April 25th, 2011

Natural Flea and Tick Prevention for Pets

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Groovy Green Livin Flea

If you are a dog or cat lover you know that protecting your animals from fleas and ticks is high on the list for responsible pet care. In the northeast and other parts of the country ticks can run rampant, so keeping them off pets is essential.

In August our chocolate lab, Mico, will be 12 years old.  That’s 84 in dog years. She’s no spring chicken, but she can still swim for hours and run a few laps with the young pups in the neighborhood.  During the winter months there’s no need to use flea or tick prevention-the ticks and fleas are hibernating. But now that spring has sprung they are back in action and prevention is key to keep them away from your pets and out of your home.

Toxic chemicals in conventional flea and tick control products

There are many different brands of conventional flea and tick control products on the market. Most contain toxic chemicals that can poison pets and harm people. Some of the chemicals are linked to cancer, allergies and asthma and are suspected endocrine disruptors. Pregnant women and small children are especially at risk.

For all almost 12 years of her life we have doused poor Mico in K-9 Advantix or Frontline (depending upon the vets recommendation). The Natural Defense Resource Council (NRDC) put together a handy list of flea and tick products, listing which chemicals are in each and assessing the chemicals’ toxicity. Take a look at Greenpaws Flea and Tick Product Guide to see if the product you’re using is considered  toxic. K-9 Advantix and Frontline both fell between the “use sparingly” and “avoid use” categories.  Both are pretty toxic and don’t belong on Mico.

The bottom line: Don’t use spot treatments such as K-9 Avantix and Frontline which tend to be very concentrated and, according to new studies, may pose a hazard to pets and humans.

dog in green grassNatural solutions for flea and tick prevention

Regular combing with a flea comb, bathing and vacuuming can reduce and control fleas.

Keep your pets out of areas where ticks are prevalent –long grass and trees.  This is a tough one for us since we are surrounded by woods and we love to walk Mico off road.

There are many natural options to repel ticks. Here are a few to try:

  • Brewers yeast Brewer’s yeast works by making the dog’s blood too acidic for bugs’ taste.
  • Apple cider vinegar– Add no more than 2 tbsp. into a large bowl of water. Or make a spray of 50% apple cider vinegar and 50% water and spray onto your dog’s coat. Make sure you don’t spray in his/her eyes.
  • Citrus rub– Cut a lemon into quarters. Put it into a jar and cover with boiling water. Let it steep overnight and put the solution into a spray bottle. Spray on your pet and rub in.
  • Garlic-I’ve ready conflicting studies on the safety of garlic for dogs and cats. It seems clear that when large quantities of garlic are consumed by dogs it could lead to anemia and/or death.  I’m going to stay away from garlic for the time being.
  • There are also many all natural products on the market. When purchasing be careful to read through the ingredient list.  Many of the “natural” products I came across did contain toxic chemicals. One product that looks promising is Ticked Off! ,which contains southern red cedar oil -another chemical-free, safe way to control fleas, ticks and other bugs.

When we buy flea and tick control products we make an assumption that they’re safe. However, the EPA isn’t like the FDA and they don’t require pet products to undergo field trials prior to approval. We need to let the EPA know that we do care what goes onto our pets and these toxic products shouldn’t be on the market.

Do you have any other natural remedies to share for flea and tick prevention?


Please consult with your veterinarian before taking any home remedies or supplements or following any treatment suggested in this article. Only your Veterinarian can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for your pet’s unique needs or diagnose your pet’s particular medical history.

66 Responses to “Natural Flea and Tick Prevention for Pets”

  1. Perfect timing Lori! I was just thinking that I need to start thinking about Fozzy’s flea and tick prevention. He will be 12 in June. Like you, we have done K-9 or Frontline all the time too.
    How often do you use the sprays? Do you think they’d work on humans? My kids spend a lot of time in the woods too.

  2. I remember the days before Advantage. Our dog was covered in fleas, and even regular baths, combing, flea collars, and just about everything else we tried wasn’t effective for long. A few years down the road, when our indoor cat had a mild flea problem, one dose of Advantage and they were gone for years. It’s hard to pass up that level of effectiveness against something as persistent as indoor fleas.

