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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

ASK THE VET, with Dr. Pat: Natural Options for Flea Control

by Pat Bradley, DVM
(c) Carrie Boyko
Patti with
Sully, Pip and Smudge

Dr. Pat,

I see you use holistic practices as well as conventional.  How do you feel about using essential oils such as red thyme, cedarwood, citronella on a bandana to put around my dogs' necks to repel fleas when I take them on their walks?  I use Comfortis but fleas still jump on them when we are walking.

Thank you!


Hello Patti:

What a great idea! Essential oil on a bandana makes the dog less attractive to what you don't want--fleas--and more attractive to what you do want--admiration of your cute canine BFF!

Essential oils are very concentrated, so another advantage of the bandana is that it keeps the oil from making direct contact with your dog's skin.

If your dog is large, there might be too much territory between the two ends for the bandana to be effective. Incredibly, fleas are athletic enough to jump onto even a fast-moving, wagging tail! (You don't have to LOVE fleas, but you have to be amazed at the things they can do. And give them credit; they are outsmarting chemical manufacturers so far. We make chemicals that absolutely get rid of fleas, however, they absolutely get rid of humans and dogs, too.)

So, in the case of a large dog, spritz the coat before walking with homemade repellent spray:

  • Two or three drops of an essential oil
  • 1 cup of distilled or spring water
  • Put into a spray bottle.
  • Shake well, spray and GO!
Any of the essential oils that you mentioned could be used. You might need to try several before finding the best one for your geographical ara. One of my very favorites is peppermint oil.

And then--you knew it was coming--a list of the cautions:
  • Essential oils are toxic to cats, so DON'T DO THIS WITH CATS!!
  • Chemically-sensitive dogs can get headaches or nausea from essential oils. Watch for signs that your dog isn't feeling well during or after exposure.
  • Don't let dogs (or children) chew on the bandana. While the oils are generally safe, they can cause diarrhea or vomiting in sensitive critters.
Happy trails!
Dr. Pat
(c) photo courtesy of P. Bradley

Write to with your question for Dr. Pat.

For a personal consultation about your pet's needs, visit Holistic Veterinary Services.

Dr. Pat's opinion or advice does not replace an actual exam with a veterinarian

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