Natural Flea & Tick Prevention PART 2

April 30, 2020

Homemade Dog Shampoos & Sprays

In part one of this mini-series, we discussed several measures you can take to naturally prevent fleas and ticks from inhabiting your yard. Another crucial step in preventing these disease-ridden pests from attacking your pup is using shampoos and sprays that will repel them. But be wary of store-bought flea and tick body products, since most of them contain harsh chemicals. Combining medicated shampoo with topical flea and tick medication also poses the risk of overdosing your dog. Fortunately, there are many easy DIY recipes for flea and tick dog shampoos that are made with natural, non-toxic, and inexpensive ingredients. Read on to learn three basic recipes and consider the potential risks of using essential oils on your pets.

Vinegar Shampoo or Spray

Fleas and ticks hate the scent and taste of vinegar, so they’ll avoid latching onto your dog when you use a vinegar-based shampoo or spray. Vinegar also kills bacteria, deodorizes, reduces flaky skin and dander buildup, and adds shine to your dog’s coat.

Shampoo
Here’s an easy recipe for vinegar dog shampoo:

  • 1 quart warm water
  • 1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup liquid castile soap

How to use it: Mix the warm water and vinegar in a large bowl, then slowly add in the castile soap. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and gently shake it. Spray and lather the shampoo into your dog’s coat for about 5 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Bathe your dog with this mixture once or twice a month.

NOTE: Many homemade dog shampoos use dish soap, which can overly strip the skin of oils and cause dryness and irritation. Castile soap contains olive oil, so it’s gentler on the skin and moisturizes while it cleanses.

Leave-in Spray
To create a leave-in spray solution, simply mix equal parts vinegar and water (1:1). If the scent is initially too pungent, start with a diluted formula of one part vinegar to three parts water (1:3), and then gradually ramp up to the more concentrated formula if possible. Oftentimes, people and dogs prefer the milder, more pleasant scent of apple cider vinegar.

How to use it: Apply the vinegar solution directly onto your dog’s coat, massaging it into the skin. Allow it to dry, and do not rinse it off. Use a clean bottle that was not previously used with other chemicals. Vinegar is an acid and can react with trace chemicals left in the spray bottle, which could harm your pet. You can also spray the vinegar solution on your carpet, furniture, and your dog’s bedding as an additional preventive measure.

NOTE: Check your dog’s skin for any open cuts, sores, or wounds before applying vinegar shampoo or spray. Vinegar will sting broken skin. Avoid the eyes as well. 

Citrus Juice Shampoo or Spray

The juice of citrus fruits is known to repel fleas and ticks. It also has antibacterial properties and will leave your dog smelling fresh and clean. Unlike the essential oils derived from the rind of citrus fruits, the juice is non-toxic and generally safe for topical use on both dogs and cats. When making a citrus juice shampoo or spray for your dog, use freshly squeezed juice for the best results.

Shampoo
½ cup fresh lemon or orange juice
2 cups warm water
½ cup liquid castile soap 

How to use it: Juice enough lemons or oranges to fill a ½ cup. Pour it into a medium bowl, add the warm water, and stir. Then pour in the liquid castile soap and stir until combined. (Store the mixture in a glass jar or container until it’s ready for use.) Wet your dog’s fur and massage the shampoo down to the skin throughout their coat. Let the lather sit for a few minutes before rinsing it out thoroughly. You can bathe your dog with this citrus juice shampoo once a week.

Leave-in Spray
To create a leave-in citrus spray, simply pour the juice and warm water into a spray bottle and shake the mix. Spritz your dog all over with the solution, massaging it with your fingers down to the skin.

NOTE: Citrus juice is acidic and will sting broken skin, so do not apply it to your dog if they have any open cuts, sores, or wounds. Always avoid the eyes, too.

Coconut Oil Shampoo

The lauric acid in coconut oil both kills and repels fleas and ticks. An added bonus is that coconut oil has excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It kills bacteria and yeast, soothes and moisturizes inflamed skin, removes bad odors, and leaves your dog’s coat shiny and smooth.

Here is a suggested recipe for homemade coconut oil dog shampoo:

  • ¼ cup liquid virgin coconut oil (human-grade)
  • ½ cup liquid castile soap
  • ¾ cup water

How to use it: Pour all of the ingredients into a glass bottle, secure the lid, and shake to thoroughly mix the ingredients. Wash your dog once a week for the best results, making sure to lather the shampoo down to the skin. 

Is it Safe to Add Essential Oils to My Dog’s Shampoos & Sprays?

Many DIY flea and tick products include a few drops of essential oils, which doubles as both a natural insect repellent and a pleasant aroma. But it’s important to note that not all essential oils are safe for dogs. Some essential oils are actually toxic to both dogs and cats, including (but not limited to) cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree, wintergreen, ylang ylang, clove, and thyme. When absorbed through the skin or ingested orally, these essential oils can lead to serious liver damage. 

Keep in mind, too, that even veterinarian-approved essential oils are still highly-concentrated, potent substances that can harm your dog if they are ingested or not used properly. Using 100% aromatherapy strength essential oils on your dog can cause skin irritation. If your dog orally ingests even safe essential oils, they can suffer gastrointestinal upset or neurological problems. Also remember that a dog’s sense of smell is about 40 times stronger than a human’s. A scent that we find to be pleasant and mild could be overpowering to a dog and even cause respiratory issues.

Here’s the bottom line: If you want to use essential oils on your dog to help repel fleas and ticks, consult your veterinarian first. They can advise you on which essential oils are safe for dogs, which carrier oils are best to dilute essential oils, and what dosages are appropriate. If you have other pets besides dogs, their sensitivities to essential oils will also need to be considered.

Experiment with these flea and tick shampoos and sprays to discover what formulas work best for you and your pooch. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for their professional advice. We hope that our tips and tricks help your dog stay flea- and tick-free all season long!