Ask A Vet: Are Natural Flea Remedies Safe For My Dog?


In a world full of chemicals and carcinogens (but also fleas and pests carrying disease), everyone is always looking for newer and safer ways to kill pests. Extracts and essential oils from plants has become an important source of compounds that are under investigation. Essential oils have been touted to treat a variety of ills. People always want a safe and readily available way to kill bugs without a visit to the vet.

A recent study examined Shinus molle, a plant native to Brazil.  The chemical composition of its extracts and essential oils were examined for activity against eggs and adult fleas¹. In this study, one of the extracts showed  efficacy in the laboratory analysis (not using live animals).  The essential oil from the fruit and leaves was not active at all against flea eggs.  These findings are exciting, but this study did not investigate the use with live animals.

There are other essential oils being hailed as miracle flea preventives. but BEWARE! Cats are known to be extremely sensitive to essential oils and they are contraindicated in this species. Dogs too can can experience significant adverse effects when exposed to plant-derived flea preventatives even when used as directed.  Essential oils are on the list of most common reported toxins to the pet poison hot line. ²

You have not helped your dog if you kill the fleas, but he gets sick. You have not saved money on natural flea treatment, if you have to see a vet to treat toxicity. Science is hurrying to find a safe and effective natural pesticide, but is not quite there yet. In the meantime, talk to your vet about currently available alternatives to keep your pet free of fleas.


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  1. In vitro efficacy of essential oils and extracts of Schinus molle L. against Ctenocephalides felis felis. Parasitology. 2016 Feb 18:1-12. [Epub ahead of print]DE S O Batista LC, Cid YP, DE Almeida AP, Prudêncio ER, Riger CJ, DE Souza MA, Coumendouros K, Chaves DS.
  2. Adverse reactions from essential oil-containing natural flea products exempted from Environmental Protection Agency regulations in dogs and cats.J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2012 Aug;22(4):470-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-4431.2012.00780.x. Epub 2012 Jul 16.Genovese AG, McLean MK, Khan SA.