When it comes to choosing a preventative for your dog, the truth is there is no 100% guaranteed preventative, whether harsh chemical types or natural types. When it comes to flea infested pets and home, there are natural options for that too!
You may be wondering, "are these methods as effective as the heavy duty traditional stuff?" Yes... at least the ones I'm about to tell you about. However, you do have to remember that these preventatives will not kill on contact like a traditional method, as traditional methods use active ingredients which are low dose pesticides. This is why the box tells you not to get any on YOUR skin as they can cause problems.
The options I am about to tell you about are very effective as deterrent and a heck of a lot safer! We don't apply low dose pesticides on kids before sending them outside. We check them over after they are outside. I think it should be the same for our dogs. Applying a low dose pesticide to your dog every month of their lives has some major health implications in the long run.
There are also ways you can proactively minimize your pet's risk as well as minimize pests in and around your home that I will also explain.
With this guide, it is my goal to help you with just that, how to reduce the odds of your pet becoming a host to these pests, choosing safer options, and what to do when there is an infestation. Hopefully you won't need the latter, but it's a good idea to save this article so that you are prepared if you do.
Laying Down the Foundation
When it comes to preventing these pests from using your dog as a host, the healthier the dog, the better. Sick dogs are much more likely to be a host to these pets than healthy pets. What does this mean?
It’s best to be proactive when it comes to your pet’s health. Feeding a species appropriate raw diet is your pet’s foundation to good health. Specific supplementation for your pets needs is also important. Does your pet need things like probiotics, enzymes, or essential fatty acids supplemented? This is not necessarily implying they “need” those three supplements, but they are three of the most commonly given supplements. You can not out supplement a bad diet, so if you feed a processed dry or canned food, giving a dozen supplements along with it will not make your pet as healthy as a dog on a raw diet, getting most of their nutrient needs from their food. Also, if your dog has a known health issue, do they have support for that as well?
Chances are if you are reading this, you do not feed a processed diet, as most of my clients and readers are raw feeders. Hopefully you are already on board with this. If you are not, I highly advise switching… the sooner, the better! Your pet’s health depends on it.
Help! If you need help in this area, I suggest checking out my “Work With Me” page. I offer both personalized consults as well as a DIY Wellness course that teaches you how to become knowledgable and confident when it comes to feeding a prey model raw diet and choosing supplementation.
Also, if you feed a raw diet, be sure their treats are also healthy and not filled with grains, dyes, preservatives, etc. Single proteins and single ingredients are best.
Next is choosing to be proactive in your dog's health with things like animal chiropractic care to keep their nervous system in check, which helps keep them at optimal health. Also, be sure they are getting enough mental and physical exercise, fresh air, fresh water, and the list goes on.
When it comes to choosing a preventative for your dog, the truth is there is no 100% guaranteed preventative, whether harsh chemical types or natural types.
With traditional harsh chemical types, you are basically applying a pesticide to your pet, strong enough to kill pests like fleas and ticks, but low grade enough to not cause an acute reaction or death in your dog, although sadly there is evidence of that happening in sensitive dogs.
Have you read the boxes of the traditional preventatives? Simply google an ingredient and you’ll quickly learn how harmful it is. It also says not to touch these substances with your bare hands, yet you are applying them directly to your dog and these chemicals are absorbed through their coat and skin. (Did you know fur actually enhances the absorption of anything applied to your dog?) You are also as coming into contact with them every time you pet your dog. Most of these chemicals also stay on longer than 30 days. The reason they are applied every 30 days is because it is easier for the pet owner to remember is get into a routine of doing, not because your pet automatically “loses protection” after 30 days.
With that in mind, I choose the types of protection that will not cause any harm to my pet or anyone coming into contact with my pet. Similar to the traditional types, there are a variety of natural types to choose from. They simply are not as well known as traditional types because most vets and other pet health professionals are not taught about them during their schooling. They have more important things to learn about in their 4 years of schooling like acute health issues and saving lives.
The good news is, I have researched countless hours on this topic ever since first entering the animal health world. I have only used these natural options on my own pets for over the past 10 years. Additionally, I run a well-established animal chiropractic practice and constantly ask or hear reviews of flea and tick preventatives from clients, many of which are holistically minded when it comes to their pets health.
I am going to outline the best of the most natural and safe methods I have found below. These methods are in no particular order and tend to be very effective for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.
My Top 5 Choices For Natural Preventatives (in no particular order)
Wondercide is a product that I stumbled upon and became very impressed with. It has become a favorite of mine. They have an entire line of products made with organic cedar oil as well as therapeutic grade essential oils. The oils are properly steam distilled and fractionated, then diluted with a hydrated silica carrier oil.
