Spring is here! Days are becoming longer. The air is getting warm. Crickets are chirping… and the ticks are beginning to wake up from their winter slumber. Time for some tick repellent!
For the last few years, Mike and I have been hanging out in the northeastern United States—specifically in Virginia, Maryland, and Ticksylvania—I’m sorry, typo—I mean Pennsylvania of course! If you’ve ever camped in this area, you understand the importance having a good tick repellent. Ticks are not only annoying, ticks can cause some major health problems and are not to be taken lightly.
Last spring was brutal for our two pups, Vim and Gadget. During the prime season for hungry ticks, early April, we were staying at our family’s farm. This farm backs up to many acres of deer infested woods and fields. The ticks were relentless!
One day, I took Gadget outside for a quick pee. We walked in a patch of shortly cut grass for no more than 10 minutes. When I returned to the rig, I proceeded to comb through her hair to check for ticks. I literally pulled 35 little ticks off of her… and then another 7 off of myself!
Because I checked her so quickly after walking her, none of the ticks had bitten her yet. Nonetheless, it was creepy. I went on a warpath to find the best natural tick repellent that I could.
Before I continue, please note:
So why not use medications for flea and tick prevention?
My dogs have been on Revolution for the last 7 years. I like it. At least, I like it as much as I can like any chemical. Revolution is a once-a-month topical treatment for heartworm, tapeworm, ringworm, and a few other parasites. It does not do anything against fleas or ticks. The product says it does, but it does not.
I asked one of my veterinarians about tick prevention and he suggested that I simply add a dose of Frontline to their Revolution treatment. I nearly choked! I already hated the idea of putting chemicals on my dogs but there was no way I was going to double-down on it.
The vet then recommended a few other products such as Nexgard, Trifexis, Advantix, Seresto, Bravecto, Sentinel, Simparica… Well I don’t know about you, but when someone tell me that I should use a product, I research it. Especially when I see a ton of freebies like pens and coffee mugs with that product’s name on it.
The side effects of these medicines (some of which included things like lameness, seizures, and sudden death) greatly outweighed the benefits of tick prevention. My dogs are my babies and I would never forgive myself if something happened to them because of something I dosed them with. I had to take a hard pass on that idea.
On the hunt for natural tick repellents.
I started by researching every natural tick repellent that I could find. Then, once I found a few that consistently seemed to have good results (with minimal side effects), I started testing them. For each solution that was applied directly to the dogs, I gave it a month to see if it worked. The first few days I used a quarter of the amount suggested for my dogs weight and gradually increased it over the following two weeks.
Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth – A Good Environmental Tick Repellent
We first tried getting some food-grade diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a chalk-like powder that is made up single-celled organisms that have fossilized over thousands of years. It has countless uses around the house, in your garden, and even in your body. Since our dogs lick everything, we insisting on using the food-grade variety. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is the only kind that is safe for ingestion.
Around the house, you can sprinkle it on carpets and pet bedding. This gets rid of a lot of types of bugs like fleas, ticks, and even bed bugs. You can wait up to a week before vacuuming it up. Since our RV is so small, I couldn’t scatter it and then quarantine the area for very long. We only did a few hour treatment.
We also scattered some outside on the ground around the RV—hoping to would kill ticks at the source. Diatomaceous Earth did work as a tick repellent. Originally I was pulling about 20 ticks off each dog every day. This dropped to about 10 each along with 5 or six dried up tick carcasses stuck in their fur. Once there was a heavy rain though, those effects wore off until I scattered more.
If you are staying in one place and don’t mind if your outdoor area looks like a horde of Keebler elves imploded… this might work for you. But with the constant upkeep (and the fact that it seems to rain 4 times a week) it wasn’t the best solution for us.
Tea Tree Oil – Great for Mold, Not for Ticks
I keep tea tree oil around for a lot of different reasons. Tea tree oil is an essential oil that comes from the leaves of the tea tree. It’s usually applied to the skin as an antiseptic for small cuts, bug bites, and is very effective against fungus of all types. I personally use a spray when I’m cleaning mildew in my bathroom. A lot of people swear by as a tick repellent also, but I don’t agree.
For tick prevention, you supposed to just mix a few drops in some water or witch hazel and spray it on your dog. When spraying, avoid their face. You don’t want to spray it directly on their noses or in their eyes.
Never apply tea tree oil to cats!
I don’t really think tea tree oil works all that well as a tick repellent. I never noticed a difference in the number of ticks my guys picked up when I sprayed them down with tea tree oil. I also didn’t really like the way my dogs reacted to it.
Both Vim and Gadget would avoid me when I wanted to spray them. They also seemed a touch sulky and off after I did. I continued doing research and found a few references to a recent study that states that it’s common for dogs have some type of reaction. Because of this I don’t recommend using tea tree oil as a tick repellent on your animals.
Rose Geranium Oil – A Good Human Tick Repellent
Rose Geranium Oil comes from the leaves and flowers of a particular variety of geranium plant. I really loved the way this essential oil smelled. It was very relaxing and I think it even helped calm Gadget (who is usually very hyper) down quite a bit.
I read that there could also be problems with this essential oil on dogs if it was applied directly to their skin. So I was dropping two drops into the palm of my hand and rubbing it on their harnesses instead.
As a tick repellent on the dogs, there was a slight decrease in tick activity (an average of 15 per day down to about 10 a day.) I couldn’t say that using rose geranium oil was significant enough to be worth it.
However, on my own body I saw a significant decrease in ticks. I was also using it on myself at the time and went from about 3-5 each day and to only 1 every other day. Plus I smelled nice!
Cedarwood Oil – Our Choice for Natural Tick Repellents
Cedarwood essential oil is made from the needles and bark of different types of cedarwood trees. Each type of cedarwood tree smells slightly different, so one kind might be more effective than another. I originally learned about it from another RVer on Facebook.
When I originally applied it, I didn’t use a carrier oil. The way I did it was by putting one drop in the palm of my hand and rubbing my hands together. I then proceeded to pet my dogs bellies, legs, and backs. After a few days I realized this might be too strong for them so I made a spray.
- 20 drops of cedarwood oil
- 4 oz of water
- 4 oz of witch hazel
To apply the repellent to the dogs, I would spray one hand, rub my hands together, and then pet the dogs. I continued to avoid petting their faces and up around their neck because I didn’t want the smell to be too strong for their sensitive noses.
Within 2 days, we could see the difference! The dogs went from about 20 a day to only 1 or 2 ticks brought in on their fur. Most of the ticks we saw after using cedarwood oil looked like their were trying to escape, not bite. The ticks that did bite, died within the first 24 hours and became these hard little carcasses. What was even better was that they all pulled their heads out of the dog before they died.
We weren’t seeing any on ourselves either. It was amazing!
I now swear by Cedarwood Oil!
Use essential oils as a tick repellent responsibly.
Essential oils are very potent. They can be good for dogs when used safely and with caution. Always make sure you buy 100% pure essential oils that are therapeutic grade, natural, and chemical-free. Don’t worry about the cost, you don’t use very much at one time.
All essential oils are made up of natural compounds that can be harmful if used on a dog with ailments. Certain essential oils will sometimes make specific symptoms of a sick dog much worse. Always do your own research and educate yourself.
Essential oils can also be harmful if not diluted properly. Less is best when it comes to essential oils and dogs. Only diluted essential oils should be used. Start slow and monitor your dog closely. Again, if you suspect you dog is acting strange in any way, stop doing whatever you’re doing and go see your vet.
Have you tried any of these natural ways to get rid of ticks? Do you have any other suggestions for a natural tick repellent? If so, leave a comment below. Cheers!