The Best Natural Flea and Tick Prevention For Dogs
Flea and tick prevention is an important part of responsible dog ownership, particularly in hotter climates. These bloodsucking parasites aren’t just annoying — they can carry many serious and devastating diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and more.
Many dog parents know it’s important to protect their pets, but are concerned about their pup having an adverse reaction to conventional flea and tick preventatives. These treatments use very strong pesticide-based chemicals and can irritate or even burn a dog’s sensitive skin.
It’s no surprise that many pet parents are seeking natural, organic alternatives to harsh chemical treatments — and fortunately, there are many! From essential oils to employing a flea’s natural predator, there are multiple non-toxic methods for reducing your dog’s chances of being infected with fleas or ticks.
As always, our advice is meant as a general guideline only; always talk to your trusted vet if you have concerns and would like to try a different approach to flea and tick prevention.
No matter what preventative measures you choose to use, if you and your dog are outdoorsy, check your dog for fleas and ticks every day!
Natural Flea and Tick Preventatives
Popular natural repellents for fleas and ticks include lemon oil, apple cider vinegar and Neem oil.
The citrus scent of lemon juice repels fleas (and smells fresh and clean to us!). The AKC describes how to make homemade flea shampoo with lemon:
“Lemon juice repels fleas and can be used in several ways to keep them off of your pet. For this mixture, you will need 4 slices of fresh lemon, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 6 cups of water. Heat the water until boiling, then add the salt and fresh lemon. Boil for two minutes and then remove from the heat. Let the mixture steep for a full day (24 hours), then apply to your dog’s fur after shampooing and washing them. This mixture can be applied daily.”
You can also make your own flea and tick preventative with apple cider vinegar:
“Combine 1 quart of water, 1 cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, and 1 cup of baby shampoo or liquid dish soap. Use this mixture to bathe your dog once or twice a month. Vinegar kills fleas and ticks on contact and can prevent future infestations.”
Finally, one of the best natural remedies for fleas and ticks is Neem oil. This oil is derived from an Indian tree and is a natural insecticide widely used in organic agriculture to protect crops. Unfortunately, Neem oil may be difficult or expensive to get a hold of — but if you can, it’s a safe and highly effective flea and tick repellent.
Essential Oils for Natural Flea and Tick Prevention
Essential oils are natural oils that have been distilled and bottled in high concentrations. They are available in a wide variety of scents.
Some essential oils, such as lavender, lemongrass and cedar, act as natural repellents for fleas and ticks. However, because they are more highly concentrated than they would be naturally, essential oils must be used with caution. Always dilute essential oils before using them.
It’s best to start with a very small application initially, and watch your dog carefully for any signs of negative reaction. This is more likely if your pup ingests the oil directly (by licking it off their fur, for example) but some dogs do have a reaction just from applying it to their skin.
You should also be aware that there are some essential oils that are safe for dogs but toxic to cats. If you have a multi-species household, be careful of Whiskers rubbing up against the dog. Unexpected reactions to essential oils are responsible for many of the calls to ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, so proceed with caution.
Even if your dog doesn’t have a reaction to essential oils, be mindful that your dog’s sense of smell is far sharper than yours. Dogs do have scent preferences, just like people (although with as often as Fido digs through the trash, you may be questioning his taste in perfume!)
Put simply, there may be some essential oil scents that your dog just doesn’t like! No matter how well essential oils repel pests, if your dog refuses to sleep in his own bed because he hates the smell of lavender, they won’t do you much good.
Natural Backyard Remedies for Fleas and Ticks
Keeping up with the maintenance of your yard is important if you want to discourage fleas and ticks from making themselves at home! Make sure to remove leaf litter and dead limbs and keep your lawn well-mowed. Cool, dark areas — like under tall grass are leaves — are what fleas and ticks love best. You should also keep any stacked wood off the ground and covered, if possible.
Some plants even secrete natural oils that fleas and ticks dislike. Lemon balm, sage, rosemary, catnip, lemongrass, basil and mint are all examples of naturally pest-repelling plants. It may be helpful to plant these or keep them in pots near the entrances to your house. Laying down cedar mulch in your garden is another excellent way to discourage fleas.
The next time you visit your local garden store, ask about purchasing live nematodes! These tiny, worm-like organisms live in the soil and eat flea larvae (as well as ants, grubs and other garden pests). Spray nematodes on your yard in the spring and summer, and let your little friends feast on the fleas!
Finally, another excellent natural solution for fleas and ticks is to spread some diatomaceous earth in areas of the yard your dog frequents. This powder is made of finely-ground, fossilized diatoms. The sharp edges of the microscopic fossils naturally break apart flea eggs.
Diatomaceous earth isn’t toxic, but it can be an irritant if you breathe in a cloud of it, so make sure to wear a mask while you apply it to your yard. Once the dust settles, it’s completely harmless. However, double check to make sure you are purchasing food-grade diatomaceous earth and not industrial grade, which is chemically treated.
Cleaning and Grooming to Reduce Fleas and Ticks
If stubborn pests somehow make it past your outdoor protection, a regular cleaning routine will kill the invaders. Vacuum and shampoo your carpets and furniture frequently, especially the often-overlooked places such as under cushions and around edges. Your pup’s bed and blankets should also be washed weekly in hot, soapy water.
If you have any suspicions of a flea infestation, you can even make your own DIY flea trap:
“Fill a wide, shallow pan with soapy water and place it on the floor in the area that you believe is highly populated with fleas. Shine a lamp directly over the water. Fleas are drawn to the heat of the lamp and will jump into the light, only to land in the soapy water. The soap in the water prevents the flea from jumping out, causing them to die.”
Of course, the number one way to prevent fleas and ticks from entering your home is to check your dog daily (especially if you’ve just been hiking through the woods or fields!). Part Fido’s fur so you can see all the way to their skin, and don’t forget the “sneaky spots” such as under their tail, in their ears, under their collar or between their toes.
A flea comb is invaluable to help you find the hitchhikers. It’s worth it to use a specialized tick remover tool when getting rid of ticks, as a normal pair of tweezers may tear your dog’s skin or leave the tick’s jaws behind.
Keeping your yard tidy, your house clean and your dog smelling citrusy are just a few of the best natural ways to prevent fleas and ticks from harassing Fido. Of course, despite all your hard work and the prevention measures you put into place, the risk of your dog picking up a bloodsucking hitcher is never zero.
That’s why it’s also crucial to keep your pup in good overall health. Make sure your dog sees the vet, exercises regularly, and of course…eats well! According to the canine experts at The Animal Keeper:
“It’s extremely important to feed your pet a balanced, species-appropriate fresh-food diet that will help keep their immune system functioning optimally. Fleas are not likely to be attracted to a healthy pet, and in the case of ticks, a robust immune response will help fight off any tick-borne pathogens your pet is exposed to.”