Do Natural Flea and Tick Preventatives for Dogs Work?

Natural remedies for fleas on dogs could do more harm than good

dog scratching

Fleas and ticks are not only an annoyance for your pet, but they are dangerous as well. Both fleas and ticks carry diseases that can sicken your pet and your family members. If your pet is exposed to these pests, it is essential to protect them with an effective prevention product.

In today’s world, many consumers desire to eliminate dangerous chemicals from their homes as much as possible. The past decade has seen a massive increase in searches for “natural” products for pets. Though these pet owners have the best of intentions, home remedies and products labeled “all-natural” are often not safe and are rarely, if ever, effective for flea and tick prevention.

Tip

As always, we encourage you to talk to your veterinarian and discuss the best options for your specific pet before starting a flea and tick prevention program.

What Are Natural Flea and Tick Products?

Products sold with the label “all-natural,” as well as home remedies, are typically put into the category of “natural." These products are not registered with the FDA or the EPA. Beyond typically being ineffective, some can even be dangerous for your dog.

Examples of natural products that I am often asked about in my practice include essential oils, apple cider vinegar, diatomaceous earth, citronella, garlic, and herbal shampoos and sprays. There are many products sold both online and in pet stores that claim to be natural, safe, and effective, but unfortunately, they are often none of these things.

What Are the Dangers of Natural Flea and Tick Preventatives?

It is essential to understand that dogs are not simply small humans physiologically. Therefore, some things that may be safe for human use can be dangerous and even fatal if used on a dog. Everyone knows that chocolate is toxic to dogs but not humans, but it is often overlooked that this is true of other substances as well.

One example of this is garlic. Some well-meaning owners will feed garlic to their dogs in an attempt to repel fleas and ticks. Unfortunately, fleas and ticks are not repelled by garlic that is fed to a dog,
and additionally, garlic is toxic to dogs. If a dog ingests garlic, they are at risk of a condition called anemia, which can be fatal.

Additionally, we see essential oils often touted as “all-natural” flea and tick prevention. These oils seem like they would be innocuous and not cause harm, but this is not the case. There are many essential oils, including tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, pine, pennyroyal, peppermint, sweet birch, and wintergreen, that are toxic to dogs. Citronella, often used for outdoor mosquito repellent, can irritate dogs' eyes, skin, and gastrointestinal tracts and should be avoided.

Other remedies, such as diatomaceous earth, can be utilized in carpets in your home but should not be fed to dogs. Though likely not harmful, diatomaceous earth can help rid your home of fleas but will not protect your dog from fleas or ticks on their body, and it may cause gastrointestinal issues.

Are Natural Flea and Tick Preventatives Effective?

The other major issue, aside from safety, with these products is that they are simply ineffective. Protecting your pet from fleas and ticks is important, not only for their health, but also for your family’s. Fleas and ticks are amazingly persistent parasites and change to overcome even prescription products regularly.

Scientists are continually working on engineering new and more effective flea and tick preventatives in a race to outpace the resistance of these parasites to the older products. Even with the effort of these scientists, parasite resistance to commercially available products is a major hurdle for the pet care industry. Myths about the possible effectiveness of “all-natural” products persist among pet owners, but unfortunately, these substances will not protect you or your pet.

How to Best Protect Your Dog from Fleas and Ticks

The best way to protect your dog from fleas and ticks while also being safe is to ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. There are many safe and effective flea and tick preventatives on the market, and your veterinarian can educate you about which one is best for your dog. These products are FDA-approved and have been proven to be both safe and effective.

It is also important to control the pests that are not currently on your pet. This step, called environmental control, includes frequent vacuuming of your house, spraying pet-friendly pesticides in your yard, and eliminating areas such as thick plant growth and bedding that may harbor parasites and their eggs.