We have not touched any flea and tick preventatives that contain chemicals since the beginning of the year. It was time to pay attention to what we were applying to our dogs and I regret not taking action sooner. After all, what we put on their skin is absorbed into their body and organ systems. I find it a little scary that tests on laboratory animals with active ingredients found in spot-on products resulted in thyroid cancer, liver and kidney toxicity, and convulsions.
So that meant buh-bye Frontline.
Not to mention, I was a little disappointed after we came back from a hike and pulled off 10 ticks between the two dogs. A week after applying Frontline. Ick.
So I began the search for a natural and safe solution to repel fleas and ticks from the pooches.
I was overwhelmed at the options and also the reviews that I was reading. Some appeared to do nothing, some received fairly good reviews and other options such as essential oils were said to be just as dangerous as the chemical-filled repellents if not used properly.
1. Only Natural Pet Flea & Tick Tag: this tag attaches to the dog’s collar and uses holistic technology that repels fleas and ticks by using your pet’s own bio-energetic field. We have had this tag on Lola for about three months now and no ticks thus far. Our house backs up to a wooded area and we also go on hikes and walks throughout the neighborhood. It’s said to last for up to a year – making the initial ~$40-50 investment seem minimal. More info on the Flea & Tick Tag from Pet360.
2. GNC Flea & Tick Wipes: I could take or leave these. They were nice to just “wipe and go” but I actually ended up just using them on my own arms and legs. The wipes themselves were rather small, thin, and hard to wipe across the fur. It also didn’t seem to distribute much of the repellent on the dogs. I would’ve needed about five wipes to feel like I really protected Lola. So maybe I’ll just keep these for myself. If it came in a spray, this might be much easier to apply thoroughly. I’m just glad I bought these on clearance for $4.99.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar Spray: we have used apple cider vinegar for many uses with our dogs. And while we don’t really have a problem with fleas in Minnesota, I’d definitely use as a repellent if I lived elsewhere (crossing fingers this will be someday…). For a simple flea repellent spray, mix two parts ACV to one part water. It’s believed that fleas cannot handle the odor or taste of the apple cider vinegar. Plus, it can even be used as a rinse if your dog already has fleas. Check out Kristen’s blog post on Well Minded about using apple cider vinegar as a repellent.
4. Natural Flea & Tick Spot On Treatment: we used this on Lola and Rio before we went to Colorado. My complaint about this product was that it is extremely oily. Like take Frontline and multiply by 10. It even discolored Rio’s fur between his shoulders until we bathed him. And then anytime we would go to pet him or Lola our hands would be full of the almond oil mixture because it managed to spread out into about an 8-inch circle. Other than that, it seemed to do the job for the week we were out there (no ticks). It eventually absorbed in as well, although it did take several days. I’m not sure it would work for the full month that it’s claimed to – the smell seemed to almost disappear completely after a week or so and we usually bathe our dogs more than once a month. I probably wouldn’t purchase this product again.
5. Essential Oils: essential oils can be very helpful if used correctly. I’m finding out there is quite a bit of research involved and even contrasting information out there – so do your research, consult with a professional, and educate yourself before using on your dog.
Tick Spritz Recipe – source: Young Living
• 1 cup of Distilled water
• 2 Drops Geranium Essential Oil
• 2 Drops Palo Santo Essential Oil
• 1 Drop Myrrh Essential Oil
• 4 Drops Grapefruit Essential Oil
• 1 Drop Peppermint Essential Oil
• 1 Drop of Thieves Hand Soap or Castile Soap (emollient)
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and shake. Spritz on as needed. You can also use this recipe on yourself and horses.
Another option is to place a drop or two of oils on their collar or in a collar diffuser to deter insects and ticks.
Things to keep in mind when using essential oils:
Just because a product is natural, does not mean it is safe. While essential oils can be very therapeutic and helpful, they can also cause harm to your dog (+ you typically pay for what you get with oils).
How much and how often you have to apply oils depend on the general health of your dog, where you live, weight and daily activities.
Never apply essential oils directly to your pet’s skin without properly diluting them or using a carrier oil (mixing with olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, grape seed oil to name a few).
Essential oils that should not be used on animals: Anise, Clove Leaf/Bud, Garlic, Horseradish, Thyme, Wintergreen, or Yarrow, to name a few.*
*For more info, please check out this helpful Natural News Article with tips for safety using essential oils on your dog or pet.
Do you use a natural flea and tick preventative? If so, what do you use? Are you satisfied with it’s performance?
Other helpful articles:
14 Replies to “Natural Flea & Tick Preventatives: What We’ve Tried & What Works”
We ditched Frontline after learning it could very well have been what killed our dog when he died from IMHA.
We used the frequency barrier (just like your tag, #1) and had great success with fleas and ticks. Oddly we have used nothing for almost a year and still no fleas and ticks – it could also be the raw diet.
We’re also using a Pawtree essential oil to repel fleas/ticks/mosquitos.
