Most veterinarians will recommend, to reduce the chances of your pet becoming sick from parasite borne diseases, that pet owners use flea and tick preventatives on their pets. Usually this means using a monthly topical flea/tick preventative. These topical treatments are usually applied to the pets' skin at the back of the neck or between the shoulder blades. Once applied, the animals' oil glands soak up the medication and spread it all over the surface of the pets skin. When a flea or tick goes to bite your pet, they are exposed to the preventative on the pets skin and usually killed or repelled.
But traditional flea and tick preventatives are pesticides. Some owners are not comfortable covering their beloved pet in pesticides every month. There have been cases of pets being allergic to traditional topical insect preventatives, and even some cases of preventatives causing other adverse reactions, including pet deaths. Some of the chemicals used in flea and tick preventives are known carcinogens. Also, the overuse of pesticides to treat flea and ticks on our pets has made some common topical treatments less effective. Insects can build up an immunity to pesticides much in the same way that bacteria build up antibiotic resistance.
So what should pet owners do if they want to avoid using potentially dangerous pesticides, but still want to protect their pets from biting insects?
There are steps you can take to help keep your furry friends bug free without covering in them pesticides on a regular basis. Some of these steps are simple things, such as keeping your yard and home clean and making sure your pet is getting a healthy diet. Healthy pets have stronger immune systems, and bodies that are better at resisting parasites naturally. Keeping your yard well groomed and inside your home clean can help maintain a safe, bug free environment for your pets.
After your pet enjoys some time outside, a quick check over and help get ride of any insect stowaways. Check your pet for ticks and fleas on a regular bases. A flea comb can be used to remove any hard to see fleas. Make sure to check hard to see places like armpits, between the paw pads, and ears.
There are some natural insect repellents that many pet owners feel safer about using than traditional chemical preventatives. Neem oil, for example, is a good flea and tick repellent. Neem oil is a vegetable oil made from seeds of the neem tree, a type of evergreen tree native to India. Fleas are also suppose to be repelled by the smell and taste of Apple Cider Vinegar. The vinegar is nontoxic to pets and can even help sooth itchy skin.
Small amounts of essential oils dabbed on the pets collar, such as lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, lemon oil, and rosemary can be used to repel insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Even your basic lemon can be used to make a home made, all natural flea repellent. Cut a few lemons and boil them in water, let them sit for a few hours, then strain the mixture and put the lemon water in a spray bottle. Just make sure not to spray the solution near your pets eyes.
Food grade Diatomaceous earth is non toxic to pets and children, and can be used to treat for insects inside the home as well as on your pet. Just be careful not to get any of the dust in you or your pets face. These are just a few examples of more natural insect products that pet owners may want to consider for their pets.
As more and more owners look for alternatives to toxic pesticides for repelling insects, companies are starting to take notice and create new products. Last summer I tried such a product called FleaHex on my dogs. We did have one run in with fleas that caused me to resort to a spot on flea treatment for Kit, who has flea allergy dermatitis, but other than that we had a flea free summer.
When considering alternative insect products, always make sure to do your research. All natural does not always mean that a product is non toxic. All natural products can sometimes contain chemicals that can be just as dangerous as traditional chemical preventatives. If you are unsure of the safety of a product, it's always best to contact your pets veterinarian before use. Holistic vets are usually the most knowledgeable about alternative treatments. To find a local Holistic vet, you can visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.