    I do have my concerns about Advantage, but since my cat is indoor only, we only treat when there’s a problem, which is working out to once every few years. For dogs, who need more frequent treatments, the safer, more natural remedies seem like a smart idea.

  3. Have you tried diotanaceaous earth in powder form? We are going to try it this year and see how we do. Check it out.

  4. I just wanted to echo everyone else’s thanks for this informative post. Greening my dog’s flea & tick treatment is at the top of my green to do list right now so I’m really appreciative for the resources and recommendations.

    We protect our yard from ticks with a natural garlic spray but we also let our dog off-leash in the woods. We often find ticks on him despite treating him with Frontline.

    I may give Tickedoff a try. I’ll let you know how it works.

    Thanks again!

  5. Kristina I didn’t know you have an 84 year old too! Many of the sprays claim to work on humans too. I’m willing to give them a try. My son woke up with a tick on his back today! The sprays have to be used pretty often-the ticks and fleas need to come in direct contact with them. You can also spray your dogs bedding and any other place they nap.

  6. There’s no question that the conventional products work Jennifer-and it is hard to pass that up. We really don’t treat Mico very often either-but I’m willing to give it a try. Glad to hear your cat doesn’t get fleas and ticks very often. That certainly makes using conventional treatments an easier decision.

  7. Hi Tim-no I haven’t tried it. I will check it out. Let me know how it works out for you. It’s a powder? How do you apply it to your pet?

  8. Hi Lori, I really would like to quit the Advantage, but unfortunately, one of my cats was diagnosed with severe flea allergies. She is mostly indoor and we comb her everyday, but that is not sufficient. Every flea bite makes her scratch until she bleeds. I also have to be careful because many of the remedies for dogs are toxic to cats, and she won’t tolerate bathing. She already eats garlic so maybe I’ll try the brewer’s yeast.

  9. Thanks for this info, Lori! I’m lucky that my indoor cats haven’t had any flea or tick problems so far. I’ll definitely refer back to this post in the event that I need to create a healthy, safe, homemade remedy!

  10. Lori- According to the web site you can just sprinkle or comb it in if you have a longer haired dog. They do suggest preventing it getting into the dogs eyes and moth as well as your own. it is an all natural mined material prehistoric algae http://www.callofthedog.com/diatomaceousearth.php

  11. Thanks for the info Tim. You definitely need to let me know if it works. I’d be willing to give it a try.

  12. Hi Andrea-Hopefully you won’t ever need any of the alternatives for fleas and ticks! How old are your cats? Staying indoors is a great way to reduce the risk. There’s no way my dog could become an indoor dog:) She loves being outside as much as possible and the ticks love her. Thankfully we have never had a flea issue.

  13. You’ll have to let us know what you decide to try out Rachel. I’m interested to hear more about how you spray your yard with garlic to prevent ticks. We are constantly finding ticks-I’m assuming Mico brings them in, but we also live in a heavily wooded area. My son had a tick on his back this morning. A sign that spring is here! If you do try Ticked Off! please come back with feedback. I’ll do the same.

  14. Here is the straight skinny on diatomaceous earth (DE) for insect control including flea and tick control – all natural form is completely safe for this use one caution – avoid eye contact.

  15. I’m using apple cider vinegar on a regular basis at home and it always works, So I think I’ll also try to put it on my dogs.
    Thank you for the tips Lori.

  16. I’m using apple cider vinegar as a fabric softener. I’m cleaning my floor, sinks and toilet with it and now I’ll try it on my dogs..I’ll keep you posted.

  17. Thanks so much for the update Tim. Seems like a good alternative to chemicals.

  18. Hi Reut-Where do you use the apple cider vinegar at home? Around the yard? Keep me posted on how/if it works for your dogs.

  19. […] Natural Flea and Tick Prevention for Pets | Groovy Green Livin There's no question that the conventional products work Jennifer-and it is hard to pass that up. We really don't treat Mico very often either-but I'm willing to give it a try. Glad to hear your cat doesn't get fleas and ticks very often . […]

  20. Great post Lori! This is such a struggle every year and there have been times when I wanted to cave and buy the awful chemicals, but I don’t. I have a senior dog, too(my Jenna will be 14 in August) and her health is so very important to us. Something else I do is sprinkle salt on the carpets and anywhere they are are allowed to lay…..supposedly it will dehydrate and kill the fleas.

