There’s been a tremendous amount of positive buzz about essential oils over the last few years.
Almost all of the articles, videos and blog posts extolling the virtues of essential oils have centered on aromatherapy — and there’s nothing wrong with that. A number of these oils have been shown to provide substantial health benefits, and improve general well-being, when used in a diffuser or applied topically on the skin.
What’s lost in the shuffle, however, are the many other ways that essential oils can be used, from deodorizing the refrigerator to flea prevention.
You read that correctly. Many essential oils, when used properly, are natural flea repellents.
But the key word in that last sentence is “properly.” Here’s how to safely use essential oils to get rid of fleas and keep them off your dog’s coat and skin.
Before we go any further, there are a few important facts about essential oils you need to know.
- Pure essential oils are natural, organic products — but that doesn’t mean they’re safe in every circumstance. Because they are highly concentrated, the oils must be blended with a high-quality carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil (which is also an effective antifungal) or heavily diluted before topical use or application to surfaces around the home or yard. Water and apple cider vinegar are the best choices for dilution.
- Cats and dogs don’t react in the same way to essential oils. Most of these oils should never be applied directly on cats or small dogs, and others like eucalyptus and pennyroyal oils are toxic to all dogs. In fact, even being exposed to most essential oils will – if nothing else – greatly annoy cats; their sense of smell is 14 times more sensitive than humans’.
- Finally, essential oils shouldn’t be ingested by pets or humans, except as directed by a doctor. Be sure to keep the oils safely stored, away from your furry friends.
Now, back to our originally scheduled flea control programming.
Why Use Essential Oils Instead of Commercial Flea Treatments?
When Fluffy comes home with flea bites, or if a sudden flea infestation upends the house, a dog owner’s first reaction is to go for veterinarian-recommended treatments: oral flea treatments, flea combs, flea shampoos, flea sprays, and of course, flea collars.
All of those products usually work, but many carry health costs for your dog or family.
Some pets develop adverse reactions to oral flea medications, particularly after a long course of treatment. Skin irritation, vomiting and more serious problems are always a risk when giving a dog these medications.
Topically-applied treatments, and the substances on flea collars, can also be inadvertently spread or carried around the house, where they may unknowingly be ingested by pets or kids. Needless to say, not all of these substances are safe; some contain harsh chemicals and may even be toxic.
And there are often diminishing returns from commercial flea repellents and treatments as fleas develop immunity.
Proper use of the right essential oils, though, eliminates those risks. Even better, the oils don’t just repel fleas. They also help ease the itching and scratching that dogs suffer after being bitten, and have antiseptic properties that help bites and self-inflected scratches to heal.
Essential oils are simply a better choice, for your pet and for your family – in the same way that finding an effective natural remedy for any insect problem is always preferable to the use of hazardous pesticides.
The Best Essential Oils to Kill and Repel Fleas
Whether you’re using essential oils for aromatherapy, as a DIY home remedy, or for repelling fleas, it’s important to choose the right essential oil for the right purpose.
More specifically, not all oils that will repel fleas will kill them — and vice versa.
Here’s your go-to cheat sheet on the most effective oils and how to use them. Most are available on Amazon, but the highest-quality oils are better purchased from reputable suppliers such as Public Goods.
Essential Oils That Kill and Repel Fleas
- Cedarwood Essential Oil: Heavily-diluted cedarwood oil can be sprayed on a dog’s skin to kill existing fleas and prevent new ones from landing and biting.
- Cedarwood oil and cedar oil are also the best choices (along with regular vacuuming) for protecting a home. They can be used in a diffuser to protect the interior of a home, or with a garden hose sprayer to rid a yard of fleas.
- Clove Essential Oil: Clove oil should not be sprayed directly on the skin, but it can be diluted and placed on a dog’s collar or in his bedding, to kill and repel fleas.
Essential Oils That Repel Fleas
- Lavender Essential Oil: Diluted lavender oil can be applied to a dog’s skin to repel fleas.
- Lemongrass Essential Oil, Basil Essential Oil, Thyme Essential Oil: Basil, thyme and lemongrass oils can all be diluted and sprayed on a dog’s skin to function as a repellent, but should not be directly applied topically. Peppermint oil can also be used sparingly, but only for large breeds; use it cautiously, because many dogs are extremely sensitive to the scent.
- Rosemary Essential Oil: Diluted rosemary oil can be added to a dog’s bath to provide long-acting flea-repellent benefits.
- Rose Geranium Oil: A few drops of rose geranium oil can be applied topically to dogs’ fur to repel fleas.
Two More Suggestions
- A few drops of citronella may be added to the spray bottle before spraying your dog with an essential oil, as an extra preventative against fleas and other insect bites. Citronella, thyme and water work particularly well as a tick spray.
- Another pet-safe, organic and effective way to keep fleas away from dogs is to dust them with non-toxic, food-grade diatomaceous earth. Adding the substance to their food (one tablespoon per day for large dogs, one teaspoon for smaller ones) for 30 days can also treat and eliminate worms.
Several other essential oils are often recommended for flea control, but you should steer clear of them. Tea tree oil is toxic when pets or humans ingest it, and pennyroyal oil is toxic to both dogs and cats whether it’s ingested or applied to the skin.
Effective Flea Repellent Methods for Dogs
There are several ways you can apply topically-safe essential oils to your dog as a flea repellent.
- Mix a few drops of the oil with eight ounces of apple cider vinegar or water, shake well, and either lightly spray your dog or spray the surfaces around the home that he regularly contacts.
- Groom your dog after dipping his brush into the diluted essential oil solution.
- After a bath, rinse your dog in a solution of apple cider vinegar and 2-3 drops of essential oil.
- Put a couple of drops of lavender or clove oil onto your dog’s collar.
Always remember, though, that you should only use essential oils that are safe to apply topically, that they are always diluted properly, and that you’re using the highest quality essential oils available — like the ones from Public Goods. Your dog’s worth it.
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