Has your dog ever give you feedback when you put a spot of flea & tick treatment on the back of his neck? The feedback I’ve received is pretty clear. This is not a comfortable experience! I can only imagine that putting a chemical strong enough to deter these parasites for a MONTH on my dog’s neck would have a strong (and unlikely to be positive!) effect on my dog as well. I’ve been concerned about this issue and thought you might be as well so I’ve asked our Canine Naturopath contributor Lyndall Pinchen to provide us with some effective alternatives to these nasty toxins.
NATURAL FLEA AND TICK ALTERNATIVES
By far the most common questions I am asked by concerned dog owners revolves around natural alternatives to chemical flea and tick treatments. There is an increasing awareness today amongst many dog owners of the negative impact that chemicals are having on their dogs. Flea and tick products in particular have been found to have been linked to serious health effects both in laboratory animals and in pets. Spot on treatments such as Frontline for example contain toxic ingredients that can damage the nervous system and thyroid. There are also links to fertility issues, liver and kidney damage and cancers, particularly in the thyroid. Whether the product goes into your dog or onto their skin, they will absorb the toxic chemicals contained within and over time, these can build up in the system, leading to a wide range of health problems.
While there may be some situations where these products are needed (eg- flea infestations), long term use of sprays, spot on treatments and internal chews and tablets are not recommended, especially for dogs that already have compromised immune function.
Having said that, fleas and ticks do pose health risks for your dog. Fleas live off of the blood of mammals, and their bites can lead to major health issues including flea saliva allergy. And we all know how dangerous ticks such as the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) can be, injecting a toxin causing paralysis that can be fatal in domestic pets.
While fleas and ticks will always be present, dogs that have strong immune response and a ‘clean’ diet are MUCH less prone to be bothered by any parasite. And if they do come in contact with these little nasties, they are much better equipped to fight it off and often have little to no reaction. Parasites always attack the weakest host and tend not to worry with those hosts that are healthy and strong so improving your dog’s underlying condition is their best defence.
One of the best ways to do this is through nutrition. Dogs are designed to consume a raw diet with minimal carbohydrate (in the form of vegetable or plant matter). Feeding a natural raw diet based around raw meaty bones, raw muscle and organ meats, eggs, fish and small amounts of vegetable matter helps build a strong immune system and assists the body to detoxify chemicals, regardless of their origin. It takes from 3-12 months to build up a strong immune response through diet depending on the dog and their health, but once this immune response has been awakened, your dog will be in a much better place to repel parasites of all kinds.
What about natural alternatives to those chemical products??
In addition to proper nutrition, there are a number of natural alternatives to these toxic chemical products. So here are some ideas:
1. Dogs that are prone to fleas (and flies) can often be deficient in B vitamins, so supplementing for a period of time with a B complex (especially B1) can help build up the level of B vitamin
2. Natural Topical sprays that act as repellents as well as killing parasites on contact can be a great alternative to the heavy conventional chemical sprays. For example, Neem oil (derived from crushing the neem seeds) is a powerful antiparasitic and can be rubbed through your dog’s coat. For sensitive pets, dilute the oil in a carrier such as sweet almond oil and rub through in the same way. Add it to a spray bottle and it can also be sprayed over your dog’s coat. Adding in essential oils such as Cedar wood, Tea tree, Lavender, Rose geranium, Patchouli, Geranium and Thyme (just to name a few) can make it a stronger preparation. Just pick a few oils or even one to add into the oil and spray on as needed. These are effective against fleas and ticks.
3. Diatomaceous earth (DE)- Diatomaceous Earth is a non-toxic, safe substance made up from crushed fossils of freshwater organisms and marine life. It is deadly to insects but harmless to pets. Diatomaceous earth works by piercing the outer shell of the parasite, leaving it to dehydrate and diet. Always make sure that you purchase FOOD GRADE DE as the industrial grade product is toxic. For fleas and other external parasites, it can be dusted over bedding and through coat. Be careful to avoid eyes and direct inhalation as this can be irritating to the lungs. It can also be added to food to control internal parasites. Best given for a period of 4 weeks.
4. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a flea comb especially in short haired dogs. The teeth of the comb are smaller than the size of the flea’s body and the flea is easily caught on these as you comb through the coat of your dog; the flea can be quickly disposed of by thumbnail pressure, or wrapped in tissue and flushed down the toilet.
5. Homoeopathic tick preventative remedies such as Ledum are a safe and effective alternative to using the conventional insecticides such as Advantix and Frontline which are highly toxic products. The downside to using the homoeopathic remedies is that they do need to be given daily (they are only given once a day and are very easy to administer either topically or in water) but the benefits far outweigh this in my opinion. I like to precribe both a preventative remedy as well as one that can be used in acute situations (ie: if you dog takes a tick) because NOTHING, whether it is natural or chemical is 100% effective against ticks. So PLEASE check you dogs daily and thoroughly, checking in all their ‘cracks and crevices’. Ticks like to hide in the anal area, in ear folds, between toes, along gum line etc so you need to check all these areas as well as the more obvious ones!
6. Certain foods that can be helpful to build the immune system and repel fleas and ticks include:
Remember that the stronger your dogs immune system, the less likely they are to be bothered by any parasite!!
This article was contributed by Lyndall Pinchen of Canine Vitality a naturopathic health clinic for our furry mates in Cedar Grove QLD. If you’re out of the local area no worries! Canine Vitality offers online and phone consultations to help sort out your canine health issues. T: 0417 710 882 M: 0417 710 882 E: lyndall firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/caninevitality Website www.caninevitality.com.au
Are there particular canine health topics you’re interested in? Just let me know and we might be able to get some naturopathic insight into them.
All the best to your pack!