Looking for the best natural flea tick prevention for dogs? Every year we hear it’s supposed to be the worst year for fleas and ticks. Every year we read about more nasty side effects from chemical treatments used on and in dogs.
We prefer a more natural approach to flea and tick prevention so our dog doesn’t suffer unnecessary side effects from traditional chemical offerings.
We are not alone. Many traditional and holistic veterinarians are speaking out about the potential for harm from chemical spot-ons, oral preventatives, and traditional flea collars.
“Unregulated marketing of these items leads to dogs, their owners, and the environment being contaminated with their chemicals. But these products are convenient and appeal to those who do not wish to take the time and effort to practice safer methods of pest control and prevention,” writes Dr. Fox in his weekly column for JournalNow.com.
Dr. Fox continues by saying, “It is patently obvious that the Big Pharma manufacturers and profit-making providers are ignoring the many well-documented adverse reactions.”
Sadly, informed veterinarians put pressure on the larger chemical-laced product manufacturers. Big Pharma responds by simply adding a warning on the product label.
Why I Don’t Use Chemicals On My Dog
Fleas start feeding on dogs within five minutes, and ticks have an incredible sense of smell. Natural flea and tick prevention for dogs keep dangerous chemicals off your dog’s skin and out of his bloodstream. If I can’t use it on my own body, then I don’t allow my dog to be exposed to it.
Natural flea and tick products come from nature (animal, vegetable, mineral) and they are not synthetic, though one has to be careful with any natural product on dogs. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing even when it comes to pest repellants.
There is a multitude of reasons I don’t use chemical flea and tick spot-ons, topicals, sprays, and ingestible tablets on or in my dog. Not long after putting a chemical tick and flea preventative on my first Cocker Spaniel, she had serious side effects. Her skin flared up, it burned the hair off her back, and it never grew back. Some of her blood levels were altered, and she had a seizure.
Working as a dog journalist for over a decade in the pet industry has exposed me to a lot of things, including the lies manufacturers tell to sell products. Most chemical flea and tick preventatives require the owner to put gloves on first. If it can’t touch my skin, I don’t want it to harm my dog either.
Oral flea and tick preventatives scare the tar out of me. A significant disadvantage to ingestibles is that once a dog consumes the product if he has a side effect, you are stuck with those effects. You can’t wash away organ failure with a bath.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I am also an Etsy and Chewy affiliate.
How Ticks Find Your Dog
Knowing how fleas and ticks attack dogs is the key to preventing them. Ticks use their astute sense of smell to hunt their prey, but they’ve evolved to sense something other than blood. Ticks can actually sense breath in the air.
Imagine you are out walking your dog and his nose is close to the ground. Ticks are sensitive to smells, odors, breaths, and vibrations of anyone near them. As they sense a host, i.e. you or your dog, they prepare themselves with one or two outstretched legs. Next, they latch onto the host and it’s time to feed.
Since ticks can live for three to ten years, you can imagine how hard it is to eradicate them. Ticks stay active year-round but kick into full gear between April and September across the United States. Ticks lay in wait and sense you coming with their Haller’s organ. When you or your dog exhale carbon dioxide into the air, ticks know you are there and prepare to feast.
The more you can avoid ticks, the better. The more you can avoid harming your dog with chemicals, the better. Tick-borne diseases can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so if you find a tick on your dog, safely remove it immediately using something like a tick key. I am never without a tick key in my purse, travel bag, first aid kit, etc. (more about that shortly).
How Fleas Find Your Dog
Fleas prefer less healthy hosts. A healthier dog that is in better condition with an optimal weight is less appealing to fleas.
Unlike other parasites, fleas target less healthy hosts, as well as puppies and kittens with undeveloped immune systems. Therefore, the first defense for our dogs is to optimize their health and immunity.
More than a nuisance, fleas in large amounts can be deadly. Many dogs suffer from flea dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction to flea bites. Fleas that thrive on a dog can cause anemia from the sheer volume of blood loss.
Fleas can be hard to see, especially on darker coats. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. The fleas you find on a dog are the adult stage fleas. Since a flea goes through a whole host of stages, they can live in carpeting, on a pet’s bedding, in hardwood floor cracks, on tile floors, and on furniture.
Fleas are tiny and wingless but can jump long distances. Again, use a flea and tick comb at least once a day on your dog. If there is any suspicion of fleas, you can try this easy at-home test.
