How Natural Flea and Tick Repellants Work

4 min read

Herbs and essential oils have been used to repel insects since the dawn of man, merely upon the suggestion that they work. But how exactly do these natural compounds keep pesky critters off your pet?

Toxic Warning

Any discussion of natural flea and tick repellants requires a warning that many of these substances, despite being natural, can be toxic if ingested by your pet. The safest way to use herbs and oils is to put them on a collar, which is hard to reach during doggy and kitty self-cleaning sessions. Even a small amount of some, consumed orally, can cause liver damage and serious neurological symptoms. 

Poisonous Herbs and Essential Oils

Essential oils that contain phenols are particularly toxic to cats and cause liver damage. These include oregano, thyme, eucalyptus, clove, cinnamon, bay leaf, parsley, and savory. It’s a good idea not to share any food containing these herbs and spices with your pets. 

Ketones in essential oils can cause neurological symptoms if ingested. Some herbs and essential oils with this component include cedar leaf, sage, hyssop, Cyprus, lavender, eucalyptus, mint, caraway, citronella, clove, ginger, chamomile, thyme, and rosemary. Once again, keep your pet out of a kitchen using these ingredients and don’t allow any sampling of dishes with these herbs and spices.

How to Prevent Toxicity

Companies offering natural flea and tick repellants, as well as remedies for infestations, are well aware of which compounds are problematic for your beloved pets. Be diligent, though, in reviewing the ingredients list for yourself. Careful pet owners can prevent any harm while still reaping the benefits of essential oils and herbs to help keep cats and dogs flea and tick free.

Shampoos - Some natural flea and tick shampoos do contain potentially toxic ingredients, but the short amount of time in contact with the skin doesn’t allow for much absorption. Problems may evolve if your pet soaks in it for any longer than a normal sudsing up. A thorough rinse is of utmost importance, as well as vigilance against Fluffy or Fido trying to sneak of taste of it.

Dips - Dips with these ingredients are not recommended, despite any manufacturer’s claims of safety. The very nature of a flea and tick dip requires thorough dousing and soaking, which promotes maximum absorption of ingredients through the skin. Steer clear of these to keep your pet out of danger.

Collars - Flea and tick collars containing these ingredients should only be coated on the outside of the collar to keep the compounds out of direct contact with your pet’s skin. When considering a purchase of this form of protection, contact the manufacturer and ask if the collar is coated on the inside and if so, consider making your own collar using the oils only on the outside. Make sure it’s close-fitting enough to prevent your pet from licking it and if you have multiple pets that may lick each other’s collars, then this method is not the way to go.

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