In many parts of the country, and especially areas like the Midwest and South that have experienced warmer temps lately, it’s closer to flea and tick season! Many dog owners simply don’t want to deal with protecting their dogs from these little pests. Sprays, special collars, medication, and on and on.
It can be critical to protect your dog from these miniature terrors, however. They can not only lead to allergic reactions in dogs (and YOU!), but they can spread Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and trust us… you don’t want to deal with either of those! You especially need to keep on top of fleas, as they can reproduce and spread like crazy once established on your dog and in your home.
If you’re looking for a natural way to help curb fleas and ticks, there are options available. Just like the chemical measures, nothing is 100% effective all the time, but all will work in certain situations. Also, some dogs may not like the smell of some natural remedies, so just try what they’ll allow you to and see if it works!
Here are some great natural methods to explore:
1. Diatomaceous earth
This chalky, powder-like substance is actually the fossilized remains of single-celled algae. It’s deadly to many insects, including fleas; and while topical contact is technically harmless to pets and people, breathing it in may irritate nasal passages. Keep in mind that while this approach has demonstrated some effectiveness controlling flea infestations, it’s also somewhat messy.
If you’d like to give it a go, holistic veterinarian Dr. R H Pitcairn suggests that you begin by thoroughly cleaning and vacuuming floors and furniture multiple times per week. He also recommends laundering all pet bedding in hot, soapy water at least once per week. The goal here is to pick up adult-stage pests, eggs, larvae, and pupae. In the midst of all this, two or three times per year, Dr. Pitcairn recommends sprinkling unrefined diatomaceous earth under furniture, along walls, on carpets, over pet bedding, into cracks and crevices throughout your home, even onto your pet’s back. If you’re a bit of a dusk freak, this may not be the method for you.
2. Lemon tonic
Famed English animal herbalist Juliette de Bairacli-Levy noted that fleas dislike citrus. Her text The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog recommends taking advantage of this fact by thinly slicing a whole lemon, including the rind. Add 2 cups of boiling water, let it steep overnight, and then spray the solution over your dog (avoiding the eye area).
This “lemon tonic” evidently contains natural flea-killing compounds, including d-limonene. Bathing your pet weekly with natural shampoos containing d-limonene and/or neem oil would be another option. Remember, however, that lemon may bleach darker fur in the sun over time.
Image courtesy of: peet-astn
A number of holistic vets — such as Dr. Pitcairn and one of his former associates, Dr. Lori Tapp — maintain that dogs under 50 pounds can be fed up to a 1/2 teaspoon of garlic per day, and dogs over 50 pounds can eat as much as 1 or 2 teaspoons per day. Garlic contains compounds that are secreted through the skin, and most fleas and ticks find these compounds fairly distasteful.
But it’s well worth remembering that garlic safety remains a hugely contentious topic when it comes to canines. Many mainstream vets strongly discourage its use in any amount, noting that it can lead to a certain type of anemia and other health issues. If you do choose to go this route, confer with a trusted animal health practitioner and proceed with caution.
4. Herbs and oils
These days, it’s not hard to find several brands of natural powders and sprays that claim to help repel tiny visitors. Most of these products contain some combination of eucalyptus, fennel, rosemary, yellow dock, rue, and/or wormwood. A few also contain natural pyrethrins, which don’t necessarily kill fleas but are said to discourage them from populating.
Holistic veterinarian Dr. J Levy also mentions that the combination of citronella and cedarwood essential oil appears to help repel ticks. You can try mixing the two oils together, then combining 1 part oil to 10 parts alcohol and misting this onto your pet’s fur regularly. Bear in mind, however, that some pets will be attracted to the aroma and may constantly try licking it off. Also, alcohol can be extremely drying for dogs with certain existing skin issues, so close monitoring is key.
Image courtesy of: rumbleblue
5. Cedar wood
A new pet collar called Derevos aims to take advantage of Eastern Aromatic and Siberian Red cedar wood properties. According to the Derevos website, both types of cedar are considered a natural defense against fungus and various insects such as mosquitos, fleas, flies, and ticks. This chemical-free, aromatic option lasts two to three months; can be used by both pets and humans; and is easily refreshed by applying cedar oil directly the collar.
It may be noteworthy to mention that critics of conventional flea and tick collars argue that protection is sometimes position-specific (i.e., limited to the head and neck region). That said, the makers of Derevos have launched a Kickstarter campaign, and plan to use financing to launch a range of design categories including collars, bracelets, necklaces, and more.
So go explore some of these natural options and let us know in the comments below what works for you!
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