Last updated on March 28, 2019
It’s that time of the year: when more dogs are getting outside because the temperatures are more cooperative. It also means it’s flea and tick prevention season.
If I can’t use it on my own body, then I don’t allow my dog to be exposed to it. I am talking about dangerous chemical flea and tick preventatives. There are safer, non-chemical alternatives to chemical safeguards that can irritate, harm, or do worse dangers to your dog.
We are frequently asked what safe flea and tick prevention treatments we use on our dog, Dexter. I can tell you what I don’t use and then outline what works for us and why. There is a multitude of reasons I “do no harm” to my dog’s skin and internal organs by rejecting mainstream chemically-laden flea and tick spot-ons, topicals, sprays, and more.
Why We Don’t Use Chemicals To Prevent Fleas And Ticks
My first Cocker Spaniel experienced such adverse reactions to a chemical spot-on purchased from our then veterinarian that it burned her hair off. The hair never grew back in the spots where the chemically-based spot-on traveled across her fur. I can only imagine the damage it did internally; I know her bloodwork never stabilized after those initial treatments. Looking back, I shudder at my ignorance. I know better, so I do better.
Chemicals that are not pet-friendly can harm dogs and seep into the bloodstream by way of paws or dogs who lick their paws. Do not use toxic variations. I am talking about lawns and lawn care treatments, here.
Here’s CNN’s coverage on a popular week killer, RoundUp, and its role in a man developing cancer. It’s the second case the manufacturer, Monsanto, lost in recent times.
A jury awarded a school groundskeeper $289 million because they say he got cancer from the RoundUp weed killer.
Dogs of the world are stepping on this crap, folks. It’s on lawns and it causes damage. I always use caution where I allow my dog to walk, play, and pretty much hang out. These are scary times. I wash his paws when we get home.
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.
Oral flea 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.
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 chemically-based products on 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.
Many topical treatments instruct proper hand washing or the usage of gloves to apply the treatment. Words fail me here.
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.
Safer Fleas And Tick Prevention
There are things you can do to prevent the nasty pests that not only irritate but can sicken or yes, kill your dog.
Some dogs have extreme flea allergies in addition to the itchy misery and infestation they cause. Ticks are another beast that wreak havoc.
Know Thine Enemy: Prevent Fleas
Fleas prefer less healthy hosts. A healthier dog that is in better condition with an optimal weight is less appealing to fleas.
Our pals at Only Natural Pet remind that unlike other parasites, fleas target less healthy hosts, as well as puppies and kittens with undeveloped immune systems. Therefore, the first defense for our pets is to optimize their health and immunity.
Rather than discuss the life of the flea, the havoc they create, and why ticks are the scourge of the earth, here’s our 2019 non-chemical flea and tick preventative and maintenance guide. We use these. I cannot guarantee the efficacy in your pet, but I can attest to their effectiveness in mine. If things change, I will update this list.
I use some of these together and others are as needed and situational depending on the location we are visiting. If I am in or near a woodsy area, you bet I up my game. I do not use all of them together at one time. Please choose the selection(s) that work best for your dog.
This post contains some affiliate links for which I earn a small income if you click through and purchase something on the links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.
Gentle Herbal Spray For Dogs
What It Is: As a brand ambassador for Dr. Harvey’s, one of the go-to products that travel with us is their Herbal Protection Spray, as an alternative to the chemical spray-ons.
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 Often I Use It: As needed, you can use it daily. It has no dangerous chemicals in it, no nasty DEET, and no perfumes in case you or your dog have allergies or sensitivities to added scents. Since it is made of essential oils and organic material, it is gentle, has a natural herbal fragrance, and an affordable layer of additional protection. 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.”
How Long I’ve Been Using:I’ve lost track of the years, but let’s say many! Click the photo of Dexter getting pampered with Dr. Harvey’s to snag your own bottle.
Bonus: Save 10 percent off your order at Dr. Harvey’s by using code FDLUV19 at checkout.
