Using diluted tea tree oil for your dog’s skin infections

Dogs can get allergies and itchy skin, too

Did you know that allergies can be as annoying and painful for dogs as it is for some people? Experts estimate that as many as 1 in 7 dogs suffer from allergies. And those allergies often cause symptoms such as itching, irritation, and inflammation.

Dog allergies fall into four categories and can be caused by the following things:

  • Fleas and other biting insects
  • Irritants that come in contact with the skin
  • Inhaled allergens, such as dust mites, molds, pollens, grasses, and molds
  • Foods, drugs, and supplements

In the case of skin infections related to allergies, your veterinarian may prescribe a medication, depending on the symptoms and severity of your dog’s skin infection. In some cases, mild to moderate  skin infections may be effectively managed with over-the-counter, topical products. However, if left untreated  such mild skin infections can develop into hot spots, which are extremely troublesome  for pets.

What is tea tree oil and how can it help skin infections?

Pet guardians should be aware that pure tea tree oil (as well as other pure essential oils) is  considered toxic for pets and should never be used in its pure undiluted or “raw” form.

Tea tree oil is a natural essential oil with curative properties that help soothe and protect dogs’ skin. When used correctly and in a diluted form on pets, tea tree oil can be very effective in treating and preventing topical bacterial and yeast/fungal infections. Tea tree oil  is an excellent anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce skin inflammation that can lead to itchiness and irritation. It also has great antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties that can help prevent and treat a whole host of skin problems.

Due to its effectiveness, tea tree oil is found in many pet grooming products in varying diluted concentrations.

How should I administer tea tree oil to my dog?

Tea tree oil must not be ingested, and should be applied externally only, and only in its diluted form.  Products such as Be Soothed Spray and Be Soothed Shampoo contain a diluted amount of tea tree oil. While the percentage of tea tree oil in these products is proprietary, rest assured they are well below the level considered toxic to dogs and puppies (over 8 weeks of age.) As with any new product, always seek the advice of your veterinarian before applying to your dog.

Tea tree oil should not be used on cats. Use caution when applying tea tree oil if you have cats in the house.

*Article updated October 17, 2013

Have pet health questions? For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form.

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  1. How much do you dilute tea tree oil for use on hot spots on dogs

  2. I found a product in the hair care aisle at Walmart that’s mixed with Vitamin E and aloe. Our beagle suffers from dry, itchy skin on her lower back near the tail. I massaged about 1 tsp into the general area with my fingertips last night…she stopped itching and it feeling much better. I don’t have it with me now (or I’d give you the name), but it was a small bottle (about 1.8 ounces), with a color & consistency of olive oil. My beagle is about 25 lbs.

  3. Do not use tea tree oil on your dog or cat!!!
    It paralyzed my dog!
    It has the potential to be very dangerous!

  4. Thank you REE!! I have a 14 yr old schnauzer who has awful allergies. In between her Kenalog shot every month she becomes miserable & becomes SO itchy!!! I will look for this at Walmart:)

  5. i put about 3 drops of tea tree oil in my dogs shampoo about a table spoon of shampoo and it helps her tremendously

  6. “How Should I Administer It?” didn’t answer the question. HOW? The last thing I want is an oily dog rubbing on the furniture or running around outside and coming in with dirt clinging to the oil. Guess I’ll keep looking.

  7. I have a 4 month old pup with a lot of spots all over, mostly his head. They don’t seem to bother him but he’s a wee toughy. He has an appointment in a few days but I’d like to try help his skin in the mean time. Can you please advise. Thanku.

  8. If your dog has itchy skin issues look to their diet first! I have a bulldog (known for skin issues) – we put him on a raw elk diet and he’s been fantastic ever since!! I use the Carnivora brand – swear by it really – which comes in a variety of meats (diets) and meat/veg combos (dinners). Frozen pucks of perfection. We also feed him coconut oil (fish oils seemed to exacerbate the issue), pumpkin, a joint formula, and a digestive aid/probiotic. I know this isn’t a thread about diet per say, but I always start from the inside-out when Dozer has any kind of issues… From my experience, that’s usually where it starts.

  9. how often do you bathe her

  10. Can I put a few drops in his shampoo bottle will that be diluted enough?

  11. I have diluted the Tea Tree oil properly. How often should it be used on the dog?

  12. Where can I buy the Carnivora brand? I’m in CA….I’ve been feeding my dog raw Northwest Naturals Turkey, but her vet thinks she should try a novel protein and its hard to find a more ‘obscure’ protein! Thanks!

