Can you use essential oils for fleas on your dog or cat? Do they work? Not all essential oils are good for your furry friend. However, there are many essential oils that are considered safe and effective for flea control. This article will discuss about fleas, safety tips for using essential oils on pets, and some of the best oils to fight fleas.
- 1 What Are Fleas and Flea Infestations
- 2 Signs That You Have a Flea Infestation Problem
- 3 Getting Rid of Fleas in Your Home and on Your Pets
- 4 Are Essential Oils Safe to Use on Your Cat or Dog?
- 5 Best Essential Oils for Fleas
What Are Fleas and Flea Infestations
Fleas are wingless and tiny parasites that feed on the blood of their host, mostly furry animals, like dogs, cats, and squirrels. In North America, the most common flea species is cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) are more common in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
They usually enter a home mainly through animals. Sometimes, it could be through people. Once they find a suitable host, an adult flea could lay up to fifty eggs every day on the host. These eggs could fall from their host then hatch in carpets, rugs, cracked floor tile, underneath furniture cushions, or wherever the host spends most of its time.
Signs That You Have a Flea Infestation Problem
- Your pet can’t stop scratching, licking, or biting itself. This happens because of the blood-feeding activity of adult fleas, which causes your infested pet to have irritated and reddened skin and possibly hair shedding.
- You can find flea poop on your pet, particularly on its tummy and tail, or its usual spot for resting. It normally looks like small black dots or coarse black pepper
- You might have flea bites, which cause red, extremely itch, and sometimes painful spots. Since there are countless conditions that could cause this type of symptom, it’s important to consult your doctor first.
- Adults fleas could be jumping around and trying to land on a host.
Getting Rid of Fleas in Your Home and on Your Pets
It’s relatively easy to know if there’s a flea infestation. It’s getting rid of fleas that’s more challenging.
The first thing you can do to prevent or get rid of these pests is to put the infected pet on an effective and safe flea product. The best flea products usually contain two ingredients: permethrin, an insecticide that kills adult fleas, and insect growth regulators (IGR), the “birth control pills for fleas.” Before using any flea product, make sure to consult a qualified veterinarian to make sure it’s effective and safe to use on your pets.
Another important flea infestation measure is to clean your home efficiently and thoroughly. If you skip this step, you’ll miss most of the eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult fleas. One of the easiest and best ways to do this is by vacuuming the areas where your pets spend most of their time.
Now, let’s talk about using essential oils to fight fleas.
Are Essential Oils Safe to Use on Your Cat or Dog?
Answer: it depends (because opinions completely vary).
Many experts and certain studies suggest that essential oils could be toxic to cats and dogs, whether used internally or externally, or for long periods of time. Cats are particularly more susceptible to their toxic effects because their livers are not able to efficiently breakdown the various compounds in essential oils.
Essential oils that are believed to be toxic to dogs and cats include :
- Tea Tree
Signs and symptoms of essential oil poisoning in cats and dogs include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Uncoordinated movement
- Lack of energy or weakness
- Rubbing of face or mouth
- Reddened lips, skin, gums, or tongue
However, there are some veterinarians who believe that the bad publicity on essential oils is wholly unwarranted. In an interview by Dr. Karen Becker of Mercola.com, veterinarian Dr. Melissa Shelton believes certain essential oils are beneficial and safe to use on pets—that is, if you buy high-quality essential oils and know how to handle them properly. 
If you plan to use essential oils on your pets, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Always dilute them heavily or according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Start with 3 to 5 drops of essential oil. Dilute per drop of essential oil in 4 to 5 drops of carrier oil.  If you’re not sure about the proper dilution ratio or have other concerns, I suggest you consult a qualified and trained veterinarian, who has expert knowledge with essential oils.
- Each animal is unique. So, it’s important to observe your pet’s behavior to see how it responds to the essential oils. The Young Living Blog suggests introducing essential oils to your pet by putting a small amount of an essential oil in your hand and letting your pet smell it or diffuse it in your home, particularly where your pet mostly spends its time, to help it get used to the scent. 
- Be more cautious in using essential oils on cats because they’re more sensitive to their effects than dogs. Plus, they lick themselves, so there’s a greater possibility that they’ll unintentionally ingest the oil and suffer from liver damage.
- Avoid adding essential oils to your pet’s drinking water or food.
- Don’t use essential oils on puppies that are 10 weeks old or younger because they have a higher risk for hypersensitivity reactions and organ toxicity.
- As much as possible, avoid using essential oil continually and/or for longer periods. Use it for two weeks or less, and then provide a rest period.
Now that’s done, let’s talk about some of the essential oils you could try.
Best Essential Oils for Fleas
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil is derived from the Rosmarinus officinalis herb. It has many benefits, including its ability to repel or kill a variety of insect and mite species. That’s why it has been extensively used as an active ingredient in many commercial insecticides.
Major active ingredients of rosemary essential oil are 1,8-cineole, alpha-pinene, camphor, and beta-pinene. Out of these four, alpha-pinene and 1,8-cineole seems to be the most effective insecticides. 