They have sprays that you can mist on your dog's coat that come in cedar, cedar+lemongrass, and cedar+rosemary. If you aren’t sure which to get, cedar+lemongrass has the best reviews. I have found that many people like the fresh, uplifting smell of lemongrass. I have found a little goes a long way, so these sprays should last you a while.
These sprays come in 16oz and larger sizes as well as 1oz sizes that they have listed for trial. I have found these small sizes also work great for on-the-go. If you have a 16oz or larger, you can always refill your 1oz sprays. The 1oz trial sizes also come in a 3 pack so you can keep them in multiple places.
If you are looking for a safe product for inside your home or outside in your garden or yard, they carry products for that as well. These can be used as a preventative and for outbreaks. Applying is easy (be sure to read the description if you need to purchase a compression or hose end sprayer which is also available on their site). I try and spray my yard about every month late spring-fall, but usually it ends up being a bit longer. Your yard will smell like cedar for a few days, but I have found, as well as clients, that it works well. It also deters more pests than just fleas and ticks. I thought for sure I'd see some ticks since I now back up to a retention pond with all sorts of critters in it, but have yet to see one and I'm sure I have this product to thank.
They carry additional products for outbreaks as well as shampoo bars for flea and ticks and regular shampoo bars (that have amazing reviews) and other natural pet products.
I’m really excited for this company which started after the owner had a devastating adverse reaction in her shepherd mix, Luna, after applying standard flea and tick control. After learning the shocking truths about flea and tick control and researching about everything on pesticides, she knew there had to be safer methods. She left her work and chose to develop her own company with both effective and safe products, Wondercide. It’s sad that her dog had to suffer from the traditional methods, but from owner Stephanie Boone’s action taken, at least now countless other dogs can hear her story and choose a better option from the start.
2- Young Living Essential Oils
Since many of my clients already use essential oils, I thought it would be a good method to start with as you may already have some of these. If choosing to use essential oils on your pet, you want to ensure that they are therapeutic grade. This means they are distilled properly and do not contain adulterants. Young Living oils are the only oils I recommend. If following any of the below, it is speaking strictly of Young Living oils. Do not use aromatic grade found at health food stores.
Single Oils: Lavender, Purification, or Cedarwood
These can be applied in any of the following ways:
• Fill a small (preferably metal or glass/about 4 oz) spray bottle with distilled water, a squirt of witch hazel, and add 15 drops. Mist over coat, avoid eyes and mouth.
• Place a few drops on your hand then rub behind the head and on the neck. You can also apply further down the back if you wish.
• Place a few drops on your dog's collar.
The neat thing about purification essential oil is that it is a blend. One of the ingredients is citronella, which is great at repelling mosquitoes. I am usually a mosquito magnet, but not with this oil on.
Adding to convenience, a bottle of oil can easily be slipped into a purse or pocket. I have carried purification in my purse to outdoor events and at dusk, I have applied (neat) to my ankles, wrists, and upper sternum areas. It has a pleasant smell, better than standard bug sprays,
Like us, dogs can have a preference when it comes to oils. My dogs love cedarwood, they are okay with purification, however, my border collie hates lavender. Try introducing the oil with the cap on first for them to sniff. If they are ok with that, introduce with the cap off. If they are ok with that, then apply.
It is normal for some dogs to roll around and rub after oils are applied. I have one dog who chooses to sniff the oils applied on her and another that likes to roll around on the carpet or her bed, somewhat similar to how she would roll or rub on these things after getting a bath.
If you like recipes, another option with oils is to make a blend to repel pests.
DIY Blend in a small glass spray bottle: 3oz distilled water, squirt of witch hazel, 5 drops peppermint, 10 drops purification, 5 drops lavender, 5 drops cedarwood. Even though it is already in the purification blend, sometimes I also like to add a few extra drops of lemongrass as well.
Contrary to some pet information sites, garlic is not toxic to dogs as long as you are not feeding 50 cloves in one sitting. The reason that some say garlic is toxic is because it is closely related to and in the same genus as onions. However, onions are slightly different in their make up and are in fact toxic to dogs and can lead to hemolytic anemia, garlic will not as long as it isn’t an unusually high amount as mentioned above.
The actual toxic amount is 5g of garlic per 1kg of a dog’s body weight. Using this, in a dog weighing 20kg (so about 44lbs), 100g of garlic will be toxic leading to Heinz body anemia. 100g is roughly a quarter of a pound of garlic (0.2205lbs to be exact)…. a lot! That’s about 3 full heads of garlic.
Fresh, raw garlic cloves contain a compound called allin and an enzyme called alliinase. When a fresh clove is crushed or smashed, these come into contact with each other and allicin is formed. Allicin is where garlic gets most of its therapeutic or health benefits from.