  13. I used Espree Ear Wipes in one ear for my dog. It has tea tree oil. The result was that a few hours after use, my dog’s ear became inflamed and irritated my poor dog. I feel so bad using this product.

  14. Valerie, essential ‘oils’ are not really oily. And if you dilute it with filtered water or something like Aloe Vera it becomes like a thin watery liquid really. so no oily dog rubbing on stuff, just thought you’d like to know… 🙂

  15. I’m ok with the dilution rate but what if they then lick on it? I have a ‘donut’ of shame (like a cone only a blowup donut. But where the hotspot is she can still get to it. I am planning on buying a bigger cone but until then i’d like to give her some relief.

  16. I’ve been using “Be Soothed” tea tree oil spray on my Rottweiler and two Shih Tzu. I never knew it could be dangerous. My little female Shih Tzu became lethargic, vomited, and looked puny. I’ve not used it on her again. At this point, I am afraid to use it on any of my dogs. My rotty had a hot spot and I treated that with sterile saline water cleanse, Neosporin and shaving the hair from the spot. It healed in about 3 weeks. I also got antibiotics from the vet. I hope I haven’t caused any damage to my little Shih Tzu. The older Shih Tzu male, didn’t seem to have a reaction to the tea tree oil spray. I wish I had known about this earlier.

  17. ‘I have a 3 year old female Shih Tzu who goes nuts itching. She rolls all over the floor, rubs against the walls and just goes nuts for about 5-10 minutes every morning. I cant allow the groomer to cut her close because if she is cut close, her skin will turn red and get irritated to the point it will bleed. Any suggestions as to what I can use for her itchy skin. I’m now afraid to use the tea tree oil spray.

  18. I have a French bulldog, every morning he licks & chews his paws. He is on a raw diet. I was told by my pet shop to use tea tree oil after reading it can be dangerous I am wary to use. I know it has to be used diluted but still nervous as he is lickly to lick his paws after it is done.

  19. Some dogs are allergic to chicken dry food.
    Its better if you can change to Salmon dry food; it contains omega that is good for the skin and fur.
    If you change to Salmon dry food make sure to start feeding your dog with small portions.
    For example: half of his regular dry food and half of Salmon dry food until he gets used to his new Salmon dry food.

  20. Try starflower oil tablets by from H&B on special offer I treat a GSD so the dose is the same as human dont know dose for small dogs my vet told me to try it on my dog but as it is expensive to buy it from there it works great not for an acute skin problem but it will help but its real use is to stop the irritation and inflamation from coming back its so good to see my Ben and Robbie comfortable the only other thing I do is just spray them with water which they love its just a game we play every day but it washes the diust away and thats always good Hope this can help

  21. Hi Allen

    I use Organic Apple Cider Vinegar 50/50 with distilled or filtered water place in spray bottle and spray on your dogs coat
    if the skin is raw dilute more with water otherwise it will sting her skin.
    Does she have a yeast skin infection, fowl smell, if so gain free dog foods solving yeast and skin issues
    Yeast + Starch = Itchy Pet
    Corn Potato Wheat Peas and Oatmeal

  22. To all Dog Lovers

    This is a great website to read.

    Grain Free Dog Foods: Solving Yeast And Skin Issues

    Today’s cat and dog owners are paying attention to food labels. A recent trend is the move toward grain-free dog foods but they are still high in starches.

  23. I have two pugs, one has a terrible itch, I keep tea tree oil, diluted wit witch hazel. We’ll see

  24. Just purchased a 21st century essential pet hot spot spray from petsmart for 12 year old German Shepherd, sprayed it on hot spot and less than an hour later he was foaming from the mouth and throwing up all over the house. Read the ingredients and the last one was tea tree oil (Latin spelling), I guess to avoid being detected. Dogs lick hot spots, duh. No warning on label at all. The next day he couldn’t open his right eye, it was swollen, red and draining. Took him to vet and vet determined the tea tree oil burned his cornea. Medications for eye and hot spot and vomiting, and 3 visits, a couple hundred dollars later, 4 days of not eating, throwing up-and two weeks later he’s nearly better. DO NOT RISK YOUR PETS HEALTH WITH THIS POWERFUL SUBSTANCE, UNLESS YOU ARE ABLE TO PREVENT ANY INGESTION OR CONTACT WITH MUCUS MEMBRANES….this was my experience was it all a coincidence, I don’t think so, you decide..

  25. Wow Chris, what a terrible experience! Glad your dog pulled through though and thank you for sharing the warning.

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