Caveat: I suggest you avoid or use it cautiously on your cats because it could be toxic to them.
Here are a few ways to use rosemary essential oil to prevent or get rid of fleas:
- Flea repellant for dogs: PETA suggests adding 7 or 8 drops of rosemary, eucalyptus, citronella, tea tree, and peppermint essential oils to a dark-tinted spray bottle with 8 ounces (1 cup) of water.  Shake or stir well. Spray the solution to your dog’s fur every two days.
- You could also apply rosemary essential oil on your pet’s collar, so it won’t ingest the oil during grooming or experience skin irritations. Simply mix 3 drops of rosemary essential oil and a teaspoon of vodka in a small bowl. Stir well, and then pour the solution directly on the collar (nylon or cotton) until it’s fully absorbed. Let it partially dry before letting your pet wear it.
Geranium Essential Oil
Geranium have long been planted around and inside houses because of its lovely scent and pest-repelling benefit. The oil extracted from its stems and leaves is usually used as a natural tick repellent.  Several of its major components, such as geraniol, linalool, and limonene, are responsible for its effectiveness as repellent for fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks. And the great thing about it is it’s generally safe for use with cats.
Here are a few ways to use geranium essential oil to prevent or get rid of fleas:
- Geranium flea trap: By itself, this will not prevent or kill all fleas inside your home or on your pets. You should use it as a part of a holistic flea control plan.
- Get a deep and wide bowl, baking pan, or pie pan. Fill it halfway with water and a few drops of geranium essential oil (2 teaspoons of water per 3 to 5 drops of the oil).
- Place a floating candle in the middle of the bowl or pan. Or, you could place a small bedside lamp over it. The light is used as a lure, so the fleas will jump right into the bowl or pan and drown.
- In the morning, make sure to empty the water in your flea trap for hygienic purposes and to prevent your pets (or children) from drinking the water.
- Flea repellent spray: Simply add a few thinly sliced lemons in freshly boiled water. Leave it overnight. Then, add 3 to 5 drops of geranium essential oil. Shake well. Spray it on your furniture, bedding (including your pet’s bedding), and cat or dog to repel fleas.
Cedarwood Essential Oil
Cedarwood essential oil, also called cedar oil, is extracted from the wood of several species of cypresses and junipers. Most commercially available cedarwood essential oils are obtained from the Juniperus virginiana (red cedar).
This essential oil has a variety of medicinal and industrial benefits, including pest control. The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has recognized it as a minimum risk pesticide. Many gardeners and pet owners use it to keep different pest insects, including fleas, at bay. Apparently, insects don’t like its woody, earthy, and slightly sweet aroma.
It’s an attractive option for pest control because it’s non-toxic to humans and pets. But to be effective, you need to use it frequently.
Here’s how to use cedarwood essential oil to prevent or get rid of fleas:
- Cedarwood-almond oil flea spray: You can use other carrier oils, but almond oil is a good option because it’s rich in vitamins and nutrients that will make your dog’s hair soft, shiny, and strong.
- Pour 4 cups (8 ounces) of water into a pitcher with leak-proof lid.
- Add 5 teaspoons of almond oil into the pitcher. Place the lid firmly on the pitcher, and then shake it well using a back and forth motion.
- Then, add 10 drops of cedarwood essential oil into the solution. Shake it vigorously again. Transfer the solution into a dark-tinted spray bottle.
- After bathing and drying your dog, spray the cedarwood-almond oil solution on your dog’s entire coat. Brush your dog’s coat to make sure the solution is distributed evenly. Repeat if necessary.
- This flea repellent solution is safe for dogs 3 months and older.
Lemongrass Essential Oil
Most lemongrass essential oil products that you buy today are extracted from the fresh or partially dried leaves of the Cymbopogon citratus (West Indian lemongrass) and Cymbopogon flexuosus (East Indian lemongrass) varieties. Between the two, the West Indian lemongrass is better studied and could be more potent.
Lemongrass essential oil is known for its ability to repel or kill arachnids and insects, specifically mosquitoes, dog ticks, spiders, dust mites, ants, and even fleas. This is due to its high geraniol and citral content. Other chemical constituents of this essential oil are limonene (also an insect deterrent), methyl heptenone, farnesol, myrcene, terpineol, dipentene, nerol, and citronellol. 
At low amounts and concentrations, lemongrass essential oil is non-toxic. The extensive use of this essential oil throughout the years all over the world could speak of its safety. However, it’s still not advisable to use on cats because of possible adverse effects.
Here’s how to use lemongrass essential oil to prevent or get rid of fleas:
- Lemongrass essential oil flea spray for dogs: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin (which prevents the oil from rising to the water surface), 2 teaspoons of vodka, and 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil into 10 ounces of purified water. Use a dark-tinted spray bottle to protect the medicinal and insecticidal properties of the lemongrass essential oil. Mix well. Shake the bottle before spraying the solution all over your dog’s coat after bathing. You can also spray it on your dog’s collar and bedding.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil is one of the safest and most popular oils in aromatherapy. It’s valued for its calming and sleep-inducing properties. For dog owners, it’s an effective and safe treatment for flea infestation. It doesn’t kill fleas, but it prevents them from coming close to your dog.
