As a pet parent, your biggest concern is your dog’s health. However, environmental enemies, such as ticks and fleas, can threaten your dog’s well-being. Ticks and fleas not only irritate dogs’ skin, but can also pass on dangerous diseases that could put their lives at risk. You might have tried a few different kinds of flea and tick repellent, including chemically-based solutions, some of which have worked, and others that have not. Searching for a safe, yet effective natural tick and flea repellent for dogs, can be overwhelming and confusing.
Here are three simple steps to follow when deciding between natural and synthetic tick and flea repellent, so you can keep your canine companion safe and protected.
Step One: Know Your Options
There are many different kinds of flea, tick, mosquito, and fly repellents available on the market. The most commonly used tick repellents are the following:
- Natural edible supplements
- Spot-on treatments
- Oral medications
Natural Edible Supplements
These supplements are mixed in with your dog’s food, and are also available in chewable form. Therefore, no application process is necessary. Many of these supplements focus on natural ingredients such as garlic, which can have additional benefits such as boosting the immune system. Not only can the ingredients in these products repel ticks and fleas, but they can usually repel flies, mosquitoes and other biting insects as well.
As with other tick repellent products, it is important to read the supplement label carefully and follow directions for best results. While a natural product may avoid the dangers associated with chemicals, dogs with allergies or food sensitivities may still have some reactions.
These topical medications are applied to your dog’s shoulder blades or neck. Once in your dog’s sweat glands, the chemical is dispersed throughout your dog’s body and can provide protection for 30 days. After the treatment has a chance to dry, it will stay effective even if your dog gets wet. The EPA has been regulating spot-on products more thoroughly after many cases of adverse reactions were reported, including poisoning and death. It’s important to note that these products are toxic if ingested, and can also have adverse side effects on a dog’s nervous system and skin.
Tick Repellent Sprays
Sprays are known to be effective at repelling ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs. Although bug sprays for dogs are considered a less expensive repellent, you need to make sure your dog’s entire body gets covered. However, it is important to avoid getting the spray in your dog’s ears, eyes, and mouth, so consider using a cotton ball for safer application around these areas. Negative side effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and shaking.
Unlike spot-on treatments, which usually last 30 days, the length of time tick, flea, and mosquito sprays are effective can vary by product. Therefore, carefully read the spray’s product label for more information. Be sure to apply the product in an open area, where the chemicals will not get trapped and pollute your dog’s environment. Unlike spot-on treatments, these products lose their effectiveness if your dog gets wet.
Unlike sprays and spot-on products, no external application is necessary with pills and chewable tablets for tick prevention. Moreover, since this treatment is administered orally, it can quickly spread throughout your dog’s entire body. In addition, there is no residue that could be transmitted to furniture, bedding, or hands.
Side effects, include skin reactions, depression, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some oral repellents also do not prevent ticks; instead, they only kill the ticks after they have bitten a dog. Therefore, be sure to read all labels thoroughly. A disadvantage of oral medications is that they tend to be more expensive since they are usually prescription based.
Step Two: Examine the Ingredients
While each of the tick prevention methods listed above has unique benefits, it is important to focus on the ingredients they contain as well. Some of the more common ingredients in tick repellent products include:
- Garlic, which is often found in natural tick repellent for dogs
- Pyrethroid (Permethrin, Phenothrin, Etofenprox)
If it is absolutely necessary to use a chemical flea and tick repellent, The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends using products with s-methoprene or pyriproxyfen to protect your dog from ticks. These chemicals are known to be less toxic, but could still result in potential side effects.
Products with pyrethroid-based chemicals, which are produced in a laboratory, were reported to the EPA more than other flea repellent products for adverse reactions such as seizures,heart attacks and death. When the chemical imidacloprid (a synthetic neonicotinoid and neurotoxin) was tested, possible reactions included liver toxicity, lung and brain damage, and thyroid lesions. In addition, imidacloprid has been found to be harmful to children’s neurological development and toxic to bees.
The EPA has also investigated the ingredient fipronil, and found that kidney damage, as well as thyroid, liver, and nervous system toxicity are all possible. The EPA has also noted that fipronil could be a possible carcinogen.
It is important to note that while all of the adverse reactions mentioned in the ingredients above are possible, many pet owners have used tick repellent products with these ingredients without noticing any problems.
Step Three: Experiment
Every dog is unique; therefore, unless you test a few different types of tick repellent it is hard to determine whether a specific repellent is right for your dog. When choosing a repellent, keep in mind your dog’s medical history and weight (smaller dogs seem to have more reactions than larger dogs), as well as the time you have as an owner to apply these products properly. When you are testing a product, take steps to ensure the product is given or applied according to the manufacturer’s directions. Moreover, keep a close eye on your dog for any abnormal reactions.
There are many natural and synthetic flea and tick prevention products on the market, and the choices can be overwhelming… In the meantime, there are other practical, important preventative measures you can take to protect your dog. One measure is simply keeping your dog as healthy as possible. Ticks and other parasites are less attracted to healthy animals. Another is keeping bedding, carpets, and floors clean by washing, vacuuming, and steam cleaning on a consistent basis. Grooming your pets is helpful, as water and soap will kill fleas, and brushing the coat will alert you to any unwanted hitchhikers. Keeping your lawn short and sprinkling food-grade diatomaceous earth around entryways to your house may also discourage ticks and fleas.
By ensuring your dog is fed a nutritionally complete diet, adding in supplements as necessary, inspecting your yard for tick habitats as well as implementing measures to reduce these habitats, and checking your dog for ticks and fleas on a regular basis, you are one step closer to giving your dog a safe, tick and flea-free life.