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With all the harmful side effects that have been documented, it makes you wonder how flea and tick products with harmful ingredients still make it into our shopping bags, into our homes, onto our pets, and into our lives!

So what are the options? Many holistic veterinarians, herbalists, and homeopaths deal with this problem proactively as opposed to reactively. And as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So how can we prevent these pests from entering our “world”?

A strong healthy cat or dog will be less likely to attract fleas, ticks, or mites.
A sturdy immune system is the key. Here are a few alternatives to the chemical approaches. Of course, you should always consult your veterinarian and consider the specific health needs of your pet before proceeding with any alternative pest control.  And just like people, individual pets can have allergic reactions to substances other pets do not. 

1.      Start with a healthy diet
If you are buying commercial pet food, make sure it does not contain by-products, chemicals, dyes, corn, soy, or wheat. There are many companies out there offering organic as well as more nutritious ingredients.  Of course, home-prepared foods are best, which use organic ingredients and as much raw protein as possible.

2.      Garlic and brewers yeast
Both exude odors and tastes that are discouraging to fleas. Tablets are available at holistic pet food stores. You can also give your pet one minced clove of garlic per meal with a tablespoon of brewers yeast. For smaller pets adjust this to one-half the dose.

3.      Ultrasonic pest repellers
Ethical Products, Inc. makes the Spot“3-in-1 Ultrasonic Pest Repeller.” (Photo shows Dixie wearing one.)  It is a quarter-sized locket worn around the neck. Using no odors or chemicals, it delivers a continuous ultrasonic pulse that fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can’t stand.

4.       Essential oils
Among the essential oils which are excellent at repelling insects are: lavender, lemon, peppermint, lemongrass, cypress, eucalyptus globules, cinnamon, thyme, basil, and citronella. Combination oils such as Thieves or Purification work wonderfully also. Simply apply a drop between the shoulder blades just as you would other topical treatments. Make sure to use organic oils. Lesser quality oils will not fulfill their promise and can actually be detrimental.

5.       B Vitamins
Vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine) are known for their flea and tick repelling abilities and they also are beneficial to skin health. Add a B-complex supplement to your pet’s food every other day or for five days with two days off.

6.       Comb away the fleas
A good flea comb with finely spaced teeth will allow you to comb away the fleas.  As you comb, the fleas are trapped with the fur. Since fleas move quick, grab the wad of fur with the flea and immerse in soapy water immediately.

7.       Lemon water spray
Slice about six lemons and immerse in a gallon of boiling water. Let stand for 10 to 12 hours. Strain into a spray bottle. Start at the back of the dog or cat and work toward the neck.

8.       Herbal flea powder
If your local pet store does not carry one, you can make your own. Simply combine one part of each of the following powdered herbs: eucalyptus, rosemary, fennel, yellow dock, wormwood, and rue. Mix together in a shaker top jar. Apply powder on your pet’s coat by brushing the fur backward. Sprinkle the powder at the base of the fur, concentrating on the neck, belly, and back.

9.       Homeopathic remedies
Consult with your homeopathic veterinarian for specific dosages. For dry skin, irritation, redness, and itching caused by fleas, Sulphur, Arsenicum album, Pulsatillam, also Echinace, Dulcamara, or Mezereum can be used. Remedies can be applied directly on the tongue, but again, you must consult a homeopathic vet for your specific pet’s needs, dosage, and application.

10.   Herbal flea collars
Many natural food stores carry these. The collar contains insect-repellent herbal oils.
While severe cases of already infected animals might call for more drastic measures such as the popular products we all see advertised. The suggestions listed above can be used to at least lessen the use of these products in the off seasons. Climate in many cases will dictate. Please contact your holistic vet before making any decisions. Keep in mind that is appropriate for Alaska is not the same as what is necessary in Florida.

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