Summer usually brings lots of fun and outdoor adventures that most of us look forward to, but with it comes a greater amount of pesky insects and parasites that can affect our pets’ wellbeing.
We try to avoid the use of toxins in our pets (and in our own environment), but in some cases we may have to choose our fights based on how difficult the flea / tick problem is. Fortunately, in many geographic regions, the use of pharmaceutical flea and tick products can be avoided for much of the year and reduced to a few times of use during the summer season.
There is significant concern about the number of side effects seen with the newer flea and tick medications (prescription pills). There are increasing reports of dogs with neurological reactions, tremors, seizures, behavior changes, liver damage, and GI disorders. In fact, these prescription flea products contain chemical pesticide ingredients that act as neurotoxins to kill the parasites (via effects on the insect’s nervous system). Originally it was suggested that the products were reasonably safe for dogs as the active ingredients were believed to be selective for arthropods (insects). But it is now apparent that these neurotoxins can affect our pets as well. In fact, many of the pharmaceutical companies had to adjust their warnings on the label to mention the side effects.
Some of the topical spot-on products don’t contain the same types of pesticides, but obviously still contain chemicals that can be toxic. In addition, new studies report that chemical pesticides from topical flea and tick products are measured in alarming amounts in our bodies of water, rivers and sewers. Hence, we see that the growing popularity of using spot-on pesticides on our pets is now also adding to environmental toxicity.
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So how can we avoid the use of chemicals and keep our pets free of fleas and ticks?
Looking for a solution in nature
To best support the health and wellbeing of our pets, we’re looking at natural, non-toxic options for flea and tick prevention. In fact, the best protection begins with a healthy, species-appropriate fresh or raw food diet with a low carbohydrate content. Simply put, a healthy dog will attract fewer fleas than a dog with a compromised immune system or chronic illness.
Food to fight fleas and ticks
Some simple foods can be added to your dog’s diet to provide additional immune system support and to make parasites more resilient. This includes foods like fresh garlic and raw honey.
- Fresh garlic has natural anti-parasite and immune support properties and is quite safe for dogs in small, reasonable amounts. Add ¼ teaspoon of freshly chopped garlic for every 15 pounds. the dog’s body weight is a great daily routine during the flea and tick season (or all year round). Note: Garlic in powder or capsule supplements does not have the same effects as freshly chopped garlic.
- Raw honey is a wonderful (and delicious) immune system booster. Add about ½ tsp for every 15 pounds. Body weight of the dog per day. The benefits are greater with locally produced honey as it offers immune support properties that fight allergens in your specific area.
Food supplement to protect against parasites
In addition to nutrition, we can proactively support the immune system of our pets with specific natural nutritional supplements.
- Bovine liposomal colostrum is an excellent immune support dietary supplement. This is the first milking from a cattle (cow) source. All mammals produce colostrum for their newborns at birth, which provides antibodies and immune factors, growth and repair peptides for improved gut, immune and other body systems health. I recommend Super Pet Nutrition, which is better absorbed and therefore has increased potency.
- Milk thistle and dandelion A routine or seasonal detox can go a long way in supporting your pet’s resilience and overall health. These are safe and gentle detox options to protect your liver and kidneys.
- Daily defense (I recommend Glacier Peak Holistic to my patients) is an excellent choice for seasonal or year-round use. This dietary supplement can be added to the feed once a day and contains nutrients that support the function of the immune system, resistance to parasites and also specific detoxification benefits.
Natural flea and tick prevention options
Natural possibilities for flea and tick repellants for direct use on pets or in their vicinity are also an effective preventive measure. Natural products require more frequent application and use to match the effectiveness of chemical products and prescription drugs. Fleas are generally easier to fight off or kill than ticks, which are more resilient and usually require stronger active ingredients. When it comes to ticks, nothing can replace careful control of your dog’s ticks after he’s been outdoors. Using a flea comb with fine teeth can also be an effective way to find ticks or fleas, and a tick removal tool can also come in very handy. Remember that fleas live more in the area than they do on the pet. So if you do find them in your pet, make sure to include your home environment as well.
Diatomaceous earth offers a safe and natural option that can be used in your home, directly on pets, and also outdoors in the garden. DE is a silky fine powder that acts as a desiccant or desiccant to effectively kill fleas and their larvae. Use a high quality food grade DE (not industrial grade) that can be sprinkled on your pet’s bedding, as well as on carpets, furniture, and anywhere else your pet spends a lot of time. Let the DE dust sit for about 24 hours and then vacuum it up. You can also apply DE directly to your pet’s hair, fur, and skin, but avoid the face, eyes, nose, and mouth entirely. Bathing your pet about 24 hours later can also be ideal, as DE can potentially dry out the skin as well.
Beneficial nematodes (Steinernema Carpocapsae) are a great option for natural parasite control in your garden or outdoors. Nematodes are used to protect gardens and plants from ants and caterpillars, but they are also effective prevention against fleas and ticks because they feed on the larval stages of these insects while they are still in the ground. Check your local garden center for these nematodes.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits and can also be used to ward off fleas. Mixed with equal parts (50/50) of the solution, ACV can be aerosolized or applied to your dog before going outdoors.
Neem is a tree native to India and is highly valued for its diverse medicinal properties offered by the bark, flowers, and the oil made from its seeds. One of the many health benefits of neem oil is its natural insecticidal properties. Neem is used in organic farming to protect plants from insects and is also very safe and effective for pets and humans.
Many essential oils (EOs) have flea and tick repellent properties. It’s important to only use high quality therapeutic oils or trustworthy products with pet-safe formulas like AnimalEO, which are available in the form of sprays or newer flea and tick wipes. Common EOs used for pest control include cedar, peppermint, lemongrass, lavender, catnip, eucalyptus, and geranium. I recommend Wondercide
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