  21. I know Cathy-after seeing 12 ticks it’s hard not to go conventional. Mico is also senior-she’ll be 12 in August. I have never heard of sprinkling salt-what a great tip. Thanks!

  22. […] Natural Flea and Tick Prevention for Pets republished with permission. Lori […]

  23. I have 6 yorkies now, they were SO infested with fleas last fall, it isn’t funny. I now put BORAX in my carpet, powder my dogs with SEVIN DUST, I’m gonna spray my yard & deck with LIQUID SEVIN this year & see how that works.

  24. Great tips Sherry. Keep me posted on how everything works for you this year. So far, so good over here. Just a few ticks-same as usual.

  25. We are about to try apple cider vinegar on our dog.

  26. My dogs get ticks all the time down southern Ohio. I live halfway between Akron & Cleve. there really aren’t any ticks here.

  27. You are very lucky! They are all over here-in the Boston area.

  28. I have a senior English Setter who is 15.5 yrs old. He was infested with fleas and since I discovered I’ve using a solution of 1 part apple vinegar and 2 parts water. Works great & I’ll continue to use it since I don’t want to use chemicals on him now. Stinks but it works! Smell fades in a few hours.

  29. I’ve been using apple cider vinegar too Joyce. The smell is incredibly strong. I might start diluting it…..thanks for the tip!

  30. […] keep your pets healthy.  If you’re looking for natural ways to prevent fleas and ticks click HERE. Also, check in with  Healthy Child Healthy World and their information on pesticides in pet […]

  31. Cute dog 🙂 I taught our lab to have a good roll around in our citronella patch whenever she goes out into the garden. Just throw a toy into a patch of mosquito repelling plants and they’ll get enough oil on their coat to offer a little protection for an hour or so 🙂

  32. Thanks Keith! She is an amazing dog 🙂 What a great trick to teach your dog! Now I just have to find a citronella patch.

  33. I read the same think about garlic and stay away from it for my dog too. Sadly garlic is still in a lot of dog treat and food products 🙁

  34. Hi Lisa-I find garlic in a lot of dog treats and food too. I try to avoid it-I’d rather keep Mico safe.

  35. So can someone tell me if the applecidar vinegar worked? And if so, how often do you apply it? MOnthly? My dog might have liver issues and next spring we need to go natural. I hope someone gets back to me!

  36. Hi Suzie-I used the apple cider vinegar this fall. I have to admit I wasn’t completely diligent about putting it on our chocolate lab. I tried to put it on at least once a week. It is pretty smelly, but seems to work. She has had a few ticks, but not many. It’s certainly worth giving a try. Best of luck.

  37. First, thank you to everyone for all the helpful information. I have 5 indoor cats and 1 indoor/outdoor cat, thus why I am having a problem with fleas. We dont have a lot but just one is bad as they are all allergic. Could someone tell me if they have used the apple cider and water solution on their cats for fleas, how you use it on them, how often and if it works? Thank you so much in advance.

  38. Hi Kim, I only have a dog so I’m not going to be much help on this one. I use the solution on my dog all the time and it seems to work. Hopefully someone with cats will be able to answer.

  39. Re: DE- – Diatomaceous Earth. Great suggestion, it was recently reccommended to me by someone I greatly trust. In fact she gave me a jar of it. Havent used it consistently enough yet to make a determination, but here’s what I’ve been told:

    It comes in food grade and non-food grade. Food grade is the only type to consider using on pets, people, or edible plants. It contains the exoskeletons of tiny diatoms, living things that have been around since prehistoric times.

    It can be used topically on a pet as a flea & tick powder, but can also be mixed with food and ingested safely by both humans and other critters.

    The premise is that any intestinal parasite and any larvae that come in contact with it will be cut up and destroyed by the microscopic exoskeletons of the diatoms.

