He started foaming at the mouth and everything. The lady at the 24 hr help line said he must've licked it (maybe we didn't rinse thoroughly enough?) and to take some common dish soap and wash it off immediately and rinse him GOOD allowing him to sit in the clean, soap free water for a bit. This helped and he was ok but gosh what a scare.


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