Repelling ticks and fleas from your dog can be a dangerous endeavor for the health of your dog.
Insect parasites are a natural part of the world around us, but that doesn't mean you have to let them hang out on your fur 🐶 baby. In fact, you should always do what you can to prevent them.
Fleas and ticks 🪲 can carry diseases, they can cause irritation and itchiness, and worst of all they produce more of themselves. On top of that, some of them carry diseases that can affect not just your dog; but you too!
However, in severe cases, you'll probably want to take your pup to the vet and make sure he or she has the treatment necessary to eliminate the pests that have taken up residence.
In this comprehensive guide, we've put together an extensive list of natural ways to repel fleas and ticks from your dog that you can do at home.
Keep in mind that while these remedies work for repelling nasty little bugs, they can only do so much. If you live in the woods and hike a lot, or during heavy tick season for example, some ticks might still get through.
As usual my blog is packed 📚 with resources. If you are looking for more dog care guides, I have listed some great guides at the bottom. I'm sure you will learn a thing or two that will improve your dog's life.
With that out of the way, let's talk repellants! Here are our favorite options.
Editor's Note: 'DIY Guide: Natural Ways to Repel Ticks and Fleas from Your Dog' was originally written in 2021. We update this post periodically to reflect changes in techniques, new recommendations, and because I am always learning new things!
Yes, they do! As preventative treatments, they are far safer and effective than conventional harsh chemical-based solutions.
If you are anything like me, and you are constantly concerned with the side effects of chemical drugs on your fur babies, and so, you probably always try any natural ways to repel ticks and fleas from your dog before you even consider any harsh chemical-based solutions as a last resource.
The truth is those chemical solutions are always likely to create other long-term health issues for your pup. In other words, in most cases you are basically giving up fleas and ticks today for something more serious tomorrow.
When it comes to keeping our fur babies healthy, I always like to reference Benjamin Franklin’s famous proverb: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Chemical treatments are designed to kill parasites once they are on your dog or cat. Natural flea and tick treatments on the contrary, work by repelling fleas and ticks, so your fur baby doesn't even become a host. This is by far a more effective approach at preventing disease if done appropriately.
“These awful chemical treatments can also cause neurological issues and permanent damage in cats and dogs… Flea products and tick products are incredibly toxic and overload the body when the immune system is already under challenge.” – My Pet Nutritionist.com
Important to note is the homemade remedies below are no substitute for keeping a close eye on your dog and dealing with parasites if they show up. And, of course, if a home remedy doesn't do the trick, a vet treatment may be the best option.
All the options below are intended to provide you with as many natural alternatives as possible. The truth is different treatments work better in different situations and for different dogs.
Some dogs will be bothered by certain smells. Some might have sensitive skin that gets irritated by certain oils. We're going to give you as many viable options as possible, so you can find the one that works best for you and your fur baby.
One of the most common and most frequently used flea and tick repellants is citrus juice.
Insects of all types tend to hate the strong scent of citrus. In fact, citrus has been used as an insect repellant for centuries, for both pets and for their parents!
First up, pick up a citrus fruit. You want one that doesn't bother you or your dog, so let them give it a sniff and see how they respond.
Lemon – typically the most effective of the citrus, but strong and sour enough that your dog might not like it. Be aware, though, that lemon juice is a natural bleach and can lighten darker fur.
Orange – second-best for repelling fleas and a good middle ground.
Grapefruit – strong and bitter, it works nearly as well as lemon but may make your dog uncomfortable if they taste it too much.
Squeeze out the juice of your chosen citrus. Then, sprinkle a little bit of the juice on your dog's fur.
You can comb it in if you like, but the important part is the scent. Just make sure not to get any juice in your fur baby's eyes, as it can sting and irritate them.
Word of caution: Avoid using oil extracts from lemons, oranges, and any citrus in general. These oils are not safe for cats and dogs. These extracts contain limonene, an effective insect repellent as well as an all-purpose household cleaner. Limonene is toxic for pets.
You might be skeptical about essential oils since a ton of medical quacks claim they can cure pretty much anything.
While they might not be as powerful as all that, they're strongly-scented oils that can have a repellant effect on parasites like fleas and ticks.
Beware, many flea and tick chemical-based solution manufacturers will sponsor content creation about the risks and lack of efficacy of essential oils to repel ticks and fleas.
Do Essential Oils Really Work Against Fleas?
