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Flea and Tick Prevention: Safe, Natural Options for Our Pets & the Environment by Dr. Katie Kangas

Spring is here and summer is coming! These seasons typically bring lots of fun and outdoor adventures, which most of us look forward to But we do not relish the higher abundance of pesky insects and parasites that may affect our pets. Ugh! Conventional Flea & Tick Prevention? Most of us have concerns about using pharmaceutical flea & tick products, which include toxic pesticides in the form of oral and topical monthly medications. Indeed, we want to avoid using toxins in/on our pets (and in our own environments). In some cases, we may need to choose our battles, based on how difficult the flea/tick problem is to tackle. Fortunately in our geographical region, the use of pharmaceutical flea & tick products can be avoided thru most or all of the year, or minimized to only a few times of use during the summer season. There are growing concerns regarding the numbers of adverse effects being seen with the newer flea & tick medications (those that generally come in a pill form). Many reports cite dogs having neurological reactions, tremors, seizures, behavioral changes, liver damage and GI illness. Indeed, these products contain chemical pesticide ingredients that act as neurotoxins to kill the parasites (via effects on the insect’s nervous system). Initially, the products were proposed to be quite safe for dogs as the active toxic ingredients were thought to be selective to arthropods (insects). But it is now obvious that these neurotoxins can affect our pets too. In fact, many of the pharmaceutical companies had to adjust their label warnings to include mention of the adverse effects. Some of the topical spot-on products don't include these same types of pesticides, but obviously still contain chemicals that can be toxic. Furthermore, new studies are reporting that chemical pesticides from topical flea & tick products are being measured at concerning levels in our waterways, rivers, and sewer run-offs. Thus, we see that the growing popularity of using "spot-on" pesticides for our pets is now contributing to environmental toxicity too. So, how can we avoid using chemicals and still keep our pets free of fleas & ticks? This can present a challenge for sure! But luckily, there are many safe and useful options that can be effective, as long as we make the extra effort to use them consistently and correctly. Looking to Nature for a Solution In order to best support our pets’ health and wellbeing, let's look at natural, non-toxic options for flea and tick prevention. Truly, the best protection starts with a healthy, species-appropriate fresh food or raw food diet that is low in carbohydrate content. Simply said, a healthy dog will attract less fleas than a dog who has a weakened immune system or chronic disease. i.e. Processed foods with high carbohydrate content promote more inflammation, disease, and immune deficiency. Additional Foods to Fight Fleas & Ticks A few simple foods can be added into your dog’s diet to provide extra immune support and more resilience to parasites. These include foods like fresh garlic and raw honey. 1) Fresh garlic has natural anti-parasite and immune support properties and is quite safe for dogs when given in small, appropriate quantities. Giving ¼ tsp of freshly chopped garlic per 15 lbs. of dog body weight is a great daily routine during flea & tick season (or year-round) Note: garlic in a powder or capsule supplement will not have the same effects as fresh chopped garlic. 2) Raw honey is a wonderful (and yummy) immune system booster. Add about ½ tsp per 15 lbs. dog body weight per day. Benefits are greater with locally produced honey, to provide immune supportive properties which combats allergens in your specific region. Beyond Diet Beyond diet, we can proactively support our pets’ immune systems with specific natural supplements. Routine or seasonal detoxification can go a long way to support your pet's resilience and overall health. Safe and gentle detox options include homeopathic remedies and liver & kidney protective herbs like milk thistle and dandelion. Daily Defense (Glacier Peak Holistics) is an excellent choice for seasonal or year-round use. This supplement can be added to the food once daily, and contains nutrients which support immune system function, resilience to parasites, and specific detoxification benefits too. See link and photo at bottom for product info. Natural Options for Flea & Tick Prevention Let's also look at some natural options for flea & tick repellents to use directly on pets or in their environment. Note, natural products will require more frequent application/use in order to come close to the efficacy of chemical products and prescription medications. Another note, fleas are generally easier to repel or kill compared to ticks which are more resilient and typically require stronger agents. When it comes to ticks, nothing can take the place of diligent tick checks on your dog after time spent outside. Using a fine-tooth flea comb can also be an effective way to find ticks or fleas, and a tick removal tool can come in very handy too. See link and photo at bottom for tick removal tool. Keep in mind that fleas live more in the environment than on the pet, so if you are finding them on your pet, you will want to address your home environment as well. 1. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) DE provides a safe and natural option which can be used inside your home, directly on pets and also outdoors in the yard. DE is a silky fine powder that acts as a desiccant or drying agent to effectively kill fleas and their larvae. Use a quality food grade DE (not industrial grade) which can be sprinkled on your pet’s bedding, as well as carpets, furniture, and anywhere else your pet spends a lot of time. Leave the DE dust down for about 24 hours and then vacuum. You can also apply DE directly into your pet's hair coat and skin, but completely avoid their face, eyes, nose and mouth. It may be ideal to bathe your pet about 24 hours later too, because DE can potentially dry out their skin as well. See link and photo at bottom for DE products and info on dosing in food. 2. Nematodes Beneficial Nematodes (Steinernema Carpocapsae) is a great option for natural parasite control in your yard or outdoor space. Nematodes are used to protect gardens and plants from ants and caterpillars, but also provide effective prevention for fleas & ticks, as they feed on these insect’s larvae stages while they are still in the soil. Check your local garden centers to get these nematodes. 3. Apple Cider Vinegar Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits and can also be used to deter fleas. Mixed with water in equal parts (50/50) solution, ACV can be misted or applied onto your dog before heading outdoors. 4. Neem Oil Neem is a tree native to India, and is highly valued for its wide range of medicinal properties offered by the bark, flowers and oil extracted from its seeds. One of the many health benefits of Neem oil is its natural insecticidal properties. Neem is used in organic agriculture to protect crops from insects and is very safe and effective to use for pets and people too. 5. Essential Oils Many essential oils (EOs) have flea and tick repellent qualities. It is important to use only quality therapeutic grade oils or trusted products with pet-safe formulas, which can be found in the form of sprays or newer flea & tick wipes. Common EO’s used for pest control include cedar, peppermint, lemongrass, lavender, catnip, eucalyptus and geranium. See links below for our favorite EO based products. DIY Flea & Tick Spray Here is one option (offered by Dr. Karen Becker) for a home-made flea & tick repellent spray. For Dogs:

