Alternative Pet Treatments for Fleas and Ticks
By Robert Spencer, Regional Extension Specialist
The warm temperatures of summer allow fleas and ticks to thrive, populate, and become a nuisance for your dogs, cats, and you. These pests transmit diseases and can bite and infest your animals, carpeting, and bedding, thus creating health concerns for all family members.
Fleas have an average life cycle of 14 days and a female can lay up to 30 eggs a day. Ticks also have life and reproductive cycles. So, by utilizing any treatment you are simply trying to break the life and reproductive cycles of these insects. While there are many forms of treatment, the best methods are to take preventive measures, including natural or organic alternatives.
Prior to administering any treatment (manufactured or organic):
- Read all direction and warning labels.
- Consider doing a test treatment in a small area with brief observation to make sure there is no skin reaction.
- Consider wearing latex or laetrile gloves when washing or treating your pet so your skin does not become dried out or irritated from frequent use.
- If any type of skin irritation becomes obvious rinse several times and consult with your appropriate veterinarian or family doctor.
- Assess how tolerant your pet is to getting a bath. Hopefully, they adapted at a young age. Dogs rather than cats will likely be more tolerant of getting wet.
The following are some suggestions for natural or organic forms of flea and tick prevention and treatment.
- Wash your pets using a mild liquid dish soap or dog shampoo that is free of dyes and perfumes. Not only is this likely to kill or wash away most if not all fleas on your pet, it will wash away flea eggs from your pet’s skin and fur. Since this is for mild infestations, you may have to wash your pet weekly or biweekly.
- Repel fleas and ticks by lightly applying a diluted mixture of citrus and water or apple cider and water to your pet’s fur several times a week. Mix equal parts of citrus juice or apple cider vinegar with water. Either mixture can be applied utilizing a cloth dampened with the mixture or a spray bottle holding the mixture. Do not allow this mixture to get in pet’s eyes.
- Add brewer’s yeast to your pet’s food. This can be done daily or every other day. As brewer’s yeast is absorbed into the animals’ body it is excreted through the pores and repels nuisance pests (that means it has an odor). Be sure to consult with your veterinarian before initiating this treatment to determine if it’s appropriate based on breed, weight, and age of your animal.
- Prepare a dip (bath), wash, or spray using rosemary, lavender, or other essential oil diluted with water. Fleas and ticks do not like these types of fragrances; therefore, the odor acts as a repellent. Make sure there is no evidence of skin reaction when using these products. If sprayed or wiped on the animal’s outer fur, it will need to be massaged into the fur to be more effective. You may choose to wear gloves if this process is done frequently.
As stated earlier in this article, there is no scientific evidence these practices are effective, but they serve as alternative treatments for those who prefer to avoid using chemical treatments. Chemical treatments in the form of dips, applications, and collars are known, however, to be quite effective.
PetMD. (n.d.) How to handle fleas on dogs. In: 2017 Flea and Tick Survival Guide. Retrieved from http://www.petmd.com/dog/care/evr_dg_fleas_on_dogs_and_what_you_can_do_about_them.wikiHow. (n.d.). How to kill fleas on dogs. Retrieved from http://www.wikihow.com/Kill-Fleas-on-Dogs.
Photo: Amblyomma americanum tick by James Gathany at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amblyomma_americanum_tick_2.jpg