Tea tree oil should not be used to treat a dog’s ear infection. There is a chemical in tea tree oil called terpenes that fights bacteria (which helps with ear infections) but is toxic to dogs. Using a small amount of diluted tea tree oil on your dog’s skin is okay, but not on the ear.
It is very common for dogs to get ear infections, particularly those with long and floppy ears (like cocker spaniels and basset hounds) since it is easier for water and bacteria to get inside the ear.
In fact, 20% of all dogs will suffer from an ear infection. When left untreated, an ear infection can develop into a chronic condition.
There’s a chance you’ve landed here because you’re looking for a more natural way to treat your dog’s infection. Although there are some great natural remedies for treating an ear infection, tea tree oil might not be the best choice.
However, tea tree oil has many other benefits for dogs. This article will cover why tea tree oil is not great at treating ear infections in dogs, what tea tree oil can be used for, and other natural ways to treat dog ear infections.
What is Tea Tree Oil?
This oil is derived from a plant native to Australia called Melaleuca alternifolia (also found in Portugal, Spain, and North America), which is why tea tree oil is also referred to as melaleuca oil.
This plant was originally used to make tea, hence its name. Besides its antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic properties, this oil is commonly used to treat acne, reduce swelling and allergies, and support skin and hair health.
Why Should You NOT Use Tea Tree Oil On Dogs?
Tea tree oil contains a chemical called terpenes that fight bacteria (which can help with ear infections) but is actually toxic to animals.
Pure tea tree oil also contains higher concentrations than would normally be found in over-the-counter tea tree products. This is because the ones sold in stores are diluted with other ingredients.
If applied in small concentrations, it can be safe for your dog (0.1% – 1%). However, even if you do everything right, down to the most detailed measurement, there’s still a slight chance that you could have used too much.
There are plenty of other products you can buy at a pet store that are safe for dogs. While you may think you’re saving money and time, it’s not worth it if your dog gets sick or needs to go to the vet.
How to Safely Use Tea Tree Oil
If you decide you want to use tea tree oil, you should know a few things. You MUST dilute the oil. You can dilute it with olive oil or coconut oil and then slowly introduce it to your dog.
It would be great to put a cone collar on your dog so he doesn’t lick the oil off of his fur or skin when you apply it. Your dog should not ingest tea tree oil, only used topically. It’s toxic if ingested.
Monitor your dog closely over the next 12-24 hours. Be aware of any changes or abnormal behavior that your dog exhibits.
Symptoms of Tea Tree Oil Poisoning in Dogs
The best thing you can do if you suspect you may have used too much tea tree oil, forgot to dilute it, or left your diffuser on, is to remain calm.
Call your vet immediately and let them know what happened and have them walk you through the next steps.
Dogs are resilient, and chances are your dog is going to be just fine. Here are some warning signs to look for if you’re worried about tea tree oil poisoning:
- Vomiting or excessive drooling
- Skin rash
- Loss of coordination, difficulty walking, or paralysis
- Fatigue, lack of energy, or depression
- Muscle weakness or shaking
- In serious cases, your dog might have a seizure or lose consciousness
Benefits of Tea Tree Oil
While tea tree oil may not be most effective or safe at treating ear infections in dogs, it can be used for several other conditions that will hopefully help your pup.
The anti-inflammatory properties of diluted tea tree oil may help your dog if he has an irritated area on his skin that he can’t stop itching.
It can also relieve skin conditions, such as dry or damaged skin and rashes. The oil has a pungent odor that repels ticks and fleas. It contains antifungal and antibacterial properties that help with respiratory and fungal infections.
How To Treat Your Dogs Ear Infection Without Tea Tree Oil
Since ear infections in dogs are so common, many home remedies and over-the-counter products are used to treat them.
Ear infections are tricky, so you should always consult your veterinarian before trying anything else. You should seek professional help if your dog is experiencing persistent discomfort from an infection.
I am sure you have already done the research to determine if your dog has an ear infection, but here are some signs and symptoms you might see if your dog really has one:
- Scratching his ears or rubbing them excessively
- Ears are warm to the touch
- Discolored discharge from ears or unpleasant odor
- Redness, inflammation, or swelling in or around the ear
- Ears are tender, or your dog doesn’t want to be touched
- Shaking or tilting head
- Rubbing head on the floor
Causes of Ear Infections
Prevention is one of the best things you can do for your dog’s health. Understanding the cause of your dog’s ear infection can help you prevent it in the future.
- Allergies (environmental or food)
- Moisture getting trapped inside the ear
- Autoimmune diseases
- Excessive cleaning
- Bumps or growths in the ear canal
- Foreign objects that get inside the ear
- Bacteria or ear mites
- Injury or trauma to the ear
- Wax build-up
Over The Counter Ear Infection Products
You’ve probably already noticed discharge in your dog’s ear. You should start by cleaning out the infected ear with a medicated cleanser.
Because the dog’s ear will be tender due to the infection, when you clean it out, use gauze or a cotton ball instead of cotton swabs, paper towels, or toilet paper to avoid causing further irritation.
Hydrocortisone is also a common over-the-counter product to help with ear infections and reduce bacteria and inflammation.
Don’t be surprised if your dog is uncomfortable, fidgety, or tries to wriggle out of reach when you clean out his ear.
Pay attention to his behavior. If he yelps, you probably went too deep. Give him a little break, reassure him with pets or treats, and try again later.
In addition to the medicated cleanser, a vet might prescribe a leave-in ointment for you to put in your dog’s ear.
Depending on the severity of the ear infection, it may be necessary for your dog to take a prescribed oral antibiotic to clear it up.
Your poor pup might hate having his ears poked and prodded by the vet, but he’ll thank you when he feels better sooner rather than later.
Home Remedies For Ear Infections
One item you probably have around the house (even if you don’t use it much) is apple cider vinegar.
This can help reduce the itchiness and irritation of your dog’s ear. Do a 1:1 mixture of apple cider vinegar and filtered water. Put a small amount of this mixture on a piece of gauze or squirt a bit into his ear and then massage gently.
Vets may advise against doing home remedies as a first resort because your dog may not take well to it.
All dogs have different allergies and sensitivities that you may be unaware of, so just do your research and be extra cautious. Hopefully your dog gets to feeling better soon!
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.