  • 8 oz clean water

  • 4 oz organic raw apple cider vinegar

  • 10 drops Neem oil

  • 10 drops Catnip oil

  • 5 drops of one of the following choices of EOs: lemon, lemongrass, eucalyptus or geranium

Add all the ingredients to a large spray bottle and shake well. Spray your pup before heading out, paying special attention to the legs, belly, and neck. For Cats:

  • 8 oz clean water

  • 4 oz organic raw apple cider vinegar

  • 10 drops Neem oil

  • 10 drops Catnip oil

Add all the ingredients to a large spray bottle and shake well. Spray a cloth or your hands and wipe down your kitty's belly, back and neck.


Natural Flea Control for Dogs with Diatomaceous Earth

Fleas are blood-sucking parasites that live outside, in our homes, and on our pets. The good news, though, is that fleas hate diatomaceous earth. Crawling Insect Control Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a natural form of pest control that is great to use around your home because it's natural and chemical-free, making it the perfect option to treat your dogs for fleas.


DERMagic Diatomaceous Earth Dust

Made with USDA Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth No more toxic chemicals, sprays, or drops! DERMagic's Diatomaceous Earth Dust, made from food grade diatomaceous earth, is the perfect companion to the very popular organic Diatomaceous Earth Shampoo Bar, which leaves the coat and skin shining, healthy and smelling great! DE


Diatomaceous Earth dosing (Food grade).

Add to food once daily:

0-25 lbs: 1/2 tsp / day

25-50 lbs: 1 tsp / day

50-75 lbs: 2 tsp / day

> 75 lbs: 1 TBS / day


Diatomaceous Earth: Get Rid Of Fleas & Ticks Naturally! | Dogs Naturally

Diatomaceous earth is a dirt cheap way to control parasites in your dog. It's not only low cost ... it's also easy to find at health stores or online. And it has a few other practical uses too. So, what is diatomaceous earth? It's white, so it doesn't exactly look like earth.


GPH Daily Defense Powder for Dogs

Our dogs are bombarded daily with all manner of toxins, from environmental toxins and harmful additives in their food and water to parasites in their intestines and on their skin. As their caregivers, how do we protect them from this constant onslaught? It's easier than you might think!

Also available for cats.