    I’ve been assured it will break the fly cycle and theoretically should do the same for fleas, garden pests, mosquitoes, heartworms, etc. One word of caution: not to be used on flowers or anywhere honeybees might come in contact with it…in other words, it will kill beneficial insects too…anything that crawls or has a larval form.

    Would love to hear from others whove tried it. Will check it out with our family Vet, Doc Vicki, next week.

  40. Just a word about my experience with the vet prescribed chemical flea and tick prevention. At 5 my pup began having seizures. We stopped the monthly treatments. It’s been 2 years now and she has not had a seizure since. We had no problems last year with fleas, but this year is a different story. I will be trying all suggestions for a natural remedy. Thank you.

  41. Thanks for sharing your story Kim. I’m so glad your puppy is doing well. Let me know what works on your dog.

  42. I just found this which is nontoxic and scientifically proven 95% effective http://naturalfleaandtickcontrol.com/

  43. Thanks for sharing Jay. Please let me know if it works.

  44. The Brewer’s Yeast option is not advisable. As in human’s, when the body becomes too acidic, it leads to many poor health problems. IE: joint deficiencies (arthritis), stomach issues. I will not try this on my dogs and advise that you do the research on the effects of too much acidity in a dogs body; before you try it on your own. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/natural-flea-and-tick-control.aspx
    This is a rememdy we may try. All natural and took some time for them to develop before it was put on the market.

  45. Hi1 Lori, should apple cider vinegar
    be put in every bowl of water during tick season ordo you reccomend different dosing? My dogs don’t seem to be drinking as much water as usual. Thanks, Robert

  46. Hi Robert, I sprayed the apple cider vinegar on my dog. I don’t think ingesting it would work at all.

  47. Hi Lori. Pumpkin is a 15.5 year old Shiba Inu. For her arthritis and ventricular disease we have tried acupuncture, chiropractic, water therapy, and Chinese herbal medicines….inconsistent results so far. We did give her her first (for the season) Frontline treatment recently, and I waited too long for the cat for whom I removed a tick last week. Pumpkin is like a tick magnet, I have removed many, but Frontline works…but the vet got VERY insistent to drop it and try an oil called Vetri-Repel flea and tick spray, do you know it? At a Pet Fiesta yesterday we came across a booth selling other oils which they said only had to be applied to the feet. I’m happy I found your website, what is your opinion and/or recommendations on oils, and might you have other recommendations on Pumpkin’s other conditions. We bought a pet stroller for her and it allows us to take her anywhere. We just want to hang on to her as long as possible as long as she is not in pain, which we think is the case. Thanks.

  48. Garlic is not toxic. Manufacturers have used it in dog food for decades to ward off intestinal worms. It works on humans too, but can thin your blood if taken in large doses.
    Adele recently posted..Heading to BlogHer in Chicago with Better LifeMy Profile

  49. One of the best treatments for fleas and ticks is cedarwood oil. I use doTERRA because of it’s purity and safety. In this day and age great for bedbugs as well! Happy to share information on essential oils for pets!

  50. Thanks for the info Debbie. How do you use Terra for bedbugs? I’m afraid to ask!

  51. How often do you have to spray them?

  52. I used to spray my dog before she went out into the yard. As often as needed-very non-toxic.

  53. Garlic is not toxic to pets and we’ve used it for many years for our dogs, and even when our neighbors have problems with fleas and ticks, we don’t. I’ve yet to meet a holistic vet who does not recommend garlic for pest control.

    Each of our med/large dogs gets one teaspoon of freshly chopped garlic every day in their food, and we use a garlic spray on their coats in the summer.

    My holistic vet (who is amazing, and specializes in healing chronic disease in pets) said that “avoiding garlic” for dogs is sheer rubbish!

  54. Thanks for your comment Julia. I was on the fence with garlic. Good to know that you’ve been using it and it is working well. Did you make the garlic spray yourself or did you purchase it? How does it smell? 🙂 Our dog has passed away since I wrote this post. I will keep garlic in mind when a new dog becomes part of our family.