If you see black specks or what looks like tiny particles of dirt on your dog’s coat or skin, get a dampened paper towel. Rub the damp paper towel over the specks and watch for any sort of color change. If you see the flecks turn reddish-brown, you’ve just identified flea feces.
Who Regulates Flea and Tick Preventatives for Dogs?
It’s a bit confusing and not very well-streamlined. We will break it down. According to the American Medical Veterinary Association (AVMA):
- Federal law requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to register pesticides before the general public can purchase them.
- Some spot-on flea and tick preventatives are considered to be animal drugs so they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Spot-on preventatives that treat only external parasites like fleas and ticks are regulated by the EPA.
- Spot-ons that treat external parasites and internal parasites like intestinal words are considered to be animal drugs and regulated by the FDA.
- Edible treatments are usually regulated by the FDA while topical ones are the EPA mostly.
When it comes to more natural preventatives and essential oils, there is no governing body. There is no magic bullet to 100 percent prevent fleas and ticks–and some may not work.
Is Natural Flea and Tick Repellant Safe For Dogs?
What works for one dog may not work for another. A dog who spends a lot of time walking through the woods or going on trails in Connecticut is more at risk of ticks than a dog who spends her time inside with very little outdoor interaction.
Some more natural flea and tick repellents may be safer than synthetic chemicals but may create allergies in people and pets in the household.
Chemicals are not 100 percent effective either. If you plan to try chemicals or more natural repellants, monitor your dog and your family closely for adverse reactions.
Report any animal drug and flea and tick prevention side effects at the FDA’s site.
Should I Use Natural For Flea and Tick Repellant For Dogs?
If you plan to use natural, non-chemical preventatives on your dog, be very careful. Essential oils are one of the top reasons for calls to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center for tick-related concerns.
Dogs may lick the oil or absorb the ingredients through their skin. Cats are even more likely than dogs to have a negative reaction to essential oils.
Whenever you apply a new preventative to your dog, do so with caution. Watch them closely for any side effects, tremors, salivating, or anything else. Do not use products made for humans on dogs. Ever.
Natural basically means without traditional chemicals when it comes to flea and tick prevention.
No matter what you use on your dog, do a daily tick check. Go beyond the surface of your pup’s fur. Part the hair, look at their skin and use a flea and tick comb.
I always keep a tick key on hand. Some other places ticks hide include the back legs, under the front legs, in the mouth, on the head and face, and even between the toes.
Essential Oils to Avoid on Dogs
Do not use the following essential oils on dogs per Rita Hogan, canine herbalist:
- Sweet Basil
- Tea Tree
Safer Essentials Oils For Dogs
Natural sprays and preventatives should contain as few ingredients as possible. Some oils are toxic to dogs and remember that your dog’s sense of smell is hundreds of times more sensitive than yours.
Oils that are considered safer to use on dogs (remember that all dogs are unique individuals) according to Rita Hogan are:
- Bay leaf
- Cedar (atlantica)
- Clary sage
- Eucalyptus (radiata)
- Lemon eucalyptus
- Peppermint (not near the dog’s face)
- Rosemary (not in dogs with seizures)
We prefer to buy our essential oils ready to use without having to dilute them. Keep reading to find out what we’re using.
Best Natural Flea and Tick Prevention For Dogs
The following list represents the variety of natural products that have been successful on my dogs in the war against ticks and fleas. I don’t use all of them together, and I highly recommend you choose the one(s) that are best suited to your dog.
You will need to experiment with what works best for your dog and environment.
I am not a veterinarian but I am a diligent dog mom who has tried dozens of products on her Cocker Spaniels over the past three decades. Dogs, like people, are uniquely different and what may work for one dog may not work for another.
Here’s the complete list of our favorite natural fleas tick prevention for dogs with clickable shopping links followed by a breakdown of each product and why we like them.
- Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Protection Spray
- Wondercide Flea and Tick and Mosquito Control Spray
- Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Flea & Tick Tag
- Food grade diatomaceous earth
- AnimalEO Evict RTU Drops
- Nantucket Spider Natural Insect Repellant for Dogs
- Flea comb and a tick key
- Kin + Kind Flea and Tick Spray
- Dog Whisperer Tick & Flea Repellant
- Vets Best Continous Spray Flea and Tick
- Liquid Vet Flea and Tick Support Formula For Dogs
Gentle Herbal Spray For Dogs
What It Is: Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Protection Spray
Ingredients List: It is ensconced in a base of Witch Hazel, Catnip Oil, Erigeron Oil, Neem Oil, Citronella Oil, Cedarwood Oil, Geranium Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Organic Rosemary Extract.
