DISCLAIMER: Flea and Tick prevention is a hot topic. This article is about my journey and what has worked for me. I hope this information will help you to find the right path for your pets.
Alternatives To Commercial Flea and Tick Products
Although the weather is fairly cool these days, warmer weather is just around the corner. And along with the beautiful sunshine and longer days come those dreaded fleas and ticks. ☹ The commercials for flea and tick control are ramping up, and for years I believed their claims and used some of their products.
About seven years ago, my vet told me about a new product called Seresto (A Bayer product). It was a collar that lasted for up to 6 months. He even used the collar on his pup, so I trusted his recommendation. (Please view Dr. Karen Becker’s Facebook video below regarding “informed use”). Shortly after I started using the collars on my three pups, my little boy Robbie had a seizure. It wasn’t a violent type of reaction. He just trotted out to go potty and then just fell over. He didn’t move for a few seconds (which seemed like forever) and then eventually got up and acted like nothing was wrong. It took me nearly a year to make the connection to the collar because it only happened shortly after a new collar was put on him (when the poison was at the highest concentration) and there were no online reports back then about adverse effects.
Fast forward to 2022… News reports started popping up about the dangers of Seresto Collars. CBS News reported the following: “The popular Seresto flea-and-tick collar should be recalled following research showing the roughly $70 device poses risks to pets and their owners, according to a new congressional report. The findings link the collar to almost 100,000 incidents and 2,500 pet deaths.” I have posted the link to the full article at the end of this blog.
After my experience with the Seresto collars, I immediately stopped all flea and Tick control and started reading more about the side effects of commercial flea and tick products. I was horrified! Seizures and death are associated with nearly all the most popular flea and tick control brands.
I started reading articles and listening online to holistic professionals and had an “ah ha” moment. There is a huge difference between repelling fleas and ticks (i.e. deterrents) and killing them (i.e. preventives). Most of the most popular products tout claims like “kills fleas and ticks and ticks in one day”. They don’t “repel” fleas and ticks; they kill them after they have jumped on your pet. And how do they kill them? With poison. So, in theory, the flea or tick jumps on your pet, bites them, ingests the poison, and then dies quickly. The effects on your pup are likely a reaction to the bite and the effects of the poison you put on or in them to kill the fleas and ticks. Once I came to this realization, my goal was completely different. Keep the fleas and ticks off my pups. And since my pups are not in areas with high tick danger, I was able to take a much less aggressive approach to control exposure in my pack.
I will stop here and acknowledge that there are certain situations where a dog has fleas and ticks, and we need to get them off the dog ASAP. But guess what? A good bath with ingredients as simple as vinegar and baby shampoo or dish soap can have the same effect of killing fleas and ticks and ticks as commercial topical or oral medications. And once the fleas and ticks are dead, the skin is rinsed thoroughly. No long-term effects on our precious pups. Please see the link below for the article “Natural Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs” by Mary Bays for some great information.
So how can we help our pups “repel” fleas and ticks? Well, based on my research and listening to many holistic vets, there are a few things to consider:
- A healthy dog is more likely able to resist fleas and ticks and ticks.
- Treating the environment where your dog resides is as important as treating the dog itself.
- Find natural ways to repel fleas and ticks and ticks on your pet
Since pet health and nutrition is a huge topic on its own, I will talk more about it in a future post. Suffice it to say, “limit vaccines and other medications, and fresh unprocessed food is best.”
There are many safe ways to treat your yard and home to make it resistant to fleas and ticks. Mary Bay’s article covers many safe options you can start now before flea and tick season begins. Many plants, such as lavender, lemongrass, and citronella, offer natural ways to keep fleas and ticks away. You can also do online searches for safe/natural ways to treat your yard and home.
But how can you protect your pet when they are away from your home? You can’t treat all your neighbor’s lawns or the park where you go each week. You need a barrier to repel them outside their “safe zone”. My favorite option is sprays that contain pure high, quality essential oils. Hundreds of companies are making “safe sprays” that contain essential oils. Kin and Kind is a brand I have researched thoroughly and recommended by many holistic vets. I make my own because I have a plethora of oils that I use myself.
Some of the ways I use essential oils as a repellant are to soak my pups’ cloth collars in a mixture of witch hazel and essential oils so that the scent is always on them. I do this each time they have a bath. I also make a spray that I apply each time we go out. Some pups don’t like to be sprayed, so you can always spray your hands and then pet your pup all over (make sure to get their legs). The hair on your pup is like a wick, so just getting the oils on the top of the fur is fine. It will absorb down to the skin. You can spray a bandana (like the ones we get from the groomer) and put that around your dog’s neck when you go out. By the way, homemade sprays are also great for humans to repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitos. The articles below have lists of the most common oils to use; you can mix and match them to your and your dog’s aroma preferences.
And now another word of caution… Not all essential oils are the same. If you choose to do a DIY spray, you must do your research. The oils you find at your local big box stores are likely essential oils with added fragrances. Pure unadulterated essential oils are not cheap. So make sure you educate yourself if you choose to make your formulas. Additionally, you must be very careful with the concentration of the oils you use. Do your research! I use Young Living Essential Oils for myself and my pups and am happy to assist with ideas if you want to explore the world of essential oils.
Another thing to consider when using essential oil-based repellants is that they are not long-lasting. They only last a few hours, so you must be committed to applying them on your pet each time you venture out. I actually see that as a benefit. If God forbid, your pup has an adverse reaction to the spray, it will be shortlived and can be washed off, unlike commercial oral or topical products that could take weeks or even months to get out of your pet’s system. So, you must be committed to the additional work of applying often.
I will likely do future blogs about the benefits of essential oils for us humans and our pets. Pure, high-quality essential oils come from nature and have been around for literally thousands of years. This gives me much more confidence that we are not suddenly going to have a “recall” because of some toxic effect.
By now, you may be saying, “I live in an area that is infested with fleas and ticks. How can I keep them all off, and what if my pup gets bit by a tick and develops Lyme disease?” That is certainly a big possibility depending on your area and lifestyle. The Facebook Live video below from Dr. Karen Becker explains a hybrid approach and how to monitor topical or oral preventatives safely. Please take the time to watch this video and find the best balance for your pet’s individual needs.
I hope this information will help you explore safer and more natural ways to protect your pets this year. As always, I am happy to talk more about my experiences and to help you find your path as an advocate for your pups.