  55. Hi Lori,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your pup. We honestly use the garlic spray very little because feeding garlic does just fine. When our pups go to doggie daycare or on hikes or with other dogs, we will spray with:


    Amazon also has a similar one:


    Smells just fine to me, but then again we all love garlic in this house! Interesting, our dogs have always loved garlic in their food. They all get a tablespoon of raw coconut oil every day and I sometimes mix the garlic in with it (coconut oil is they favorite treat – they love it). Not only is it great for dogs, it helps prevent giardia – it has been used successfully in controlling giardia in livestock in europe.

    Hope that helps ^..^

  56. Thanks Julia. Really appreciate the links and suggestions.

  57. […] Alper from Groovy Green Livin also said that the product Ticked Off! looks […]

  58. Years ago, our cat was covered with fleas which were brought into the house. Vet suggested using toxic powder on the cat and using an insecticide “bomb” for the house. We had a little baby and we were concerned. Instead, our friends suggested filling a large bowl up with warm, soapy water (so there were bubbles), putting it on the floor and shining a desk-type light directly on it. When evening came and everything was dark, we could see the fleas jumping up toward the light. Immediately they landed into the soap bubbles, in the bowl, which by morning, was full of dead fleas. It took two days to eliminate the bulk of the problem. I think you might have to cordon the bowl off to keep the dog from drinking the water if you were to use it with a larger animal. This was a great non-toxic alternative that worked for us.

  59. Thanks for the suggestion Pamela. Sounds very similar to the fruit fly remedy.

  60. Funny how you publish studies backing your claims that Frontline is a hazard, but I don’t see any studies listed here to confirm your claims about natural remedies.

  61. On the topic of garlic, we feed our pets a home-cooked diet which includes garlic. They don’t suffer from fleas or ticks and have never been healthier after switching from commercial pet foods. Ours is based on:


    They also have a page on fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. It talks about “inner” and “outer” solutions which I think is important and we’ve had great success with using the daisy paw collars it mentions when we visit family who living areas high in fleas and ticks:

    Vanessa, I remember trying to find studies on how well natural products work when I moved to Spain. They are not so easy to find but I know from living there for 4 years that many natural products are used successfully for flea and tick control. We used geraniol-based products and they worked great. Amazing! Even on my own skin they basically freed me from mosquito bites! Many of the pest control products here are illegal there because they are considered too toxic and dangerous to use on animals or humans.

  62. I took care of two dog’s who had flea’s while their pet mom was in the hospital. after they left. Boy did I have flea’s. I used D.E, in the carpet with salt left it for 3 weeks closed the room off. the other part of the hose has wood flooring I put D.E. in cracks of the floor. I used the vac daily while I had my two house guest’s but after they went home boy did I have to rid the house of flea’s. would you believe I had heard brewers yest would keep flea’s away so I sprinkled the brewers yeast and it’s been two year’s no flea’s. I as asked to baby sit agin.. I did. but I went out and bought more brewer’s yeast I sprinkled that on the fur got a flea comb.. those little pests were so tiny drowned the flea’s in soapy water and bathed both dog’s and sprinkled the brewers yeast in their fur… no more itching and no fleas did they leave behind.Told their mom and she treated they way I did and uses the brewers yeast on their fur… they are flea free.yes.. I threw away the vac bag each day that’s costly but didn’t want the flea’s again.i was worried my parrot would get flea’s but didn’t happen.

  63. My cat came back from a cattery ten weeks ago heavily infested. We have been using Frontline monthly and combing him with a flea comb every two days. We found a dozen fleas on the first two occasions and never less than six on each subsequent occasion. We gave him a single tablet yesterday morning and today found on thorough combing not a single flea.
    Cat flea medicine recently posted..What Do CATS EAT? (A Look At 40 HUMAN Foods)My Profile

  64. This article was very helpful. It gave me all of the natural remedies I had heard about. Thank you so much for publishing this.

  65. Thanks for this, I have been meaning to get away from the chemical flea treatments for a while now, your post will help spur me on to actually do it!

  66. When I first realised we had fleas in our home I was horrified! It didn’t compute to me at the time that it has nothing to do with the cleanliness of your home, they infest when they choose to infest.

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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