How To Use It: Use it daily by spraying it on your dog’s coat and ensuring you work it through. They also have a wonderful complementary shampoo.
What The CEO Says: Wendy Shankin-Cohen, President and CEO of Dr. Harvey’s, says, “We use it for its soothing properties and its powerful antimicrobial properties. It is highly effective in keeping insects off dogs.”
Regarding the rosemary in the product, Wendy says, “We have all breeds of dogs using these products. There is not a high concentration of rosemary in the product; just a few drops are added to the organic shampoo or witch hazel. We are the only company that avoids both alcohol and water in its base.
Where To Buy It: Dr. Harvey’s website
Why I Like It: I’ve been using this on my dog for a number of years and it has effectively kept ticks and fleas away. The scent dissipates to the human nose after an hour or so, but it does its job on our walks and romps to the park and around the neighborhood. A little goes a long way.
Pro Tip: I spray it onto my hands and work it into my dog’s coat. I do not put sprays near his face, eyes, or mouth, and neither should you.
Ready to Use Diluted Essential Oil Drops
What It Is: AnimalEO Evict RTU Drops
Ingredients List: Fractionated Coconut Oil, Essential Oils of Cedarwood (Juniperus mexicana), Catnip (Nepeta cataria), Eucalyptus citriodora, Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Rosemary-Cineole (Rosmarinus officinalis), Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
How To Use It: This ready-to-use product is made by internationally recognized holistic veterinarian Dr. Melissa Shelton. It is already diluted and for topical use from the bottle. Place between 4 to 10 drops of Evict RTU Drops into your hands – rub them together to distribute a film of oil, and then pet your dog’s coat.
Where To Buy It: Directly from AnimalEO.
Why I Like It: I learned of this product from veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan. She recommends it to her clients as an anti-bug, anti-odor, animal-safe blend. She uses it on. her dogs, too. Dr. Morgan does not recommend or prescribe oral preventative medications that last one to three months, as she claims they are “extremely dangerous and have killed too many of our beloved dogs and cats.”
Organic Essential Oil Spray
Ingredients List: The mosquito, flea, and tick spray formula is composed of a blend of organic rosemary, thyme, peppermint, cedarwood, and geranium essential oils. The only other ingredients are water and glycerin.
How To Use It: Apply to your dog’s coat and underbelly.
Where To Buy It: Amazon sells Nantucket Spider Natural Insect Repellant for Dogs
Why I Like It: I learned of this product from my dog’s breeder. She uses it on her Cocker Spaniels with success. It is DEET-free and contains a broad spectrum of 100 percent organic essential oils. Reviews on Amazon rave about its efficacy on hikes and walks, so we are trying this formula this season on our puppy, Alvin.
Cedar Flea And Tick Preventative Spray-On
Ingredients List: Active: 5.7% cedarwood oil, 2.2% sodium lauryl sulfate, 0.1% sesame oil. Inert: 92% (water, polyglyceryl oleate, glycerin, sodium chloride, ethyl lactate, sodium citrate, citric acid, vitamin E). Total: 100.0%.
How To Use It: Daily, or as needed, in heavy flea and tick season. I tend to spray it on my hands and rub it into my dog’s coat and on his skin. I do this for the gentle areas like the ears, near the neck, etc. I spray on other areas and comb through or rub through.
Where To Buy It: Amazon sells Wondercide in a variety of formulas.
Why I Like It: Wondercide is made with non-toxic, food-grade ingredients, it is safe and effective for pets of all ages and sizes: including puppies! Available options are lemongrass, rosemary, peppermint, and cedar. Rosemary should not be used on dogs with epilepsy or any seizure history. The lemongrass scent wasn’t for me, but if that’s your thing, go for it.
We use the cedar scent. I did not want my dog to smell like the inside of my storage closet. Guess what? He doesn’t! We use this a few times a week from April through October. It all depends on where we are going. If the dog is going to the curb and back, then I don’t use it. Otherwise, a few spritzes a day worked into the coat and he is mega protected! It is also non-staining.
In The News: Since I started using Wondercide several years ago, the company that landed a deal on tv’s Shark Tank, added an ingredient called SLS (sodium laurel sulfate) to their formulas. According to a statement on the company’s website, “SLS has no known toxicity (though, it’s easy to find differing opinions), and research from the American Cancer Society indicates that SLS is not carcinogenic (cancer-causing) nor is it a hormone or endocrine disruptor.”
