Many of our clients like to use “Natural” or “Holistic” products on their pets. Many of these products are benign, but most have very little true scientific data proving their safety and efficacy when used on pets.
Oscar is a 16 year old gentle senior dog who has dozens of warts all over his body which is quite common in older pets. The owner heard about applying tea tree oil to the warts from a friend, so she purchased some from a health food store and applied it on all of Oscar’s warts. The next morning Oscar could not stand and was shaking and twitching from muscle spasms. The owner realized it must have been the oil and gave him a bath and brought him in to see us.
Oscar was very weak on initial exam and wouldn’t even raise his head. He was immediately started on intravenous fluids and given an IV injection of Methocarbamol to stop the muscle spasms. He was also given another bath to remove as much of the tea tree oil as possible. We took some blood and urine samples to assess the liver since tea tree oil can cause potential permanent liver damage. We also started him on a liver protectant supplement to help reduce this liver damage from occurring.
Oscar steadily improved over the next 48 hours and continued to make a complete recovery over the week. The liver values were re-checked in a month which were normal and the liver supplements were stopped. Tea tree oil is just one of the many products that can have serious toxic effects to dogs. Some dogs may tolerate small doses of tea tree oil without any problems at all, while others can have severe toxic side effects and may die from it. Just because it is a “Natural” product does NOT mean it is a “Safe” product. Arsenic is also a natural product in the environment, but we certainly wouldn’t give it to our pets…