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This post was originally published on December 16, 2014. It has been republished with updated information.
We use natural flea and tick repellents on our dogs. We don't use anything on our cat Cosmo, because he's primarily an indoor only cat. We have never had a flea problem. I stopped using the chemical, topical flea treatments, for a few reasons…
- some pets get chemical burns from the topical flea and tick repellents
- fleas and ticks are becoming resistant to topical flea and tick repellents
- the rise in canine cancer rates are being partly attributed to poor diet, over vaccination, and the chemicals our dogs are exposed to daily
When I found out that there are many fake FrontLine and FrontLine Plus products on the internet, it became easier to go all natural.
What About Flea & Tick Collars?
I've never used flea and tick collars on my dogs. I've always hated the smell and I'm certain that my dogs will probably hate it even more because their sense of smell is so much stronger.
Side Effects of Flea & Tick Collars
Dog parents have been reporting sick and injured pets due to flea and tick collars for years. There are two chemicals that should concern all of us – propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos. These chemicals are both dangers to pets and their humans and may cause rashes, burns, and death. I can't believe that we used these on my childhood dog.
As I stated, flea and tick collars aren't safe to use around humans as well. Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a public health scientist at the National Resources Defense Council, shared that people who come into contact with these pesticides on their dog's coat could experience learning disabilities. Children are especially vulnerable.
Powder on Flea & Tick Collars Gets Everywhere
When the Natural Resources Defense Council did testing on flea and tick collars, they looked at how much of the pesticides were leaching out of the flea collars and how much remain on a pet's coat after 3 days.
CBC Marketplace conducted their own visual test to find out where the pesticides ended up when I pet was wearing a flea collar. They applied a powder that glows under a UV light to the neck where a flea collar would sit and waiting a half an hour. When testers turned on the UV light, they saw that the powder was on the furniture, on the humans, and on a child's toy. Basically, everywhere! Now imagine how far and wide the pesticides on flea collars will spread.
Alternatives to Flea & Tick Collars
- Bathe and groom your dog regularly.
- Wash your dog's bedding weekly.
- Sweep and vacuum flooring, rugs, and carpets weekly. Diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled on fabric and bedding, left to sit for an hour (or overnight – the longer, the better) to kill fleas.
- Improve your dog's diet – someone once told me that fleas don't like raw feed or healthy dogs. I'm not sure how true this is, but better food has loads of benefits, so I was willing to give it a shot.
We're lucky because we live in a time where so many people are developing natural flea and tick repellents that actually work! Here are a few options for you to try.
- Wondercide (this is the product we use) Natural & Organic Flea, Tick and Mosquito Control Spray – 1 bottle will last us through spring and summer with our 4 dogs
- Wondercide Natural & Organic Dog Shampoo Bar
- Cedarcide Original Insect Biting Spray
Essential Oils that Repel Fleas
If you're experienced in using essential oils, then you may be able to create your own flea and tick repellents. A few things you should know include:
- Only buy quality oils; essential oils available at bath stores or the grocery store may not be safe for pets.
- Educate yourself on what oils are best for dogs, including researching the benefits each plant offers.
- Remember that dogs are sensitive to scents so learn how much is safe to use on or near dogs.
- Understand that it can be dangerous to use essential oils in place of spot flea treatments due to potential burn spots.
Essential Oils that Repel Fleas
Some oils have a reputation for being toxic to pets, however, it's not the oil, it's the sourcing and the amount. This is why it's important to understand your sourcing, only buy quality oils, and understand how to use them/apply them on or around your pets.
DIY Flea & Tick Collar for Dogs
One of my friends told me about this a couple of weeks ago. She stopped using flea and tick repellents and simply adds lavender oil to a bandanna that she ties around her dog's neck. That's so simple. I took inspiration from the flea & tick spray above to develop this recipe – which will make four collars.
- 1 cup of water (double if your dog is sensitive to smell)
- 1 tablespoon carrier oil (for additional dilution)
- 2 drops of Lavender
- 1 drops of Citronella, Cedarwood, or Lemongrass
I mix these ingredients together in a bowl using a wire whisk, then soak cotton bandannas into the mixture and let dry in the sun. This will work with dog collars too, but don't get the mixture on any plastic parts; some oils (specifically citrus oils) will degrade the plastic.
I've only tried this once when the dogs were younger. I now just stick with sprays.
DIY Flea & Tick Repellent Spray
This recipe was inspired by what I know about repelling fleas naturally. I know which scents they don't like so I used those in this product. I've adapted the recipe since I first made it in May.
- 5 drops of Lavender
- 2 drops Citronella
- 2 drops of Cedarwood
- 2 drops of Lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons of carrier oil
- 12-16 ounce spray bottle (use a 16-ounce bottle if this mixture is too strong)
The more oils I use, the fewer drops I'll add to prevent the scent from becoming overwhelming.
What About Garlic
In 2018 I saw a post on Facebook by a local veterinarian who had pulled several ticks off of a dog that had only been in his yard in an urban area. What???? We have ticks to deal with too? I thought my dogs were safe from ticks because it's not an issue in the Pacific Northwest. I was wrong!!! Dead wrong.
Although the natural flea and tick repellents I use repel ticks (or so they say), I'm one of those worry warts and began adding garlic to my dogs' diet. I was doing this because of the many benefits of garlic when I made my veggie mix and now that I ferment vegetables, I'm growing garlic (super easy to grow) to add to the ferment.
Benefits of Garlic for Dogs
- Promotes a healthy immune system
- Boosts liver health and functions
- Fights infections
- Prevents blood clots
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Naturally repels fleas and ticks
Safe Amount of Garlic for Dogs
Dr. Pitcairn suggests the following dosage for dogs amounts in his book, The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs:
- 10 to 15 pounds – 1/2 a clove
- 20 to 40 pounds – 1 clove
- 45 to 70 pounds – 2 cloves
- 75 to 90 pounds – 2-1/2 cloves
- 100 pounds and more – 3 cloves
If fermenting isn't your thing, there is a great product that several people have recommended that's available on Amazon.com:
Please note that if your dog has an auto-immune disease, anemia, or is about to have surgery, garlic isn't a good food to add to the diet. Also, do not use garlic powder in place of organic garlic. I prefer to source my garlic locally or grow it in our garden.
What About Diatomaceous Earth
I've written about the benefits of diatomaceous earth and while I have heard from people who have had great success with DE, I have also met people who say that it's not effective at all.
Diatomaceous earth is created from the fossilized remains of teeny aquatic creators that are called diatoms. Their skeletons are made from silica, which is a natural substance and it accumulates in the sediment of bodies of water. Diatomaceous earth comes in a fine, white powder, and I've read many times that it works as a flea killer (by drying out the skeletal outside of fleas and similar bugs), works as a detox, aids in weight loss, and supports joint health.
I'm not sure if this is correct or not because others say that once DE gets wet, it's not effective. Living in the Pacific Northwest where we get our fair share of rain, I've often wondered if it would be an effective flea killer.
Topical Flea and Tick Treatments
If topical flea and tick treatments are a requirement, then you need to build up your dog's immune system by feeding a species appropriate diet and making sure to include milk thistle in your dog's diet. The milk thistle strengthens your dog's liver health, helping the organ to better detox the system.