Fleas & ticks … OH MY!
Seriously, no one wants to deal with fleas or ticks and we HATE seeing them on our pets. I get that they are part of the ecosystem and we need them but I don’t need them in my house and I don’t want them infesting my precious fur babies.
This topic has been on my mind quite a bit lately because while we are in Southern California now and I haven’t had to think about it much, we are moving to Texas and I have no choice but to think about it again.
We moved to California from Virginia, so I know how terrible fleas can be. Truth be told, when I lived in Virginia, I did everything the conventional veterinarian told me to do, bought everything she told me to buy, and used every product she told me to use.
Now I know more, I’ve learned more and I have access to the internet so I can listen to integrative veterinarians, holistic veterinarians, and homeopathic veterinarians, and I’m so glad I have access to them to learn more so that I can be a better pet mom and also a better friend to the planet!
Why question traditional flea and tick prevention?
I’m so glad you asked! Traditional flea and tick prevention, such as Advantage, Frontline, Simparica, Trifexis, Capstar, Seresto and Revolution (not an exhaustive list) are neurotoxins. Neurotoxins attack the nervous system. The idea is that the flea or tick will ingest the toxin, leaving it unable to breathe and it will die.
The scary part of this is that your dog (or cat) is not immune to the toxin.
Symptoms of neurotoxicity include:
– paralysis or weakness of the limbs
– tingling, numbness or other sensations of the limbs
– vision loss
– cognitive dysfunction and loss of memory
– obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors, sometimes uncontrollable
– behavioral problems
– poor circulation
– flu-like symptoms
You may have noticed one or more of these issues with your pet after giving them their monthly flea and tick medicine and not made the correlation. The symptoms get worse over time with repeated and prolonged exposure.
Additionally, topical treatments can cause serious skin irritation including chemical burns.
I can hear you now saying “Oh my gosh, Jessica, what should I do? I can’t keep giving this stuff to my pets!”
Obviously, this will be a very personal decision that you will need to make. As always, I recommend consulting with a holistic veterinarian for the care of your pet whenever possible and necessary.
Alternatives to traditional flea & tick prevention
When we think about alternative prevention for fleas and ticks the first thing to remember is that fleas and ticks are parasites and parasites are attracted to weaker hosts. This is why, in the wild, you will notice that parasites are more attracted to the young, the old, and the sick. Young puppies and kittens don’t yet have a fully developed immune system, elderly pets have a weakened immune system due to age and sickly animals also have weakened immune systems.
According to Dr. Will Falconer in his Vital Animal Podcast, the number one thing you can do to damage your pet the most is to over-vaccinate.
Of course, we want to feed the best foods possible to our pets, we talk about this all the time, but if you are feeding your dog a not-so-great diet, the turn around from switching to a fresh diet full of wonderful nutrients is fairly short. And if you’re using flea and tick meds, you can stop using them and reduce future damages, but with vaccines, you can’t undo the damage once it’s been done, according to Dr. Falconer.
1. Stop over-vaccinating (here’s the post about over-vaccinating for reference: https://www.patreon.com/posts/50184168 )
2. Stop using toxins as pest control
3. Feed your pet the best food you can
Outside your home
For more natural pest control outside of the home, here are my plans for our new house in Texas:
– I will be planting catnip, rosemary, lemongrass, and lavender around the house. We talked about catnip being a mosquito repellent in another post (https://www.patreon.com/posts/49636006) due to the naturally occurring nepatalactone. Rosemary could have similar properties and both would also be effective for fleas. Cats in the wild will naturally rub catnip and other mint family plants on their fur for the pest repellent properties! Lemongrass is known to work well against fleas too. Lavender is not only beautiful, and quite possibly my favorite plant of all, it is also known to repel ticks! (My husband just chimed in that he is more worried about mosquitos, so I let him know that lavender, rosemary, basil, and catnip are all great for this too!)
– I will also spray the yard with Wondercide. You can find it on the Wondercide website or on Amazon.
For my dog
For Kimberly, she eats a healthy diet and I opted for titer testing this year which told me that she had levels of immunity for rabies, distemper, and parvo, so I did not vaccinate her unnecessarily. I have never given her flea and tick prevention, though I don’t know what she was given prior to us adopting her.
My go-to for bug spray is animalEO Evict mixed with distilled water for a wonderful smelling and effective bug spray! I made this for myself a couple of years ago when we went to Mexico and it worked amazingly well! You can find Evict on the animalEO website here.
Coconut oil is also a great food addition which will help keep the fleas away. It can also be rubbed onto their coat. It works well due to the lauric acid it contains, which repels pests like fleas.
If necessary, I can also add small amounts of garlic to Kim’s meals. Garlic is typically said to be toxic to dogs but this is only true with large quantities. Everything in moderation! Small amounts, garlic is a natural anti-parasitic and has immune boosting properties according to Dr. Katie Kangas for Adored Beast.
In her blog post, she also provides a DIY Flea and Tick Prevention Spray that was originally provided to us by Dr. Karen Becker:
- 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.
Side note: I only recommend using animalEO oils on and around your pets!
For my cats
I have been procrastinating with this lately, but I do want to start giving my cats outdoor time. Whether that be in a catio enclosure or on leash, I haven’t figured that one out yet.
Either way, this means I will have to provide them with flea and tick repellent as well.
The same holds true for our cats that we should 1. stop over-vaccinating, 2. stop using toxins as pest control, and 3. feed the best foods possible.
My go-to will probably be the same mixture of animalEO Evict and distilled water, but for my cats I will probably have to spray it on my hands and rub it on them, as the sprayer may not be their favorite. Cats are fickle that way!
Dr. Judy Morgan has a great blog about natural flea and tick prevention that is worth noting here. She mentions everything I’ve already written about here, plus a few more tidbits. The one I’d like to add in, for my cats specifically, is the flea comb. I groom my cats pretty much every day anyway, but I can add in the flea comb on a day they go outside to be sure there are no fleas on them. This will give me a heads up and a head start if necessary.
I can’t leave out The Two Crazy Cat Ladies! Jae and Adrienne as well as Pam Roussell of Purrrfectly Holistic have been my go-to’s lately for my cats.
Jae’s recent blog post about fleas gives us a wonderful done for you spray to keep fleas and ticks away from our cats. They have their own line of cat products called Feline Essentials (I use a number of them!) and the one she recommends is called Flea-eX.
So, this is my plan to keep my pets safe from fleas and ticks. Do you have anything to add to the list? I’d love to hear about it! Comment and let me know.
P.S. I’ve really gotten into the Vital Animal Podcast lately, I’m binging it actually, so I’ll have more topics for you coming in the future from Dr. Falconer! This is a quote from a recent email he sent out that I saved for this post:
“Can your pet’s microbiome fight fleas?
I‘m going to bring out a “best of class” tip that relates to this week’s look at “germs” and the understanding that 99% of them are beneficial.
Tracy Sellers said she’s used regular helpings of good old saurkraut for years and never sees two visitors most of us would like to forget existed:
Perhaps it makes your pet smell bad to the invaders, somewhat like garlic?
Or, just maybe, those happy microflora good guys that grow diverse and dense in the gut of supplemented animals just confers such overall health that the pests aren’t attracted!
The best defense against all invaders is always a healthy body!
Make it or buy it ready made, a little bit goes a long way in pets. Try a teaspoon to a tablespoon, depending on your animal’s size, and see if you can duplicate Tracy’s success.”