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.
Here are our top picks for natural flea and tick preventatives along with tips for shampoos, essential oils, how fleas and ticks attack, and where to purchase these products.
How Fleas And Ticks Attack Dogs
It angers me to no end that if you type “safe flea treatments for dogs” into a search engine like Google, you get some of the scariest, chemically-based spot-ons in the top results.
Companies have become savvy at SEO ranking – meaning they know what to put in their web copy so you will find them when you go searching. The best products are not the ones you see at the top of the search engines in many cases.
About Ticks On Dogs
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).
A tick nearly killed my dog, so check your dog thoroughly every day (twice a day if you can) using a flea and tick comb.
About Fleas On Dogs
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 seem 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, tile floors, and 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.
Smells Ticks Hate
There are certain odors that ticks find repulsive. In general, these include cinnamon, lavender, peppermint, rose geranium, cedar, citronella, eucalyptus oil, orange, and lemon. In general, ticks don’t want to latch onto a host who is wearing any of those scents. Not all products, however, are created equal.
Ticks Do Not Like
Cinnamon, lavender, peppermint, rose geranium, cedar, citronella, eucalyptus oil, orange, and lemon.
Do not use essential oils on a dog or make your own formula without talking to your dog’s veterinarian first. Never put essential oil directly on your dog. I prefer to purchase safer flea and tick repellents already made, but be sure to read the label first and know what you are purchasing.
Remember: Oils that are safe for dogs can be toxic to cats. If you own a cat that likes to groom your dog and there is any sort of chemical or essential oil on your dog, this can cause issues for your cat.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 good 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.
Brewer’s Yeast And Garlic Tablets
What It Is: Only Natural Pet Brewer’s Yeast & Garlic Tablets
Ingredients List: Brewer’s Yeast, garlic, iron, niacin, panthothenic acid, manganese, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, copper, vitamin B6, folic acid, zinc, vitamin B12. Inactive ingredients: Magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, natural turkey flavor, parsley (leaf), silicon dioxide.
How To Use It: Tablets may be crushed or mixed with food or given whole to the dog. Give 1/2 tablet for dogs weighing 10 pounds or less. Give one tablet daily for each 20 pounds of body weight.
Where To Buy It: Amazon sells Only Natural Pet Brewer’s Yeast & Garlic Tablets.
Why I Like It: This tablet is easy to crush, sprinkle on food, and makes dogs less attractive to fleas. It also supports the dog’s skin and coat.
Dogs with any sort of anemic condition should never have garlic.
What A Veterinarian Says: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM, says, “Garlic’s impact on health has come into question recently due to its properties as a member of the lily family, along with onions and shallots. A compound found in onions, n-propyldisulfide, can, in large doses, cause oxidative damage to red blood cells, creating Heinz bodies and triggering the body to reject these cells from the bloodstream.”
More about garlic health benefits for dogs. The key in feeding or supplementing with garlic is moderation and common sense. Always talk to your dog’s veterinarian first.
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 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.
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!