The main active ingredients of lavender essential oil are linalool, linalyl acetate, camphor, and terpinen-4-ol.  Among the lavender varieties, True Lavender (Lavender Vera) essential oil has the highest linalool content.  Linalool is responsible for the oil’s therapeutic benefits. This naturally occurring chemical is also able to kill fleas in all stages of development: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult fleas.
Caveat: Use lavender essential oil cautiously around cats.
Here’s how to use lavender essential oil to prevent or get rid of fleas:
- Homemade dog shampoo with lavender essential oil: You need 4 ounces of liquid Castile soap, dark-tinted bottle with lid, 2 ounces of apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar), 1 tablespoon of vegetable glycerin, 3 to 5 drops of lavender essential oil, and 4 to 32 ounces of purified water (the amount depends on the size of your dog).
- Pour the liquid Castile soap into the lidded bottle.
- Add the apple cider vinegar, vegetable glycerin, purified water, and lavender essential oil. Gently shake the bottle to mix the ingredients.
How to Use:
- Shake the shampoo before using to make sure the ingredients are mixed well.
- Get your canine pal as wet as possible using lukewarm water.
- Lather the homemade flea shampoo through its fur down into its skin. Pay special attention on its legs, tummy, and areas above the neck. Always keep it away from its eyes, mouth, and nose.
- Rinse out the shampoo and squeeze out the water from its fur.
Citronella Essential Oil
There are two kinds of citronella oil: Ceylon (from the Cymbopogon nardus grass) and Java (from the Cymbopogon winterianus grass). Between the two, Java citronella oil is higher in quality.
Citronella essential oil is a popular ingredient in many insect repellent products, including flea collars, sunscreens, wristbands, sprays, lotions, and candles. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized it as a non-toxic biochemical pesticide or biopesticide. According to them, it’s not harmful to the environment and has minimal risks to wildlife based on clinical animal studies. 
How does it work?
It doesn’t kill insects, but it repels them. It works by making it difficult for pest insects to find their target by masking the scents they find attractive. Some of the pests it’s able to repel are black flies, mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.
What’s great about this essential oil is it also has a calming effect on barking dogs. And if you spray it on your furniture or linens, it rids them of odors, germs, and pests.
Here’s how to use citronella essential oil to prevent or get rid of fleas:
- For this citronella oil flea spray, you’ll need 5 ounces of purified water, 10 drops of citronella essential oil, 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin, 1.5 ounces of vodka or witch hazel, and a 10-ounce, dark-tinted spray bottle.
- Pour the purified water and vodka or witch hazel into the spray bottle. Make sure there’s still a gap left, so it’s easy for you to shake the bottle thoroughly.
- Add the vegetable glycerin and citronella essential oil to the spray bottle. Gently shake it.
- You can use this to spray on your dog or cat (but with caution), room, furniture, bedding, and clothes, among others. To be more effective, reapply it every 30 minutes or 1 hour.
- Before using it, make sure to gently shake it to mix the ingredients. Avoid spraying this on your pet’s eyes, mouth, and nose.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus essential oil has a long list of practical, medicinal, and industrial uses, one of which is its ability to repel fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, ants, and wasps. Its strong “moth-ball-like” (camphorous), woody, minty, and slightly fruity scent discourages insects from going near areas, objects, or animals that you sprayed with it. However, it may take several weeks of continued use before it can keep your flea problem under control.
Caveat: If you have cats in your home, avoid using eucalyptus essential oil because it can cause toxic buildup in their livers.
Here are a few ways to use eucalyptus essential oil to prevent or get rid of fleas:
- All-purpose cleaning solution: For this solution, you’ll need 16 ounces of warm water, 5 ounces of white or apple cider vinegar, 20 drops of eucalyptus essential oil, and 2 teaspoons of liquid dishwashing soap.
- In a 20-ounce spray bottle (dark color), add the warm water, white or apple cider vinegar, and liquid dishwashing liquid. Gently shake.
- Add the eucalyptus essential oil, and then shake well.
- Use it daily to clean objects and areas in your home where your pets usually hang out.
- Another way to use it is to add it to your dog’s shampoo. Simply add 3 to 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil for every tablespoon of SLS-free dog shampoo. After mixing it well, lather up your dog starting from its neck, so the fleas won’t crawl up to its head. Allow the shampoo to sit for around 5 minutes before washing it off thoroughly. After drying, brush your dog’s fur using the appropriate flea comb. Repeat this procedure every two to three days.
These are just some of the essential oils you can use on your pet or in your home. To be more effective, use them in combination with other natural and safe flea control solutions. Effective flea control plans always take a holistic approach that treats both the host and the environment.
Remember: Use essential oils cautiously, especially on cats. To be on the safer side, consult your pet’s veterinarian before using any of these above mentioned essential oils to treat fleas.