Yes, they do. The truth of the matter is that there is sound scientific evidence of the efficacy of essential oils in repelling ticks and fleas.
A study titled preventing tick attachment to dogs using essential oils published by the University of Bristol in the UK validates some popular believes in this regards.
"Plant-derived essential oils are blends of approximately 20–80 different metabolites which are usually extracted from plants via steam distillation (Bakkali et al., 2008). These metabolites are volatile molecules of low molecular weight and usually contain two or three major terpene or terpenoid components, which constitute up to 30% of the oil (Bakkali et al., 2008). There is a growing body of evidence indicating that they possess varying mechanisms of action against arthropods" - University of Bristol | Explore Bristol Research
What is the Best Essential Oil to Kill Fleas?
Turmeric seems to be the most effective essential oil to kill fleas. While the study recognizes some variability in the efficacy of different essential oils, it also concludes that relative to other essential oils used, turmeric essential oil is the most effective in repelling ticks and fleas.
"The results suggest that even at a low concentration the turmeric essential oil suspension could be used as a repellent for dogs, whose owners do not want to use conventional synthetic chemical products and who are willing to undertake repeated applications." - University of Bristol | Explore Bristol Research
Another important finding of the study is about the efficacy of turmeric
" 2.5% turmeric essential oil demonstrated repellency comparable to 20% DEET and was more effective than 5% PMD in vitro. The data suggest that the spray has the potential to significantly reduce the number of tick bites, and when combined with avoidance of tick-infested habitats and thorough examination after visiting these areas, it could form part of an effective integrated control strategy to decrease the risk of tick-borne disease, either alone or in combination with other approaches." - University of Bristol | Explore Bristol Research
The last important finding of the study alludes to the level of toxicity regarding the use of turmeric essential oil as a tick and flea repellant:
"The low toxicity and natural ingredients may make the essential oil suspension appealing to dog owners particularly if the challenges of low persistence and residual activity can be overcome" - University of Bristol | Explore Bristol Research
Before we dive deeper into how to use essential oils as natural tick and flea dog repellants, it’s important to note that whenever you’re using any essential oils either on you or on your fur babies, they MUST be diluted.
Those scary articles you read online about animals dying are typically due to full strength oils being used directly on their skin.
Which essential oils should you choose?
The truth is, there are a lot of options.
Any and all of these are commonly found in health food stores, in your local pharmacy, and online.
However, always keep in mind that not all essential oils are created equal. Look for USDA organic oils and stick with recommended brands.
If you’re getting a steal of a deal, odds are the oil quality is not what is being claimed on the label. Once you purchase your oil(s), the trick is you have to use them properly.
Dilute the oil and rub it into your dog's fur.
The key to using essential oils is to dilute them. You can dilute them with either distilled water or with a neutral oil called a "carrier oil," like almond oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil.
Why? Essential oils are very strong, and when they're not diluted, they can irritate or burn your dog's skin. A carrier oil is neutral and safe for the skin, so diluting the essential oil helps spread out the effects and makes it safe for your pet.
As a general rule, to make an essential oil spray, combine around four ounces (about half a cup) of the carrier oil with 12 drops total of essential oils. This equates to a 0.5% dilution rate making it safe for dogs of all sizes, included the little ones under 20lbs.
You can use 12 drops of the same oil or mix and match several of them, which will have a stronger effect.
You can use half a cup of purified or distilled water instead, though you'll have to be more aggressive with shaking it up to mix before using it since oil and water don't mix easily.
Mix the oils into a container or a spray bottle. Then, spray it lightly on your dog's fur and comb or rub it in, or spray it on your hands and rub it in manually.
Diluted essential oils won't be so strong that they bother your dog, but they will be strong enough to repel insects. Plus, the same solution can be used as a natural insect repellant for your skin as well!
Create a homemade flea collar.
The second option is to make a homemade flea collar. All you need is a cotton or nylon collar and your choice of essential oils. This is a great alternative if your pup has sensitive skin.
For this option, don't dilute the essential oils. Since you're not rubbing them into your dog's fur, you need a stronger solution to give him or her full protection.
Mix up your choice of essential oils, then, using an eyedropper, spray bottle, or cotton swab, dab the oils onto the side of the collar that isn't touching the fur.
The oils will soak into the material of the collar and will create a natural flea and tick repellant accessory.
Just make sure you reapply the oils every so often to keep the scent fresh.