I continue to use the product on my dog and we have used their products on our lawn.
Biological Frequency Flea & Tick Tag
What It Is: Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Flea & Tick Tag
Ingredients List: Containing silicon dioxide particles encoded with specific frequencies that are emitted over time, once the tag is placed on your pet’s collar, it will synchronize with your pet’s own unique biological frequency.
How To Use It: Dex wears this on his collar year-round. I change it twice a year. So two tags last me one full year.
Where To Buy It: Amazon sells the Only Natural Pet flea and tick tag
Why I Like It: The EasyDefense Tag is treated with a powerful bio-energetic process and sealed in an electro-magnetic shielded envelope.
Just place it on your pet’s collar and it will use your pet’s own inherent energy to send out pest repelling frequencies. Only Natural Pet claims it starts working within 3 weeks.
I am not easily sold on a little metal tag that claims to ward off pests. We’ve been using this tag since 2014 as part of the process I am explaining here. No fleas. No ticks. A bit pricier than other treatments, but I am of the ilk of pay now or pay later. I figure it cannot hurt in the grand scheme of things, and so I use it.
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
What It Is: Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE), powdered granulation. Think fossilized skeletal remains, as this stuff is nature’s secret. This non-toxic powder is composed of the crushed fossils of freshwater and marine organisms, so fleas cannot get immune.
Ingredients List: This is from nature and is made with pure USD food-grade diatomaceous earth.
How To Use It: DE acts like shards of glass to fleas and ticks, cutting their wings and pretty much eliminating their desire to host and feed on your dog.
For use with fleas, pay close attention to the dog’s backbone, thoroughly dusting the powder into this area of the fur. Be sure to buy food-grade diatomaceous earth that is powdered granulation. Do not allow your dog to breathe it in nor should you breathe it in. Do not put DE near your dog’s face, mouth, or areas where he can breathe it in.
Where To Buy It: Amazon sells the food grade diatomaceous earth in small and large options.
Why I Like It: When the insects come in contact with this, they dehydrate and die. Boom, mic drop.
I don’t spray my dog and then use this powder, as he would end up a pasty, smelly mess. DE can dry a pet’s skin since it is a drying agent. I never had this issue with my dogs, past or present, because I don’t use it every day.
Pro Tips: You can use DE on the lawn outside and to kill fleas and ticks without chemicals in the outdoor environment. You might even read about people digesting food-grade DE or feeding it to pets as a deworming aid. We don’t do that; we use it on occasion for flea and tick prevention. In the event an insect lands on my dog, I want it gone fast.
It works to kill bed bugs, too, so I’ve been known to travel with this…just in case. It can be harmful to the lungs, so you don’t want to go breathing it in on a regular basis. This is something you use sparingly and lightly. Do not put it near the dog’s face or mouth. You want the food-grade version.
Tick Key and Flea Comb
If there is one thing I’ve learned in my many years of sharing life with dogs, it is this: nothing is 100 percent effective 100 percent of the time.
I carry a flea comb and a tick key with me just in case. I run the flea comb through his coat to be sure no nasties hitched a ride. The tick key is easy to use and you can remove ticks in a hurry, the head and all. Good riddance.
Runners-Up Flea and Tick Natural Prevention for Dogs
Here are a few others we have tried or plan to:
Kin + Kind Flea and Tick Spray: Rave reviews and featuring plant-based ingredients in a convenient spray bottle.
Dog Whisperer Tick & Flea Repellant: Herbal fresh with rave reviews in a 100 percent plant-based, vegan, and cruelty-free spray. If clove irritates you, it contains NO clove.
Vets Best Continous Spray Flea and Tick: Gentle must sprayer makes it easy to apply on puppies and dogs 12 weeks or older. 100% certified natural essential oils and plant-based ingredients.
Liquid Vet Flea and Tick Support Formula For Dogs: A fresh-scented lotion that won’t leave a greasy residue and contains no harsh chemicals. Rub into your dog’s coat once a week.
Natural Dog Flea And Tick Shampoos
There are a total of two shampoos I use on my dog to prevent fleas and ticks and in conjunction with the heavier insect months from April through October.
Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Protection Shampoo
Ingredients List: Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Aloe Vera, Vegetable Glycerine, Organic Chamomile Extract, Organic Stinging Nettles Extract, Organic Sage Extract, Organic Calendula Extract, Organic Hops Extract, St. John’s Wort Extract, Horsetail Extract, Catnip Oil, Erigeron Oil, Neem Oil, Citronella Oil, Cedarwood Oil, Geranium Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Organic Rosemary Extract.
