Duke is the best farm dog I’ve ever had. Okay, he’s the only farm dog I’ve ever had, but he’s loyal, patient with littles, and vigilant about keeping chickens and goats safe.
Because we live in a heavily wooded area, I apply this natural flea and tick powder to keep him safe and healthy . . . and also to guard my kids from exposure to fleas and ticks when they snuggle with him.
What’s in natural flea and tick powder?
Whipping up a batch of this powder is super simple. Here’s what you’ll need:
Ingredient # 1: Essential Oils
Some essential oils are considered helpful for repelling both ticks and fleas, while others are considered helpful for just one or the other. In the list below I’ve designated which dog-safe essential oils are considered best for each so that you can choose the oils that are aligned with your goals.
One quick note: Many of these oils are considered safe for children and can also be used to make homemade bug spray. I’ve included notes on which ones are and are not kid-safe so you can choose options that can be dual-purpose if you have little ones.
Cedarwood Atlas (Cedrus atlantica) – Helpful for fleas. Chests made from cedarwood have been used for generations to store clothing while repelling insects such as moths. Cedarwood is also often used to repel fleas and mosquitos. Safe for use with children.
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) – Helpful for fleas. In her wonderful book, Holistic Aromatherapy For Animals, Kristen Bell incorporates this oil into her flea-repellent essential oil blends. Safe for use with children.
Citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus) – Helpful for ticks and fleas. If you search on the EPA’s guide to insect repellents, you’ll find that when you specifically search for repellents for ticks it lists three oils as active ingredients that can be selected – citronella is one. Can also be used to make homemade citronella candles. Safe for use with children.
Geranium bourbon (Pelargonium x asperum) – Helpful for ticks. Can also be used to support skin repair and renewal, elasticity and firmness, and even skin tone. I use it in my hydrating skin serum recipe. Safe for use with children.
Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) – Helpful for fleas. Calming, helpful for soothing bug bites, sunburns, and other skin irritations. In a study on hairless mice, lavender was effective at repelling adult mosquitos. (source) I wouldn’t solely rely on lavender as a repellent, though. Safe for use with children.
Lemon (Citrus limon) – Helpful for fleas. In Holistic Aromatherapy For Animals, Kristen Bell incorporates this oil into her flea-repellent essential oil blends. Can cause photosensitivity. Maximum recommended topical use is 2% (12 drops in two tablespoons carrier oil). Safe for use with children if used appropriately.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – Helpful for fleas. In Holistic Aromatherapy For Animals, Kristen Bell incorporates this oil into her flea-repellent essential oil blends. According to Robert Tisserand, peppermint can be diffused with care around 3-6 year olds and applied topically at a concentration of 0.5% (2 drops in 4 teaspoons carrier oil). He clarified that “with care” means about two drops in the diffuser.
Note: Do not use essential oils with puppies under 10 weeks old.
Ingredient #2: Diatomaceous Earth
Made from a type of fossilized phytoplankton called diatoms, food grade diatomaceous earth is used in a lot of DIY recipes – deodorant, tooth powder and scouring powder for example. Although it feels like fine baby powder to our skin, it’s very hard and works well as a gentle abrasive. When used as a flea and tick powder, it attaches to the protective waxy outer coating (exoskeleton) of bugs and absorbs or scrapes it away, causing them to dry out and die.
Safety note: Although food grade diatomaceous earth is safe for use with humans and pets, filter grade diatomaceous earth is not. That’s because it has been heated in order to change it’s structure from the harmless amorphous silica that makes up 98.99% of food grade DE to crystalline silica, which can be harmful if breathed in. Always, always use food grade diatomaceous earth.
Ingredient #3: Neem Powder
You’re probably already familiar with one of the darlings of Ayurvedic medicine – turmeric – which can be used to support the immune system and even whiten your teeth.
Another revered plant in the Aurvedic tradition in the neem tree, which is sometimes called The Wonder Tree of India. It’s leaves have long been used as a natural bug repellent, which is why they’ve been incorporated into this recipe. I use organic neem powder which is made from the dried, ground leaves and is sold as a supplement.
Ingredient #4: Arrowroot Powder
In this recipe, arrowroot powder is used to dilute the other ingredients so that they are gentle enough for frequent topical use.
What To Buy If You Don’t Want To DIY
You can find a pre-made tick and flea powder that’s similar to mine here. It doesn’t contain essential oils, but you could add them if you’d like. The pre-made version contains a higher concentration of herbs so I would probably reduce the number of drops – maybe 15-20 drops per half cup.
This non-toxic tick and flea collar is another option to consider. Developed by veterinarians and dermatologists, it uses geranium, peppermint, cinnamon, lemongrass, clove, thyme, Eastern red cedar, rosemary, and citronella instead of conventional insecticides like midacloprid, flumethrin, pyrethrins, or tetrachlorvinphos.
Homemade Flea & Tick Powder Recipe For Dogs This homemade flea and tick powder is a little less than a 2% topical essential oil dilution, which is considered safe for regular use. I like to rotate the oils I use every batch or so to avoid sensitization. Ingredients
½ cup food grade diatomaceous earth
¼ cup neem powder
¼ cup arrowroot powder
90 drops of essential oil (See options below. I recommend using three oils and dividing the number of drops between them, which would be 30 drops each.)
Essential Oil Options
Cedarwood Atlas (Cedrus atlantica) for fleas
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) for fleas
Citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus) for ticks and fleas
Geranium bourbon (Pelargonium x asperum) for ticks
Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) for fleas
Lemon (Citrus limon) for fleas
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Instructions To Make Homemade Tick & Flea Powder
Add food grade diatomaceous earth, neem powder, arrowroot powder and essential oils to a jar.
Using a fork, stir slowly until the essential oils and powders are well-combined.
To Use Homemade Tick & Flea Powder
You’ll want to be outside. Using the shaker, shake a small amount of powder into the palm of your hand.
Rake your fingers against the grain through your pet's fur, making sure to maintain contact with the skin as you rub your fingers through the fur. For most dogs, you’ll be able to see where you’ve rubbed in the powder as some slight dusting will remain on the outer coat.
Repeat with additional powder shaken into the palm and raked into the fur until the back, torso, legs, tail, and neck have been covered. Be careful around the eyes and mouth because the powder can irritate the mucosa.
Between applications I also spritz our dogs outer coat with this tick repellent recipe as needed – the dilution is within the safe range for dogs and all the essential oils are considered dog-safe as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use this powder on my cat?Cats and essential oils don’t really mix, but if you leave out the essential oils this blend would be fine. Where did you find that mason jar shaker top?. I like that it has a lid that will help retain the freshness of the essential oils found in neem (plus any you decide to add). What can I use in place of arrowroot powder? Non-GMO cornstarch or tapioca starch would work.