First, a disclaimer. I am not a veterinarian and have had no professional medical training. My advice is based off of my own reading and personal experience, as well as some consulting with a holistic vet and other breeders who strive to have a more “natural” approach with their dogs.
If traditional flea and tick treatments concern you and you are looking for an alternative, you might find some of this information helpful. As always, I recommend that you consult with your own veterinarian and use trusted resources to research your options. Not all veterinarians are in agreement on what is best, just like not all doctors agree on treatments for human conditions. It can be a challenge to find a vet that will work with you to develop a plan that you can feel good about. I encourage you to advocate for your dog’s health and wellness whenever possible.
Traditional flea and tick treatments are a mixture of chemicals and pesticides designed to deter and kill fleas and ticks in various ways. Many have been labeled as “safe” for dogs and cats. Some dogs, especially those smaller in size, may react poorly to these chemicals. Side effects such as skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, chemical burns, seizures, and even death have occurred.
Newer ingestible flea and tick treatments, which last for several months at a time, have been gaining in popularity as well. While there are appealing benefits to these newer products, there is also a growing number of people who have legitimate concerns about their safety.
If you read the safety warnings directly written on any of these prescription flea and tick treatments, they typically list many of the side effects that we are concerned about, which means they have seen these side effects to some degree, even if it is marginal. This is too great of a risk in my own personal opinion. If a product kills and deters ticks and fleas, imagine what it might be doing to your dog internally, when it is inside of their body and organ systems for days, weeks, and months at a time, year after year.
Alternative treatments to research and consider:
- Essential Oils
- Flea and Tick Repelling plants in your landscape
- Garlic supplementation
- Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
- Beneficial Nematodes
- Healthy Dog Diet
Here, we make our own essential oil spray that is sprayed on our dogs when heading outside into a vulnerable area. It has worked really well for us and neither of our cockapoos have ever been on a monthly flea or tick treatment. Spray over your dog’s coat before outdoor time. Make sure you use high quality therapeutic grade oils. We use DoTerra here at our house. (The recipe we use is posted below.)
Flea and Tick Repelling Plants
There are many plants you could include in your landscape that naturally repel fleas and ticks. Lemongrass, lavender, geraniums, sage, eucalyptus, and peppermint are all great options. We have both lemongrass and lavender here at our house and several forms of mint. They smell great too!
If you use garlic supplementation, be certain to research proper dosage, as too much garlic can be harmful, especially for dogs with certain conditions. I have heard lots of good reports about how garlic wards off all sorts of bugs and parasites.
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Food grade diatomaceous Earth can be sprinkled on lawns, carpets, and bedding or even directly on your dog. It can be drying to the skin if used daily so you may want to do this only on occasion. Be careful when spreading or using topically, as you don’t want you or your dog to inhale the dust. Read up on this product before using, but this is really great product for prevention and treatment.
Beneficial nematodes are live microscopic organisms that occur naturally in soil. They can be purchased and placed in your yard to combat both fleas and ticks.
Healthy Dog Diet
A great deal of research has shown that healthy, well fed dogs are less likely to have flea and parasite issues when compared to their sickly or poorly fed counterparts. A healthy doggy diet is beneficial for so many reasons and this is just one more reason to make sure your dog is eating well.
Each dog has its own level of risk dependent upon lifestyle, exposure, and the general health of the dog. You need to determine what the best choice is for both your dog and your family based upon your own situation. You may want to consider trying these natural remedies first before turning to the more harsh chemicals and pesticides. Come to your vet with a list of questions, concerns, and talking points so you can feel prepared to have a meaningful conversation.
Our Essential Oil Bug Repellent Spray
(Side note, I use this same exact spray on my family every summer as well.)
1 cup distilled water
2/3 cup witch hazel
15 drops each of the following oils:
30 drops each of the following oils:
Pour all ingredients into a 16 ounce glass amber spray bottle and you are all set. There are lots of combinations and recipes that I know others use with success as well. This is the combination I like to use here at our house. We have a few bottles conveniently located at the exits to our home and have smaller glass bottles we keep in our cars as well.
I keep a lot of different essential oils here so I have a large supply and also often add the following: Grapefruit, Clove, Basil, Oregano, and Melaleuca
All oils will eventually evaporate off the dog’s coat making reapplication necessary. This can be slowed down a bit if you add a teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil to the mixture as well.
You don’t need to have all of these oils to make a good spray. The best bang for your buck would be Cedarwood, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Geranium.
If you don’t want to get involved in making your own spray, Endless Mountain Oil Blends makes a really good flea and tick repellant spray called “Canine Flea & Tick Blend”. A great option for those who want to dip their toe in and try this alternative treatment.
I have found that an all natural approach has been both effective and safe for our cockapoos. Their long term health and wellness is of the utmost importance to me.