How To Use It: I use this in conjunction with the Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Protection Spray, but you can use it on its own during your dog’s normal bathtime.
Where To Buy It: Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Protection Shampoo at DrHarveys.com.
Why I Like It: No chemicals, trusted name brand, and I’ve been using it for years with success.
Wondercide Repel Bar – Citronella and Geranium
Ingredients List: Coconut oil, palm oil, shea butter, castor oil, citronella oil, geranium oil, Aloe vera, vitamin E, honey.
How To Use It: Because this product is a true soap, it is safe to use monthly (or as often as needed). Will last up to five times longer than a 16 oz. liquid soap. It comes with a piece of cedar to rest the soap on.
Where To Buy It: Amazon sells the Wondercide Repel Bar.
Why I Like It: This was my first experience with bar soap for dogs, and wow a small bar goes a long way! It lathers nicely, is gentle for regular use, and is free of artificial colors, fragrances, sulfates, phthalates, and harsh ingredients. I keep it in a portable soap dish for easy use and travel.
Natural Flea Collar For Dogs
I was never a fan of flea and tick collars because they are infused with chemicals. I also don’t like anything near my dog’s mouth or nose. I don’t want him to breathe in fumes all day long. I decided to try one, and so far so good. I only put it on my dog while out on walks.
I don’t keep it on him in the house so he doesn’t sneeze or get irritated by the scent. I keep it in a plastic baggie when not in use.
Here’s a natural care repellant flea and tick collar like the one we use. I would recommend replacing it every 6 to 8 weeks and not every 4 months. I found it doesn’t smell as strong after 6 to 8 weeks.
Protect Your Yard and Property
Before you get started on any sort of natural flea and tick repellant for your dogs, protect your yard and property with Thermacell Tick Tubes.
The Thermacell tick tubes contain cotton-treated permethrin which mice collect and use it to line their nests underground where sprays and granules cannot reach. Therefore, ticks primarily feed on the mice will die.
Apply them twice a year–in the spring and summer for up to a half-acre protection per application. If you live in a heavy tick area as I do, these are a must-have. Place them no more than 10 yards apart in the ground near rock walls, woodpiles, gardens, sheds, and wooded areas.
Why I Use Natural Preventatives On My Dog
For years, the Center for Public Integrity (CSI) has reported on the dangers of flea and tick treatments applied directly to a dog’s skin.
Namely, the number of reported incidents skyrocketed with each passing year. Pet owners report things like seizures, rashes, and even death.
I am a Cocker Spaniel parent and run a highly engaged Cocker Spaniel Facebook group. The number of pet parents who report issues with topical spot-ons is more than alarming. It’s an epidemic.
In the past, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not tell pet owners to stop using the chemically-based spot-ons, but they did acknowledge “concerns.”
Dog seizures, rashes, and death are all enough reasons for me.
Cocker Spaniels tend to have more sensitive immune systems, so the last thing I want to do is add a catalyst to spawn disease to the mix. Most importantly, common sense leads me away from applying chemically-based products to my dog.
Because most of the pesticides allowed for use on pets are linked to serious health and respiratory issues in humans, why risk it?
Low-level exposure to things like organophosphates and carbamates—two particularly dangerous families of pesticides found in some flea treatments as well as in agricultural and lawn products—have been linked to learning disabilities in children.
It gets scarier. Neonicotinoids like imidacloprid and dinetofuran are present in some flea and tick treatments. When you bathe your pet after a topical treatment, the chemical gets washed down the drain to wastewater treatment facilities where, it has been shown, nearly 100 percent of it makes it through the filtration process and gets dumped into our streams, rivers and oceans.
There are other chemicals. Check that flea or tick preventative you might have right now. Perhaps these words appear: amitraz, fipronil, permethrin, tetramethrin, cypermethrin or bifenthrin.
These are all definite or possible carcinogens per the EPA. The above holds true for flea and tick collars, and for me personally, ingestibles are a real no-go.
Chemically based topical sprays, collars, shampoos and ingestible preventatives may claim to repel or kill ticks and fleas, but they come with serious toxic potential, etc.
All of the above products are DEET-free – never use DEET on a dog. There are no gloves needed to apply, and fleas and ticks are staying away. My dog is healthy, I am happy, and chemicals are no more!