Bug Off: Natural Flea & Tick Prevention
By Diane Krueger
With warmer weather upon us, we’re able to get out and about more with our dogs. Whether it’s longer, more frequent walks or just relaxing in the yard soaking up a little vitamin D from the sun’s rays, our dogs are enjoying the outdoor life once again. But that enjoyment can quickly fade with those pesky fleas and ticks out there. There are many topical treatments on the markets that can prevent a flea or tick infestation, but those products contain harsh chemicals that can irritate your dog’s skin. These are the same products that are labeled not suitable for children or expectant mothers to handle. I don’t know about you, but if it’s not suitable for a child to touch then why do I want to apply it to my dog? But I also know that I don’t want my dog to endure having fleas or getting bitten by a tick. So what can be done? Well, there are several natural, holistic treatments that can repel these invasive pests and are still gentle for your dog.
Essential oils like lavender, peppermint, lemongrass and cedar oil have proven effective in the fight against fleas and ticks. You need to dilute these essential oils with water or a carrier oil, such as olive oil or sweet almond oil. An important thing to know if you’re going to use essential oils for flea and tick prevention is that a little goes a long way. Dogs have such a keen sense of smell and it’s crucial to not apply too much of these aromatic oils, even if they are diluted. Also, apply in a well-ventilated area. You can apply the mixture directly to your dog’s coat or dab a little of the mixture on a bandana and tie around the dog’s neck, again being very careful not to overdo it. Rose geranium oil, good for both repelling and removing ticks, is okay to apply directly to your dog’s fur. It’s recommended to apply one drop behind each shoulder blade and one drop at the base of the tail.
Turns out garlic isn’t just good for warding off vampires, it’s good for warding off fleas and ticks too. Fresh crushed garlic can be added to your dog’s food as a way to protect him or her from fleas and ticks. The rule of thumb suggests using no more than ½ clove per 20 pounds of body weight per day, but being sure to not exceed two cloves a day for any size dog. It takes a couple weeks to for the fresh garlic to build up that natural oil in your dog’s coat, so it’s best to start either before or early in the season. And note if you’re going to try the garlic remedy, you have to use fresh garlic, nothing jarred.
We know vinegar is great for cleaning, but it is also a tested remedy for flea and tick prevention. There are a couple ways to treat with vinegar. You can try simply adding one teaspoon per quart of drinking water to your dog’s bowl. But for those discerning dogs that can detect the slightest of changes to anything they eat or drink, you can dilute in a 1:1 ratio and spray directly onto your dog’s coat.
Coconut oil kills and repels fleas too. It can be applied directly to your dog’s coat or added to its food. If you’re going to add it to food, it’s recommended to use one teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight two times a day. It’s super easy to apply topically too. Just rub some in your hands until it liquefies and then rub through your dog’s fur. The added benefit here is coconut oil is a great moisturizer and can kill yeast.
These natural remedies in addition to a regular washing of your dog’s blankets or bed coverings and a once over with a flea comb all provide safer, gentler alternatives so you and your dog can enjoy the beautiful outdoors together without the worry.