What are the signs of poisoning in dogs from essential oils?

How can you tell if your fur baby is having a bad reaction?

The most common culprit of essential oils poisoning in dogs is the Melaleuca essential oil, also known as Tea Tree essential oil. Tea tree essential oil comes from the leaves of the Australian Tea Tree. Please note, these toxicities are not caused by the very low concentrations of Tea Tree oil in the commercial shampoos you may purchase for your dog. The concentrated products are the primary culprit. Tea Tree essential oils may be used by humans to help with skin conditions and well-meaning dog owners may accidently poison their dog by exposing them to Tea Tree essential oil when treating their skin or parasites such as fleas. It can be absorbed by the dog’s skin as well as oral absorption and both result in toxicity.

Essential Oils and dogs

There are a few common signs of an adverse reaction to essential oils. As a dog owner it is a good rule of thumb to stay alert for any changes in behaviour in your dog. Some other common signs to watch out for are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty standing or walking - ataxia
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pawing at their face or mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Redness or burns on their lips, tongue, skin or gums
  • Smell of the essential oil on their fur, skin, breath or in their vomit
  • Depression – low mood
  • Skin reaction/irritation

What should you do next?

Seek professional help as soon as possible, like humans the key to the best outcome for your dog is to react fast. Seek medical treatment from your veterinarian or try a group like the Animal Poisons Helpline Australia P:1300869738. The Australian Animal Poisons Helpline is a non-profit charitable organisation that provides rapid, up-to-date and evidence-based poisoning advice to pet owners. The service is free for all pet owners in Australia and New Zealand and aims to reduce the morbidity and mortality that is associated with animal poisonings.


If the problem is after hours you may need to seek help from an afterhours vet or the emergency animal medical centre in your region. The sooner you get appropriate advice the better the outcome for your dog.


Some other tips

  • If the essential oil is on your dog’s fur wash it off immediately
  • Do not give your dog any treatments without a vet’s advice
  • Take the culprit essential oil with you to the vet
  • Store your essential oils out of reach of your dog
  • Store them in secure containers
  • Seek advice from your vet before using essential oils around your dog.

Animal Poisons Helpline Australia P:1300869738.