Flea prevention: Why we don’t use chemical spot-on treatments
As the weather warms up, pet owners are rushing to buy various flea, tick and mosquito treatments for their pets. However, natural flea prevention is essential year round. Think of fleas as opportunistic ninjas of the pest world jumping between heat sources. It may be freezing outside, however fleas may remain as eggs all around your warmed up house till your pet passes by. Adult fleas will die within about five days at -1°C. Eggs on the other hand can remain at low temperatures for a while. This blog is about ensuring your pet is naturally protected year round from fleas.
So why not use the chemical spot-on treatments?
Because the US Environmental Protection Agency, has jurisdiction for chemical spot-on products as they are considered PESTICIDES. As such, this will be rubbed on your couch and indoor environment, absorbed through your pet’s skin. We’d personally rather avoid it since they typically say “considered safe” until you read the potential side effects. If the label says “keep away from children” then it shouldn’t be in your dog or cat’s system.
Here are some of the side effects:
Symptoms can range from allergies, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, ataxia (uncoordinated movements) to muscle tremors and death, which tends to happen more often in smaller dogs.
A look into the common Flea Medications e.g. Advantage, Revolution, Frontline, Sentry
The active ingredients for these pesticides include Cyphenothrin (brand: Sentry’s Pro XFC) and Permethrin (brand: K-9 Advantix and some Sergeant’s products). In addition, the inert ingredients are also said to contribute to toxicity according to the EPA. How about Advantage (imidacloprid and pyriproxyfen) and Frontline (fipronil)?
Imidacloprid has been known to cause vomiting, salivation as well as affect your pet’s brain and nervous system. As a side note, scientists are investigating its link to the death of honey bees. Pyriproxyfen has potential adverse liver effects long term. Fipronil on the other hand is a neurotoxin and carcinogen and can also result in organ damage. Revolution, Trifexis, Nexgard, Bravecto and Simparica are also used as flea killers. We’ve already talked about these in the context of Heartworm medication (see here)
Most of these pesticides are meant to kill fleas but if you have a pet allergic to flea bites, you’d might still get that reaction as the fleas are only killed after biting your pet for some medications. Same with Lyme disease as the tick will have to bite your pet to be killed. Not much of preventative in these cases. Frontline and Advantage are contact killers.
However, if you do use chemical spot-on treatments, talk to your vet about the lowest possible dose and frequency that may still benefit your pet. As Dr. Karen Becker says, “No matter what combination of pest repellent systems you use, including chemical agents, your pet can still attract pests and parasites. In fact, even animals loaded with chemicals to the point of toxicosis can still, for example, acquire heartworm.”
Also ensure that you do not use dog medications on cats!
Natural Flea prevention tips
The tips we provide include daily things you can do to ensure your pet is healthy:
- Keep your pet healthy as fleas are attracted first to unhealthy animals. This includes feeding a high quality bioavailable preferably raw pet food and exercising your pet.
- B vitamins are important for a healthy nervous system and raw meat is one natural source. Vitamin B are water-soluble and generally your pet can easily obtain these from raw meats, organs, fish and vegetables.
- Use flea and tick herbal repellents that are topical or as collars that can be worn by both dogs and cats. These contain geranium oil in a proprietary blend that at worst may cause a skin reaction.
- Talk to your holistic vet about adding fresh ground/chopped/minced garlic to your dog’s food. Garlic is a powerful antibiotic, antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-fungal and the list goes on. The concern about garlic poisoning is due to the thiosulphate in it, which is lower than what is in onions. (Read here about what we’ve written about the study on garlic)
- Cats, however, are more sensitive to thiosulphate than dogs. Please talk to your holistic vet about dosing right if you want to do this at all for your dog. At the right dose, garlic is beneficial to your dog. We’d recommend grating fresh garlic and letting it sit for about 10 min before feeding as it forms an enzyme called allicin, which is great for repelling pests and active for about an hour before becoming unstable. In addition, allicin is also shown to inhibit cancer formation.
- Do not over-vaccinate your pets. More pet vaccines are not better. For more information see Dr Shultz (expert in vaccinations recommendations)
- Lastly, to ensure your pets do not have heartworm or any tick diseases, ask your vet for SNAP 4Dx tests annually to check for these diseases.
If you already have a flea infestation affecting your dog or cat
- Wash your pets with grease-cutting soap as that gets rid of the oily outside of the flea, which allows them to survive in just water. Kitty may not be happy with you but this is a great way for starting to get rid of fleas.
- Once your pet is dry, FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous earth can be spread over your pet to dry out the fleas from outside in and can also be put into the food to expel pests.
- Spread diatomaceous earth over your carpets and vacuum after 3 to 4 days (length of time for fleas to die). Apply 2 to 3 more times. In case, you are worried about silicosis, wear a mask.
- Wash all your bedding and pet’s bed in hot cycle in the washing machine.
- OregaPet’s Bed and Body Spray is another topical treatment for fleas. Note that some of these have or are essential oils and should NOT be used on cats as they are toxic when ingested.
- Use garlic in the pet’s food as discussed above.