(Side note: We did not switch our cat to a raw diet, and the tag got rid of her flea problem within 3 days. We were using shoo tags for all of the above, but it’s the same idea as the ONP product).
Anyway – no chemicals after experiencing IMHA. Titers only, and no combo drugs and only essentials/proven when we do so. Way too scary. I shudder to think of all the chemicals entering dog bloodstreams these days, even some of them trying to pass off as “better” or “ok”. Weeping at all the Seresto promotion of late, especially after reading about the problems and terrible side effects some folks are encountering with it.
Should add – the essential oil we’re using is a very new addition. We didn’t use any product at all for about 11 months, and have been flea/tick free. Not sure why, that’s why I wonder about the raw – there’s a bit of garlic in our grind, that and the health benefits may be helping. We’re using the essential oil for mosquitos primarily, as there are a number of them around at the moment and we don’t treat for heartworm (by educated choice, a risk/benefit analysis…). Complicated, yes 🙂
I did read that healthy dogs/better diets help naturally repel bugs. Could quite possibly be true. And I was going to ask you about heartworm pills. We are currently giving the dogs a heartworm preventative but being that we live in MN and people joke that our state “bird” is the Mosquito, I think we’ll keep with it for the time being. But it does scare me also. Like you said – a risk/benefit analysis there that you have to weigh for yourself.
Jen I would love to know how you make your raw good and what I need to get ready gir my new pup. Recipes and equipment if you could. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I really want to raise her as holistic as possible. Thank you so much for helping me. Linda
Funny you mention the Seresto. I just had a friend told me she switched to it and I cringed – I did mention that if she’s ever interested in switching, I’ve found some natural options that work great.
So sorry to hear about your pup – I don’t blame you for ditching Frontline, scary stuff.
Makes me kind of sad that more vets don’t promote natural options…
Thanks for stopping by!
It is really nice to read a comparison review of different kinds of flea control options, thank you for the information.
Thanks for the mention! Great post!
My dogs get Springtime Bug-Off Garlic along with a raw diet. I don’t use any heartworm or flea/tick prevention other than that. Our yard has lots of trees and backs up to a pond and we haven’t had any problems this summer.
Good to know! Thanks for sharing, Brenda. So scary to think about the potential dangers of the chemical-filled dog products.
Great post and very helpful info – thanks! I’ll be willing to try anything natural for fleas, our poor pets are currently infested and we have been trying frequent baths, brushing, picking them off, etc. Regarding heartworm, I live in Houston – we are overwhelmed with mosquitoes and my dog JJ has already had a severe case of heartworms (he had them when he has rescued), he nearly died and the vet was surprised he made it through treatment. So we are going to stick with a heartworm preventative. But for fleas I’m certainly willing to try a natural alternative – thanks for the info!
Hi Anne, wow – I’m glad to hear that your pup made it through the heartworm treatment. Thanks for stopping by 😉
I want to start off by saying I am really enjoying your blog! I have 4 dogs myself, all rescues. I personally have not had the best luck with natural flea and tick prevention, now that’s not to say they don’t work, I just haven’t had the best luck. As someone who works at an AAHA accredited animal hospital that also believes in and (when appropriate) recommends homeopathic medicine/nutraceuticals I absolutely enjoyed hearing what worked and didn’t work for you.
If I may however, I would like to strongly recommend to you and any followers who may read this comment – I ABSOLUTELY understand that we as dog lovers worry about chemicals that go into our dog’s bodies. However. As someone who has seen actual canine hearts infested with heartworms, seen dogs euthanized, seen dogs go into congestive heart failure due to infestation, or simply seen the aftermath of a weak dog from the heartworm treatment; PLEASE consider keeping your dog on a scientifically proven monthly heartworm preventative.
Fleas and ticks are one thing. They pose a very minor risk, and are more of an annoyance. (Yes, there are absolutely tick borne diseases, but that’s a whole other topic.) However heartworms are very real, and absolutely DO happen. All it takes is one mosquito. I personally live and work in Ohio, and have seen multiple cases. My very own parents who chose to not use prevention had to euthanize their dog who was in congestive heart failure a few months ago due to a very heavy and progressed infestation.
The reason veterinarians recommend these products is not to make money, or to “load your dog with toxins”. It’s because, as an earlier commentor said, we weigh the risks and benefits. And until you’ve had to euthanize a dog due to (something that could be easily prevented at under $10 per month) worms eating their way through its heart, or seen the postmortem dissected canine heart full of worms, you cannot begin to understand why we believe so strongly in prevention.
Thanks for the comment, Kim! Valid opinion here 🙂
Hi. I’m curious about your list of ‘don’t use’ essential oils. Only because quite a few of the products on the market that say their ‘natural’ and use oils, use these oils. Specifically Sentry Natural Defense. Use Clove and Thyme, Tropiclean uses clove, Vet+Best uses Eugenol (concentrated clove) oil. Richards Organics uses both clove and eugenol.
I’m not saying you’re wrong! Just because its on the market doesn’t mean squat. It was just confusing.