When it comes to garlic as a pest preventative, you have some options:
The only garlic in supplement form that I have found to work well via talking to my clients is Springtime’s Bug Off Garlic. Garlic pills that you would find in a pharmacy or health food store are not manufactured properly to have the benefits you need to repel pests. They could also be harmful to your pet. If using a garlic supplement, Springtime’s Bug Off is the only one I recommend.
You can also give fresh smashed garlic. If giving fresh garlic, it can get tricky. Dogs typically don’t readily eat garlic. You may need to hide it in some food. You can easily make a slit in a piece of meat and feed it or inside some ground food as well. I have a dog who loves fetch, so I say, “readyyyy…” and show that I’m throwing her something and she catches it and gulps it before she knows what she just ate.
A fresh smashed clove (large dog) or fresh half clove (small dog) of garlic typically can yield effective results while also being safe for your pet.
Garlic repels fleas and ticks because it slightly changes the dog’s odor making the seem like an unsuitable host. If we as humans eat garlic, it comes out as sweat. A dog's ability to sweat is not the same as ours. The only place dogs can sweat is through the pads of their feet, so instead the garlic comes out with the natural oil produced on their coat, which can take a bit of time to build up, so if you are planning to go out to a wooded area, you want to give the garlic a chance to do that beforehand.
Remember, since it is on their coat, if you give your dog a bath, that they will need to rebuild the garlic “aroma” in the oil of their coat again. When I say aroma, you won’t be able to smell the garlic, but nearby pests will.
4- Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Another method you can use is a 50/50 dilution of ACV and water. Shake and mist over your dog’s coat, avoiding the eyes. You can do this on a regular basis or before and after activities like going out on a hike or in a prairie.
It also works well as a rinse after bathing. If your dog is infested with fleas, lathering them up and allowing the lather to sit for a couple minutes drowns the fleas and then getting any possible stragglers with ACV helps, usually better than medicated baths.
5- Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Food grade DE is a fine powder. This naturally occurring substance is mined from old lake beds. It's composed of fossilized remains of microscopic shells created by one celled plants called Diatoms that have fossilized over millennia in old fresh water lake zones. As time has passed, these fossilized remains have accumulated and formed huge silica deposits. When mined and ground into powder it becomes diatomaceous earth.
Rather than having a chemical reaction like most insecticides, food grade DE has a mechanical reaction breaking down their exoskeleton’s waxy coating and dehydrating the insect from the outside. It works with anything with an exoskeleton, so beyond fleas and ticks, it has well-known uses with ants, cockroaches, and more. However, as long as it is “food grade” and not inhaled, it is not harmful to mammals.
You can apply food grade DE to your dog's coat. If you have an empty cleaned out spice jar, it works well to allow for an even application. Be careful around the eyes, nose, and mouth. Just like with any powder, this can irritate those areas and can be irritating to the air pathways if inhaled.
When it comes to DE, storage is important. It is also known as a deodorizer, so it will absorb things around it. Air tight packaging is important.
*Be sure your DE is food grade, NOT pool filter grade. Pool filter grade is toxic to your pet.*
Checking Your Dog(s)
It’s recommended to regularly brush and check your pets head to toe for signs of fleas and ticks throughout spring to fall. The sooner you catch a tick or flea on your dog, the quicker action you can take.
If you suspect fleas, brush your dog on a light colored towel for easier inspection. You may also notice what looks like dirt, usually close to their rear just above their tail. This is called “flea dirt,” and is actually flea feces. If you put it in rubbing alcohol or water, it will turn red when dissolved.
If your dog is biting at a certain area, check to be sure there isn’t a tick where they are biting. Feel the area for a small bump and if you find one, spread their fur for closer inspection.
If I feel any tiny bumps on my patients, especially in the summer time, I will look closer to be sure it is not a tick or something else they need to see their vet about.
Safe Tick Removal
Never squeeze, pull out a tick, or any other method where you can not ensure that you will remove the entire tick. This can cause the tick to secrete more saliva into your dog or even leave parts behind embedded in your dog’s skin.
My dogs have never had ticks, but I still keep these methods on hand, just in case, and my clients who have used these methods say they work great.
YL Essential Oil:
One drop of purification young living essential oil on a tick will cause it to remove its head from under the animalʼs skin. Once it does that, you can safely remove it.
Tick Keys can safely remove the entire tick from the body and are
sold at most pet supply stores. They can easily be attached to a keychain
Safe Flea Removal from Pet
Use a natural shampoo, such as Young Living’s Animal Scents (main oil in shampoo is citronella). Let the shampoo sit on your dog for a couple minutes, drowning the fleas.