Apple Cider Vinegar
One of the more pleasant-smelling kinds of vinegar, apple cider vinegar (ACV), is a common ingredient in home remedies. It's easy to get, it's easy to use, and it's usually safe. You also have two options for using it.
Create an ACV insect spray.
For this, you need to mix some apple cider vinegar 1:1 with water (so, half a cup of ACV, half a cup of water) in a spray bottle.
Shake it up and spray it on your doggo; he or she shouldn't be bothered by the scent, and it will be diluted enough that it won't irritate their skin.
Apply it once in the morning before you let your dog out or go for a walk, and it should last for most of the day.
Add ACV to his or her water.
Did you know that apple cider vinegar works just as well if your dog drinks it? If they consume some ACV, it will work its way through their system and come out through their skin, forming a natural barrier against fleas and ticks.
Before you go adding vinegar to your dog's water, though, you should test to see if they'll be okay with it. Mix a couple of drops of the vinegar with some water and put it on your dog's tongue.
If he or she doesn't react negatively, then you'll be fine adding vinegar to their water. If he or she doesn't like it, or it irritates his or her tongue, don't use it; he or she might have a skin sensitivity that can cause them health problems.
If your dog is fine with the taste, smell, and presence of vinegar, just add some to their water bowl every time you refill it.
You'll be looking to add about a teaspoon of vinegar per quart of water, which really isn't much but is plenty to help keep fleas and ticks away from your fur baby. If you notice your fur baby is drinking less water than usual, discontinue adding the ACV.
Natural Flea Balms
In the section above, one of the options I mentioned was essential oils.
Well, why not get a product that has natural essential oils as one of its main ingredients, along with moisturizers, vitamins, and other ingredients to help keep your dog healthy and happy?
This is a gentle balm meant to be protective for skin and fur and is made with USDA organic ingredients that are 100% safe for both dogs and cats.
Specially formulated for dogs and cats with skin folds, our hydrate and repel dog balm is meant to keep pesky bugs away from those body zones where bugs tend to hide and thrive in. Check out the image below.
Simply massage a bit of the balm into your pooch's toe beans, armpits, elbows and any of the other flea and tick 10 most favorite spots.
Our MKB's hydrate and revive balm can also be used as a spot treatment for dry skin.
Our balm, among other things, contains rosemary and thyme essential oils.
These essential oils serve as a flea and tick repellant, while other ingredients in the balm help to soothe dry skin your fur baby might be dealing with. Give it a try!
Pretty much everything above is written to protect your dog from fleas and ticks, but if you have control over your environment, you can also take steps to prevent fleas and ticks from setting up shop in your home.
The following methods you can use to keep your home and your yard clear of pesky parasites, but keep in mind they don't work at the local dog park, the yards along your walking route, or other public places you visit.
Reduce humidity in your house.
Fleas, in particular thrive when there's a humid environment to live in.
In addition to typical anti-flea practices like regular vacuuming, run a dehumidifier in warmer months (when humidity levels are especially high) to make your home less hospitable to fleas.
Add plants to your garden that naturally repel insects.
As noted above in the list of essential oils, thyme, rosemary, and catnip are all easy to grow and naturally repel insects.
Lavender, chrysanthemums, and lemongrass are also good repellants, but should be kept out of snacking reach as they can cause nausea and vomiting.
Nematodes are microscopic worms that live in the soil of your yard.
Certain kinds are harmless to dogs and to humans but thrive on eating the larva of fleas and ticks in the soil.
Adding these to your yard can help prevent the insects from hanging out where your dog likes to spend his or her time.
Words or Warning
Before we let you go to try out these remedies, we need to take a moment to warn you about some common issues people have with flea and tick repellants.
First of all, several of the treatments we've listed here apply only to dogs and not to cats.
Essential oils in particular, are strong enough to irritate cats, and your feline friend won't be happy if you slather them in strong-smelling oils, especially citrus. The same goes for citrus juice.
Secondly, some resources online say to use garlic as a dietary addition to repelling fleas and ticks.
"In studies, garlic as a health supplement for pets has not produced consistent positive results. While very small doses might be safe for most dogs, the lack of conclusive evidence and the known risks should be taken into consideration."
Simply put, just avoid garlic.
Our best recommendation is to try out our balms. They're engineered to be safe for your fur baby, be effective at repelling insects, and smell great too. Please let us know what you think!
Additionally, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is made right here in the USA, 100% pup safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
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K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer (https://www.amazon.com/author/kmariealto), and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 45K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).