Alternative Flea and Tick Control Measures For Dogs
Fleas and Ticks Cause Problems
Fleas and ticks both cause problems for your dogs. Fleas can cause extreme discomfort, and while dog fleas can only live on dogs and other canines, if one gets on you it will still bite. I speak from experience. Fleas can also carry disease and an extreme flea infestation can even make your dog anemic.
Ticks are more dangerous still, as they carry Lyme disease - unpleasant in both humans and dogs. If not diagnosed early, Lyme disease can cause long term joint inflammation, heart and nervous system problems. Infected animals and people may have relapses later.
However, many people are, understandably, wary of putting flea or tick killing chemicals on their dogs. Some commercial flea repellents actually tell you not to handle your dog afterwards, so how can they be good for the dog? Are there good alternatives?
Organic Flea Medications
A variety of organic and natural flea remedies can be purchased. There are three primary natural ingredients used:
1. Pyrethrin, which comes from chrysanthemums. This is still slightly toxic, but much less so than synthetic pesticides.
2. d-Limonene is a by-product of processing citrus into juice...and even smells like it.
3. Diatomaceous earth is the safest remedy, and the one to look for. It is not a toxin, but a fine dust that messes with the flea's outer coating. Once that coating is breached, fleas lose water rapidly and soon die of dehydration.
De-Flea Your House
Fleas (unlike lice) do not lay their eggs on the host animal. Instead, fleas breed in dark crevasses, under chair couches and in your dog's bedding (or yours). Therefore, an important component of flea control is to de-flea the house. This is even more important than treating the dog.
Regular vacuuming will help control fleas. Pay particular attention to areas frequented by your dog and to dark crevasses behind furniture. If you use a vacuum with a bag, properly empty the bag. Dispose of vacuum contents quickly, or the fleas will just hatch in the vacuum bag or your trash can.
Washing your pet's bedding regularly and tumble drying it will also help break the flea's life cycle. If your pet likes to sleep and lie on your bed, be sure to wash your linens regularly. Consider throwing a washable blanket over your dog's favorite chair or couch.
Regularly vacuuming and washing bedding before you see any sign of fleas will help prevent you from having to resort to 'bombing' your house.
Other Tips For Flea Control
Make sure that your dogs have a diet that supports a healthy skin and coat. Dry skin results in more severe reactions to flea bites and can attract fleas. Dogs with dry skin and poor coats benefit from supplementation of Vitamin E (good for skin and coat health in all animals, including humans) and/or zinc.
Natural flea collars are also available. These usually contain citronella, rosemary and wormwood. These ingredients can also be used in sprays. If you have a dog that requires regular bathing, consider using a shampoo that contains them. If you do use a flea repellent, put your dog outside for a few hours or go for a long walk afterwards so that any fleas that abandon ship do so somewhere other than your house.
Feeding garlic and brewer's yeast also seems to help repel fleas. They appear to make the animal's blood taste funny. Not all dogs will eat garlic, however. Also, you should not feed more than a clove a day (less for small dogs) as garlic contains a substance that can cause anemia. Bear in mind that if you feed your dog garlic, he will have garlic breath. Not much fun if you have a 'kissy' dog.
Putting a bit of apple cider vinegar in your dog's water will help repel fleas and is good for digestive health.
Organic Tick Remedies
Keeping ticks off your dog can be very hard. Dogs love to play in long grass and deep undergrowth and unlike us, they don't wear clothing.
Various herbs have been reported to repel ticks. You can make herbal tick repellent using rose geranium or American pennyroyal. The latter, however, should not be used on pregnant dogs (or around pregnant humans) as it can cause miscarriage. Neither of these oils should be used on cats (remedies that work for one species do not always work for another). Citronella based insect repellent is also effective against ticks, as is lavender (lavender is an amazingly versatile herbs). You can dab these essential oils onto your dog's collar.
Feeding garlic and brewer's yeast helps against ticks as well as fleas.
If you find ticks on your dogs frequently, it is worth investing in a tick scoop. You can also remove a tick with tweezers...squeeze the tick as close to the head as possible and it will let go. A needle between the jaws might also work. Apparently, ticks will also let go if covered with a cotton ball that has been dipped in liquid soap. Rubbing alcohol and hot matches do not work as effectively, and the latter can burn your dog.
If you end up leaving an embedded tick head, you will need to use a sterile needle and remove it the way you would a splinter, then put antibiotic ointment on the bite.