Ticks are the worst! Here’s a quick, easy and economical way to make your own natural tick repellent spray.
Quick UPDATE – see even MORE recommendations for natural flea and tick protection here.
Chloe and I headed out for a hike this weekend. Perfect spring weather; temps were beginning to warm up and trees just starting to bud. Halfway through our drive to the trailhead, it dawned on me with warmer temperatures also came the likelihood of picking up ticks on our hike.
I had forgotten our tick spray at home.
I had also forgotten a pair of socks for my hiking shoes – but swinging back to Target to pick up a pair solved that problem. Unfortunately, natural tick spray is not that easy to find at the store.
Lucky for you and me, it’s super easy and super quick to make your own tick spray at home.
If you’ve lived in Tennessee for any length of time, you know just about any season is tick season. Last year, however, was one of the worst I have ever seen for these little devils. Even if they didn’t spread diseases, some of which can be incredibly serious, who wants these spider-relatives attached to you or your dog’s skin? The bites burn and itch. The ticks are uncomfortable and sometimes difficult to remove. Ticks are just downright creepy.
Last year we did a lot of hiking. The early spring was warm and humid. After one hike, I noticed six large ticks on Chloe’s ears, which I promptly removed.
That was just the beginning. Over the course of the next several days, I pulled off COUNTLESS ticks. Large ones, small ones, every variety possible. As soon as I thought I was done, I would find more. I had a nice bite on the back of my leg, too.
At first I blamed it on the humid weather and all the hiking we had done. But after I found two more ticks crawling up Chloe’s legs after Frisbee league – and then literally watched another crawl out of our lawn and onto her foot in our own back yard, I began to panic.
“Hold on,” you’re thinking. “Were you not using a topical flea and tick treatment like many people do?”
Some of you know we choose not to use any topical pesticides on our pets. After much research, it’s pretty clear that these topical and oral treatments come with a host of unwanted side-effects for our four-legged friends. There’s a reason why the warning labels caution YOU from touching the product during application. If I shouldn’t touch it, why would I want to put it on my best friend?
In the past, I had relied on natural tick sprays/wipes I have purchased. Combined with simply looking Chloe over after a hike, it seemed to work fairly well. But not consistently.
Last year, I knew I needed to try something different.
Whatever we chose to combat ticks had to meet this criteria:
- It had to be non-toxic
- It had to be safe for humans, dogs and cats
- It had to consistently work for a large number of pets and their owners
After jumping on the internet to research solutions, I quickly came across an essential oil spray that was touted over and over again by many different individuals. And it didn’t have to be purchased – you could make it at home.
In fact, it was so simple – only three ingredients – that I almost dismissed it as too good to be true. But I gave it a shot and discovered that it actually does the job!
An added plus – it smells delightful.
The secret ingredient in this homemade natural tick repellent spray is an essential oil – rose geranium.
Essential oil use with pets is a big subject. Just because it’s natural does not mean it’s safe for everyone. So whenever you hear me mention essential oils you’ll also hear me say ‘Proceed With Caution.’
Rose geranium, however, is one of those friendly essential oils that can be safely used by everyone in your household.
Before we get into the directions of how to make your tick spray, a couple of caveats:
Rose Geranium is a tick repellent. It does not kill ticks, but will make your dog unattractive to them.
Even though you may see different info online, essential oils should always be diluted before use on pets – especially cats. Cats are extremely sensitive to certain compounds found in essential oils – even those used in your daily routine such as bath soaps, lotions and diffusers. Our pets have heightened senses – especially smell. Always let your pet have a sniff (from a distance) of any essential oil you want to use. Cats in particular will let you know if it’s okay for them. If they turn away from the oil, then it’s a no-go. Don’t use it.
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Making Your Own Rose Geranium Tick Spray
*Dark amber or blue glass spray bottle, 4 oz. (see note below)
*Rose Geranium essential oil, therapeutic grade, 40 drops
*Witch Hazel or Vodka, 1 Tbsp
*Distilled Water, 1/3 cup
(Note on bottles: glass is the recommended container for essential oil sprays. But glass is not the best container to pack while out on the trail. You can also use a stainless steel or plastic bottles. Purchase HDPE plastic bottles in amber or blue. For storing at home, glass is best.)
Measure the witch hazel or vodka into the bottle using a small stainless steel funnel if needed. Add the 40 drops of rose geranium oil. Finally, add in the distilled water and shake!
Will last up to 6 months.
How to Use:
Mist your dog with the rose geranium spray from head to tail, avoiding the eyes. You can spray a bit on your hands to rub on his ears and around his face. Don’t forget underneath and the legs and paws.
Apply to leashes and dog packs as well. Check with manufacturer before applying near biothane collars/leads.
Reapply as needed on the trail. Usually when the smell dissipates, it’s time to spray again, every 4 hours or so. ALWAYS reapply after swimming.
Mist on yourself. Usually just from the feet to waist-level is sufficient. You can spray on your clothes and shoes. ALWAYS do a spot-check first if you are uncertain about the fabric.
If you’re using this on your cat, please dilute it more. Prepare a second spray bottle for your cat using only 10 drops of oil. If in doubt for your cat, check with an essential oil professional who will guide you!!!
As always, not every natural remedy works for every individual – dog or human. You may have to tweak the amount of essential oil if it doesn’t seem to be working as well as it should. You may need to make a fresh batch. Always remake your spray at the beginning of the season.
Since rose geranium is a repellent, does this mean you’ll never again see a tick on your dog? No. You may see a tick on occasion. But when you do, they are crawling along the fur looking for a way off rather than a way under to the skin. If you do see a tick, it usually means the spray has worn off or you might have forgotten to reapply after your dog has gotten wet. Just pick them off if you see one.
No matter what type of tick protection you use, you should always thoroughly check your dog over once a day.
What should you do if by chance your dog does have a tick attached?
Don’t panic – just remove it as soon as possible.
In general, ticks have to be attached 36-48 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease. You have time. Remove the tick by grabbing with tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Pull up with steady pressure, making sure not to twist. If the mouthparts do get left in the skin, leave them be. Your dog’s skin will self-heal and push the parts out. But do apply some antibacterial ointment or crushed garlic to the bite.
If you’re out on the trail, use one of these handy dandy little Tick Keys you can carry with you. They work for people, too.
We’ll be posting another article on how to keep ticks out of your yard and way from your dog in the next week…
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