Safer Flea And Tick Topical
Ingredients List: Active ingredients of Geraniol 0.95% and Peppermint Oil 0.1%; inert ingredients of almond oil 98.95%. TOTAL: 100%
How Often I Use It: Once a month as an added layer of protection.
How It Works: The Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Squeeze-On Dog Flea Control utilizes natural active ingredients to repel fleas, ticks and other biting insects from your pet. You just spread the hair between your dog’s shoulder blades back until you see skin and apply the entire tube of EasyDefense Herbal Flea & Tick Squeeze-On.
That’s enough to keep your dog protected for an entire month. Because it runs through the dog’s coat and skin, you’ll want to protect your bedding or furniture with a sheet. It has a strong scent but it goes away. It is pleasant and not annoying in scent. I run a brush through my dog and sometimes see a few white flakes on his fur. They go away in a day or two.
How Long I’ve Been Using It: Around 5 years.
Safer Flea And Tick Spray On
How Often I 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.
How It Works: Okay, why would I need an extra spray considering I use a spot-on? I don’t feel the spot on alone is enough to prevent everything. I also live in a woodsy area. I live in an area where I take my dog to the park. I take my dog for walks. My dog travels. I want extra protection.
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 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.
Wondercide is not oily, the smell dissipates with time but the efficacy remains. It is not overpowering and yours truly actually put some on her arms and legs. I came back to the car with not one mosquito bite after a nice long walk near woods and deer! You can even spray this onto a flea and watch it go bye bye.
How Long I’ve Been Using It: About 5 years.
Recent Fact: 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. It is given the lowest rating of health concern, 1-2 on a scale of 1-10, in the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Skin Deep database for personal care products. It’s a scale that many people trust to help them make decisions on products they will use in their homes.”
I continue to use the product on my dog and we have used their products on our lawn.
Flea And Tick Tag
What It Is: Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Flea & Tick Tag
How Often I Use It: Dex wears this on his collar year round. I change it twice a year. So two tags last me one full year.
How It Works: 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. It starts working within 3 weeks. It remains effective at preventing biting insects for a full year. I am just now changing my dog’s flea and tick tag after using it successfully for a full year. Using state of the art holistic technology, theEasyDefense Flea & Tick Tag utilizes your pet’s own bio-energy to create a natural preventative to biting insects, including fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. There are no dangerous chemicals or harmful pesticides involved. It is completely safe for pets and humans in the household.
Use this as part of the flea and tick prevention system! Click the photo or link below for more information and to get yours.
P.S. 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.
How Long I’ve Been Using It: About 5 years.
Safer Flea And Tick Powder
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.
How It Works: 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 animal’s backbone, thoroughly dusting the DE into this area of the fur. Be sure to buy food grade diatomaceous earth that is in a powdered granulation.
How Often I Use It: Now and again. 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 near the dog’s face or mouth. You want the food-grade version. When the insects come in contact with this, they dehydrate and die. Boom, mic drop.
I don’t spray my dog, put on a topical, then a powder. 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. Use a safe hydrating conditioner like Zymox’s leave in product.
Bonus: 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.
What To Buy: I have used a few different ‘brands,’ and it just comes down to how much you want. I like a sprinkle jar. I don’t want to buy some huge 10-gallon jar and have to pour it into a sprinkler jar and have a mess, etc. If you do, go for it. Here are a few different versions on Amazon:
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 am still diligent in looking for fleas and ticks on my dog, especially since a tick nearly killed my Cocker Spaniel, depleting his body of platelets.
The tick key is easy to use and you can remove ticks in a hurry, the head and all. Good riddance.
There is a boatload of flea combs on the market. I like this one because the tines of the comb don’t break off and it’s long lasting. Comes in small and large depending on your dog’s size.
Final Flea Facts
All of the above 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!
Never overload your dog’s system with too many chemicals nor too many oils. Too much of anything is never a good thing.
Don’t Stop Now
Like this article? Check out 8 Hacks to Prevent Fleas and Ticks
How do I keep my dog healthy? Here’s what I feed my dog and how to choose a dog food best for your dog.
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