Fleas. Ticks. Ew! If you’re a pet parent, at some point or another, you’re going to have to worry about pest control.
All those little creepy crawlies aren’t just gross, but they can also pose health risks for your pet. But is it really any better to cover your cat or dog in chemicals to keep bugs away? You shouldn’t have to choose between creepy bugs and dangerous chemicals. So as the warm weather sets in, consider these options for natural flea and tick control.
Why you should use natural flea and tick control
Visit your vet or any pet store and you’ll see plenty of options for controlling fleas and ticks, including flea collars and topical treatments. These products can definitely work, killing creepy critters and preventing them from reproducing, but they accomplish this through the use of some even creepier chemicals.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, most conventional flea and tick products are registered as pesticides and are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. And many of these pesticides are linked to some scary health issues in humans – and pets, too. Exposure to many of them could be linked to cancer, and neurological and respiratory problems. They’re particularly risky for young children and pregnant women.
According to WebMD‘s analysis of NRDC’s report, most immediate health problems arise from improper use of the products, but “there is some evidence that more insidious health problems may arise from chronic exposure.” In addition, many flea and tick products “contain more than one active ingredient and some of these products cause problems when used together.”
The need for flea and tick control
With such scary information about flea and tick preventatives, you might think it’s best to avoid them all together and take the chance on instead ending up with fleas or ticks on your pet. But this can be equally risky.
Once these critters are on your pet, it’s easy for them to start taking over your home. And serious infestations can be difficult and pricey to deal with. More importantly, they can carry diseases.
Fleas can cause your cat or dog some seriously irritating and annoying itching, and possible skin infections, but they can also spread serious illnesses to pets, and potentially your whole family. Pets could get tapeworms, cat scratch disease, and even the plague. You can read more about possible illnesses here.
If your pet spends time outdoors, you also have to worry about ticks. Ticks will gladly take you or your pet as a host, but they’re much harder to find on your furry dog. The longer a flea is attached to your pet, the greater the risk for illness, like Lyme disease. Check out this post to learn more about Lyme disease and pets.
Natural flea and tick control
So if the preventative products pose risks, but the fleas and ticks also pose risks, what’s a pet owner to do? Follow these tips for natural flea and tick control.
Try essential oils.
Rose geranium essential oil. If you’re going to be heading outside, apply some of this oil to your dog’s collar. But do NOT use rose geranium oil on your cat.
Cedarwood essential oil. This oil helps to deter fleas and ticks and also kills pests. It’s used in a variety of natural flea and tick control products from Wondercide, a small company that creates toxin-free pest control products for pets, people and property. Try the Flea & Tick Control Cedar & Rosemary for your pet. This product uses cedar oil in a pet-safe and properly diluted formula.
IMPORTANT: Essential oils are natural, but because they are very concentrated, they should be used with caution. Always dilute essential oils before using. And because pets can have allergies and sensitivities just like people, always test a small area before applying to your pet’s entire body. Cats are extra sensitive, and, due to their frequent grooming, are much more likely to ingest and have bad reactions to essential oils. We recommend avoiding the use of essential oils on cats. For more information on the proper use of essential oils and pets, please see this post.
Use citrus juice.
As an alternative to essential oils, rub the fresh juice of an orange or lemon into your pet’s coat. It smells great and helps to keep pests away! But remember, use juice, not oil. Oil extracts from citrus are made from the rind and contain limonene, which may not be safe for pets. Learn more here.
An old standby for trips into the woods, covering up with clothing can keep ticks from latching on. If you’re not one to have your dog make a fashion statement, Pet MD recommends altering an old t-shirt to fit your dog and turning your socks into dog “legwarmers.”
Treat your yard.
Natural flea and tick control starts at home. Taking steps to keep fleas and ticks out of your yard is great for two reasons: 1. If they’re not in the yard, they can’t latch onto your pet when he goes outside. 2. You don’t have to put any chemicals or products on your pet. There are a few ways you can help keep pests out of your yard.
Keep it well-groomed. Be sure to regularly clear away leaf litter, tall grass and brush that could serve as homes for pests.
Deter wild animals. Deer carry deer ticks, which can carry Lyme disease. If you live in a rural area, don’t feed deer and avoid plants that might attract them. Also take steps to keep raccoon and rodents away, as they can carry fleas and ticks. Always keep garbage covered and tempting items out of reach.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth. This natural substance is created with a fine powder of crushed fossilized components of freshwater algae. It kills fleas by drying out their waxy, outer layer, leading to dehydration. It can also be rubbed into your pet’s fur, but use a food-grade DE (like this one) and be careful of eyes and orifices.
Welcome good pests. Certain bugs are actually good to have in your yard. Ladybugs are known for eating aphids, but they also eat fleas. And fire ants eat flea larvae, so if they’re in your yard, instead of destroying them, you might consider allowing them to reside in certain areas. The best choice might be nematodes, small worms that feed on flea larvae. There are many kinds, so be sure to look for beneficial nematodes at garden stores and pet shops.
Keep pets clean.
A good defense against parasites is good hygiene. If your pet picks up a few fleas, a good grooming can kill them and stop their numbers from exploding. Plain old soap and water can kill adult fleas, so a bath is always a good choice. You could also use this Flea and Tick Shampoo Bar. Not only does it clean, but it’s made with oils that help to deter pests.
And be sure to comb your pet with a fine-tooth comb, dunking any fleas into a container of sudsy water.
Keep the home clean.
In addition to cleaning your pet, clean their bedding and areas they regularly go. Make it part of your weekly routine. Be sure to vacuum and clean those hard to reach places like behind and underneath furniture and between couch cushions. And don’t forget to clean out the vacuum bag or canister.
You might also consider spraying a natural, chemical free repellent around your home, like the Flea & Tick Control for Pets and Home from Wondercide. Oils of cedar and rosemary are great at deterring fleas and other unwanted pests.
Wondercide creates a variety of chemical-free products for repelling and killing fleas, ticks and other pests. Take a look.
For more information about the best way to protect your pet and family from fleas and ticks, talk to your veterinarian.
Have any other natural flea and tick control tips? Share them with us in the comments! And for more pet info and other posts about natural health, subscribe to our blog.