Next, do a rinse with Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (avoid eyes).
After the final rinse, mist a 50/50 dilution of ACV (with water) onto your pets coat.
After the coat is dry, apply a few drops of purification essential oil. Apply the drops into the palms of your hands and begin spreading the oil on the back of head and sides of neck.
Keeping Pests in Your Yard Under Control
Every living creature in our world has a purpose and without each one doing their part, there would be consequences, however, there are things you can do to keep what we see as “pests” down to a minimum.
The simplest is to care for your lawn and garden regularly. Keep your grass mowed short, weeds pulled, bushes trimmed, try to avoid standing water. Unkept lawns are ideal breeding grounds for pests.
Wondercide has lawn and garden sprays that utilize cedar oil for fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and more.
Food grade diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled on your lawn, however, it usually needs to be done several times through spring and summer. I have never used it on my complete lawn, however, I like to use food grade DE in the crevices in front of the outside of doors. It tends to work as a barrier.
Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that eat flea larvae, and pretty fast at that, and can be applied with a hose sprayer. It’s recommended to apply when it is partly cloudy or overcast. They do not do well in full, direct sunlight and probably won’t be as effective. Many garden supply stores carry them.
There are some other natural options out there that many times use garlic, cedar oil, rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, and more. If you find a natural product, don’t simply take the name or description as is, flip the product over and check the label. See if you notice any red flag ingredients. If you are unsure, many times googling, “ingredient name and dogs” will give you some information on whether it is toxic or not. If the product does not disclose their ingredients, I do not recommend using it.
Many of the standard commercial lawn sprays available or done by a professional are very toxic. If you are thinking about using one, be sure to do your research and check ingredients. Once it is applied, it will stay on your lawn for some time which can adversely effect your dog (and children) out in the yard. They are also one of the several common reasons for itchy feet, hot spots, unexplained vomiting, allergies and tear stains in dogs. I highly recommend avoiding if you can.
“What if the inside of my home is crawling with fleas?!”
First, be sure the inside of your home is clean and tidy.
Apply food grade diatomaceous earth to infested floors (try a test spot first to be sure your carpet will be ok), let it sit for a little bit, and then vacuum it up. Be sure to use vacuum attachments to get into crevices. Be sure to empty the contents of your vacuum and get it outside asap.
You can leave a light dusting of food grade diatomaceous earth in heavily infested areas as well as in areas that your dog is often, such as their bed.
Safe Essential Oil Flea Bomb:
• Get all of your animals out of the house
• Diffuse oregano, black pepper, and peppermint together.
• Air out the house and then diffuse purification and ocotea.
These methods have actually been found to work better than the standard poisonous flea bombs with an exterminator... and are a lot safer!
Use Common Sense
The methods listed above are tried and true by myself as well as many of my clients. Whatever methods you decide, be sure you are applying properly and use common sense, for example, you would not want to spray apple cider vinegar over your dog's eyes or apply essential oils close to eyes or other body orifices.
I’m sure there are some other natural flea and tick products out there. There may be some that are just as effective and safe as the ones I have listed above. However, if you decide to use a product you find on your own, please remember to do your research, check the ingredients, and see if there are any side effects associated with these products.
Decide What works Best For You and Your Pets
This guide is simply listing options to choose from, it is not recommended to do every method on this list at once. Even though these are natural, safer options, your dog could get overwhelmed by doing too many at once, especially when choosing topical applications. Choose only one topical application at a time. If you would like to try different methods, you can rotate month to month. Find out what works best for you.
Being Healthy and Pest Free is the Way to Be!
No matter what method you use, there are no 100% guaranteed protections. I’ve actually noticed in my clinic that the dogs getting the traditional preventatives more often get fleas and ticks. The options above are safer ways to protect your pet than traditional harsh chemical pesticide containing treatments. Making sure your dog is at their healthiest goes a long way too. Also, be sure your pet is tested for heartworm and tick born illness regularly.
I hope this guide was beneficial for you and that it helps you choose a safer, natural preventative for your pet’s health and wellbeing.
Links to Natural Methods, In Order of their Mention:
Young Living Therapeutic Grade essential oils: http://youngliving.org/vitchiro
Springtime Inc Bug Off Garlic: https://www.springtimeinc.com/
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: http://amzn.to/1VKbaYG
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth: http://amzn.to/1NpB6pt
Tick Key: http://amzn.to/1NpAy2O
Please note: I gain a small commission on each of these links (except for Springtime Inc). The reason I have chosen to affiliate with these products is from my own research, education, personal use, and client feedback. If this guide was beneficial for you, I hope that you will help support my work of researching over the past several years and subsequently writing this free guide for your use by following these links, if you choose to purchase any products mentioned. Thank you!