Fleas & Ticks

by Tiffani M. Beckman, Vet Asst. & Student of Veterinary Medicine

Fleas are such a pain!  In some parts of the country, they are a horrible menace, and in others hardly a flea is around.  Here in Kansas, we aren't overrun but we do get our fair share.  Ticks are quite numerous here too, but again not as bad as certain areas of the country.  Since I would rather keep my animals' (and my own) exposure to chemicals as small as possible, I opt to prevent fleas and ticks in a natural way.  Here are some good tips for keeping those pesky critters at bay!

1.  Good nutrition.  This cannot be stressed enough.  Study after study has shown that fleas and ticks are not as attracted to healthy animals like they are to ill animals.  Good nutrition means a natural diet of meat, bones, and vegetables.   Premium quality kibble (NOT Science Diet or Purina) is better than some, but still can't compare to the quality of a homemade diet.  If you have questions about a BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet, please let me know and I will forward you information on it.  Sugar of any form in the diet should be avoided, because bugs like the taste of blood with lots of sugar in it.  I suspect that grains behave the same way in the body, so avoiding them too may be a good idea.

2.  Garlic.  Depending on weight, your pet can ingest garlic and help repel bugs of all kinds.  My 40 pound dog gets about a clove of garlic a day and my cat about 1/4 a clove.  If you don't already know, the cloves of the garlic are the smaller "pearls" inside the whole bulb of garlic.

3.  ACV, or Apple Cider Vinegar.  A splash of ACV in the water or in the daily ration can do many things (like garlic), and just one of those is helping keep the bugs away.  Organic unfiltered is the best ACV.

4.  Herbal flea products.  These include collars, sprays, shampoos, etc. Some typical oils found in herbal products are pennyroyal, tea tree, pine, etc.  Halo makes a nice product called Cloud Nine Herbal Dip.  It smells nice, is super concentrated to mix with shampoo and/or water, and is much safer than the traditional route.  Caution - some oils, like pennyroyal, can be harmful if ingested, so keep the oils out of the pets' reach.

5.  Vit B Complex.  Bugs hate the taste of B1, or thiamine, in the blood.   B vits are found in many dietary sources, but if you are feeding a commercial diet you may want to supplement with the entire B complex (supplementing with only one B can lead to deficiencies in other B's).  B vitamins are water-soluble, which basically means it would be almost impossible to overdose on them.  Small amounts, in the neighborhood of 5mg are fine for pets.  B vitamins are another item that does so much more than just repel fleas - for further reading in vitamins I suggest Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible.

6.  a clean house!!  Regular vacuuming can work wonders for picking up the eggs of fleas.  A chemical flea collar inserted in the vacuum bag will kill the fleas/flea eggs/larvae that the vacuum picks up.  Remember to vacuum under the bed, in the couch cushions, etc. several times a week - daily if you can.   Change that bag frequently (the chemical collars are good for months, so you wouldn't necessarily have to buy a new collar everytime you change bags).  Fleas eat a bloodmeal on your pet (or you!) then drop off of him/her and lay eggs, which can take several weeks to hatch (usually in the carpet or in the blankets of a cat bed/dog bed). The hatchlings, until they are adults and can hop on their own animal, eat the excretia from the adults, called flea dirt.  If you can start breaking the cycle, you can be flea-free!  Fleas will freeze outside, but unless you let your house freeze, they can remain cozy inside all year long. Frequent washing of any bedding or pillows that your pet likes to curl up on are a good idea too - the washing can remove them (or if washing with hot water, the hot water can kill them).  Try to time your flea eradicating together - one day take the dog outside and spray it down with an herbal flea spray (like Cloud nine, mentioned above) and let it stay outside for a while, so all fleas will jump off outside, rather than inside.  Then head inside to throw all the laundry in and vacuum everything.  Let the dog back in several hours later (another spray down outside couldn't hurt, just make sure you cover their eyes/ears/nose/mouth).  Spraying a dog from the head to the tail, as opposed to spraying from the tail to the head is best, as the fleas will start migrating when you start spraying, and it is easier to remove them from the tail than it is from the head.   A good flea comb is handy in removing fleas outside daily.

7.  Since ticks can carry diseases, there is a vaccine now out for Lyme disease.   In my opinion (and in the opinion of MANY vets, allopathic or homeopathic), this vaccine is not only useless, but can cause major problems for your dog.  For more information on the harm of Lyme disease vaccine, email me and I will send you some.

8.  Herbs like Fennel and Rue grown in the garden and placed in the house (like under beds, in blankets pets like to lay on, etc) are very helpful too in repelling fleas.

9.  Diatomaceous earth.  I have mixed feelings about DE.  I personally don't use it because of the harmful side effects, but some have used it with great results.  Please email me if you are interested in learning more about DE (the info is rather long, and this post is getting on!)

10.  Beneficial nematodes.  These are small worms that you spread in your yard to eat fleas.  I haven't used the personally, but they are definitely worth looking into.

11.  Ants.  If you have ants in your house, they are probably feasting on flea eggs and larva.  I am not saying you should encourage ants in your house per se, but maybe don't Discourage them.

Notice that all these methods work at REPELLING fleas and ticks, not at killing them.

The overall basics are to keep healthy and keep clean.  Common sense tells us that if we are healthy and clean, we are less likely to have bugs, be they external or internal.   If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me.

Tiffani M. Beckman tabbique@yahoo.com

This article is Copyright 1998 No reprints without expressed permission.

**Disclaimer - I am not a vet.  Please check with your vet before trying any new treatments or diets.**