Few things are more satisfying than exploring the great outdoors with your trusty pooch at your side. Personally, both me and my furry friend like it rough when it comes to walks, with the more vegetation and rough terrain, the better. But as the weather begins to warm up, there’s a looming threat on the horizon: ticks. And lots of ‘em, unfortunately.
In many areas of the United States during the summer, it’s inevitable that a walk through grass, forest or scrubland will yield at least a few of these nasty little guys hanging on to your dog. And in addition to putting your dog’s health at risk, they spell bad news for you and your family as well. Ticks are responsible for at least ten diseases in the U.S., including babesiosis, erlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and the infamous Lyme disease.
But this leaves you with something of a dilemma: treat your dog with toxic chemicals in order to prevent ticks in the first place, or skip the chemicals but put your dog at risk of contracting ticks. Neither option is a good one, but luckily there’s a third on offer: use a natural tick deterrent instead!
Here are natural alternatives to conventional toxic tick repellents that will help protect your dog from ticks this summer.
1. Geranium essential oil
Geranium essential oil, of which there are around ten commercially available varieties, has long been recognized as a powerful natural tick deterrent. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, all ten essential oils of geranium were shown to have strong repellent activity against the lone star tick — a commonly found tick in the Eastern U.S. and one known to carry a wide range of diseases.
2. Rhododendron tomentosum essential oil
Perhaps even more effective in repelling ticks is Rhododendron tomentosum essential oil. In a 2005 study published in the Journal of Medical and Veterinary Entomology, this essential oil was shown to repel 95 percent of ticks — a greater percentage than all other essential oils tested.
3. Cumin essential oil
You’re probably getting more than a little sick of hearing about essential oils by now, but the fact is that they’re easily the most powerful and effective way to naturally ward off (and kill) ticks. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Parasitology Research found that essential oil extracted from cumin seeds produced 100 percent mortality across a range of concentrations, even a very dilute 1.25 percent.
Researchers figured it was the high levels of cuminaldehyde, γ-terpinene and 2-caren-10-al in cumin seeds that did it; but all you need to know is that cumin essential oil is a great natural tick repellent for your dog.
4. Allspice essential oil
Incidentally, that same 2011 study also found that allspice essential oil was 100 percent effective in killing off ticks and their larvae. Unlike cumin essential oil, however, allspice essential oil concentrations need to be above 1.25 percent to be fully effective.
That being said, when using essential oils, keep in mind that they can become dangerous when used in high doses. In fact, even just a few drops of the wrong essential oil can prove toxic to some animals, on account their intensity and high concentrations of active ingredients. Always do your research before you use essential oils on your dog, and consider diluting them with carrier oils such as sweet almond or coconut oil before applications.
5. Ocimum suave
Extracts taken from the curiously named Ocimum suave, a herb native to Tanzania and popular in African folk medicine, may be another effective way to naturally deter ticks from your dog this summer. A study published in the Journal of Experimental and Applied Acarology found that an extract of Ocimum suave leaves killed all stages of the tick Rhipicephalus appendiculatus.
6. Herb powder
While the effectiveness of single essential oils in repelling ticks can’t be ignored, combining certain therapeutic herbs to make an anti-tick powder is just as effective. To make your own natural tick deterrent, combine equal parts powdered rosemary, powdered rue and powdered wormwood, which you should be able to find in your local herb dispensary or health food store. Mix the powders together in a herb shaker jar, and apply a thin layer to your dog’s coat before heading out into tick-infested territory.
7. Mountain mint
According to anecdotal evidence, mountain mint is also an effective way natural tick deterrent, on account of its high concentrations of tick-repelling pulegone. If you can find powdered mountain mint, apply it to your dog’s coat in the same way as the above herb powder recipe. Otherwise, use a mortar and pestle to grind up dried mountain mint leaves and store in a cool, dry place for use every time you take your dog outdoors this summer.
8. Rose geranium essential oil
Many dog owners swear by rose geranium (Pelargonium sp.) essential oil as one of the most effective ways to protect against tick bites. While there doesn’t appear to be any scientific evidence to back up these claims, there are enough success stories out there to consider giving it a go. Once again, be sure to use it very carefully on your dog, and be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil first.
— Liivi Hess