When you have a dog, finding fleas and ticks in their fur can sometimes be a weekly occurrence. Pet owners can easily recognize the signs: restlessness, scratching, discomfort, and even skin irritation. Topical creams and medications provided by the vet are toxic to pests, meaning they can also be toxic to children and animals. Plus, insect repellent medications can come with nasty side effects.
Using essential oils to repel fleas and ticks is all-natural, cost-effective, and doesn’t require a trip to the vet. In this article, you’ll learn how to make your own DIY flea and tick repellent at home, plus some safety tips and tricks to keep yourself and your pets healthy.
The Dangers of Fleas and Ticks
Fleas and ticks are frequent concerns for pet owners and can be extremely dangerous to dogs. They are parasites, meaning they take root in your dog's skin and suck blood and nutrients from the pup.
Fleas can consume up to 15 times their own body weight in blood, which can cause blood loss and anemia, especially in puppies. If a puppies’ red blood cell count is depleted, it can be life-threatening. Some pets can also have an allergic reaction to fleas called flea allergy dermatitis.
Ticks can also cause blood loss and anemia, but even more dangerously, they carry diseases that can be deadly to your pet. Ticks can spread Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection that can spread to dogs, cats, humans, and other mammals. Symptoms of Lyme disease can include depression, swelling of the lymph nodes and joints, loss of appetite, fever, and even kidney failure.
If left untreated, flea and tick infestations can be deadly to dogs. Making sure to prevent and treat fleas and ticks ensures healthy pets that live long, happy lives.
Why Use Essential Oils?
When you take your dog to the vet for tick and flea control, they will probably prescribe either a medicated topical treatment or a preventative medication taken orally for tick and flea prevention. Unfortunately, some of these medications have caused adverse neurological reactions in pets. Even if you don’t notice the adverse effects right away, long-term or incorrect use of these products can cause skin irritation, vomiting, or respiratory problems. With continued use of these products, fleas can eventually develop immunity to them, and they’ll no longer be effective in protecting against flea infestations.
The use of essential oils is a great alternative to oral and topical medications because they’re all-natural and can be made right at home, so you know exactly what goes into them. They are pet safe when used in the right quantities and applications, and they can even provide added benefits, like providing antiseptic properties to help heal flea and tick bites and soothing itchy, irritated skin.
Essential oils offer a variety of health benefits to humans, and when used correctly, they can provide the same for your pets.
You may have heard that essential oils are dangerous to pets. While there are some essential oils that are toxic to dogs, some are safe when used correctly. Do your research before using any oil around your pet, and avoid using the following:
- Eucalyptus oil
- Peppermint oil
- Sweet Birch
- Tea Tree oil
- Ylang Ylang
As a general rule of thumb, do not use essential oils on your pet in any way you wouldn’t use them on yourself. Essential oils are extremely potent and can cause irritation, itchiness, redness, and other side effects when applied undiluted. It is important to always use carrier oil to dilute essential oils before applying them to your pet’s skin. A carrier oil is a neutral, plant-based oil that is safe for the skin in large quantities and is necessary for dilution. Examples of pet-safe carrier oils are:
- Coconut Oil
- Aloe Vera Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Sweet Almond Oil
- Castor Oil
- Jojoba Oil
Make sure to learn the warning signs of essential oil toxicity in dogs. If you notice your pet experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, wobbliness, excessive drooling, depression, lethargy, weakness, tremors, or any other abnormal behavior, stop treatment immediately and consult your veterinarian.
Best Oils For Pest Repellent
There are a wide variety of essential oils that naturally repel fleas and ticks, leaving your dog soothed and safe. We’ve broken down a few of the most effective oils for pest repellent below.
The scent of lavender oil naturally repels fleas and ticks, making it unlikely that any will burrow into your animal’s fur. It also prevents tick eggs from hatching, so if they did make it onto your dog’s skin, they would not be able to reproduce and would quickly die off. Lavender oil is extremely soothing and has antibacterial properties that help to prevent infection.
Lemongrass oil is another great way to keep pests off your dog’s fur, as fleas hate the scent and will generally stay away from it. The active ingredients, citral and geraniol, are natural repellents.
Cedarwood oil is extremely popular for pest control, as it both repels and kills fleas and ticks on both animals and humans. When cedarwood oil is diffused for aromatherapy, it releases anti-parasitic molecules into the air, killing any fleas and ticks that may be present in the home.
Rosemary oil is a natural flea repellent and also helps to heal flea bites. However, rosemary oil is extremely potent, and in some cases, can irritate the skin. Use this oil very sparingly, and watch carefully for any itching or redness on your pet’s skin.
Neem oil is a natural remedy with a variety of uses, including reducing the look of scars, minimizing warts and moles, and yes, repelling fleas and ticks. It should be diluted at a ratio of one drop Neem oil to 10 drops carrier oil. It can then be used directly on the dog's fur or mixed in with their shampoo.
Rose Geranium Oil
Rose Geranium oil naturally repels fleas, not to mention that it smells quite nice.
Clove oil is extremely effective at killing and repelling fleas but should not be applied directly to the skin undiluted. Once diluted, it can be sprayed on the dog’s collar or on their bedding.
How to Use Essential Oils on Dogs
There are a variety of effective ways you can use essential oils to repel and kill fleas and ticks on dogs. Different methods will be most effective for different oils.
Mix With Shampoo
A great way to easily apply essential oils directly to your dog’s skin without causing irritation is to mix it with their regular shampoo during bath time. Adding 5-10 drops of essential oil to your dog’s shampoo while bathing is a great, all-natural way to make sure pests stay away. This method works well with lavender oil, neem oil, and rosemary oil.
Diffusing essential oils is a great way to spread their healing properties throughout your entire home. By placing natural pest repellent oils in your diffuser, you can kill and repel any pests in your home, not just the ones that have already rooted into your dog’s fur. We recommend diffusing lemongrass oil, cedar oil, and lavender oil.
Make A Spray
Mixing essential oils with water in a spray bottle is a great no-fuss way to keep fleas and ticks away. Simply 5-10 drops of undiluted essential oil with 8 oz. of water and place it in an empty spray bottle. Then, simply spray your dog’s coat with the mixture a few times per week. This method works well with lemongrass oil and rosemary oil.
Apply To Skin
The easiest way to apply essential oils to your dog’s fur is to simply place a few drops on them in key areas (mixed with a carrier oil, of course). You can place a few drops of diluted essential oil under your dog's collar, behind their shoulder blades, or at the base of their tail. This works best with rose geranium oil, neem oil, lavender oil, and clove oil.
Keeping your dog safe from fleas and ticks is extremely important for their overall wellness. Veterinarians prescribed topical and oral treatments can be dangerous to your pet and can cause adverse health effects such as neurological damage, respiratory problems, skin irritation, and more. Using essential oils is a natural and safe way to kill and repel fleas and ticks and can provide a variety of other benefits, like soothing the skin and killing infections.
If you want to know more about the different ways essential oils can benefit your health, make sure to visit our blog for lifestyle tips and tricks.