Warm weather is here at last! Unfortunately, although spring rain and sunshine brings joyful flowers, the greening elements also bring fleas and ticks. A quick look at the ingredient list of most conventional flea and tick products should give you pause. But with a few natural ingredients, you can banish dangerous pesticides and pesky pests at the same time.
There is no question that most conventional flea and tick products contain chemicals that can harm pets and people, not to mention accumulate in soil and water upon disposal. Flea collars, for example, commonly contain tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP), which has been linked to an increased risk of neurological disorders in children, including ADD/ADHD.
Another common ingredient, propoxur, is a known carcinogen. It’s also a carbamate, meaning it’s a member of a class of insecticides that block the production and activity of an important nervous system enzyme called cholinesterase. It is not only highly toxic to insects, but also to people, birds, fish -- and your sweet cat or dog.
A Better Way
No flea or tick deterrent is 100% effective, whether natural or chemical-based. But you can greatly enhance the efficacy of your topical treatments if you also take steps to make fleas and other pests less comfortable on your pet from the inside out. A healthy diet makes a healthy pet, one who is less likely to become a target of infestation. So, be sure to feed your pet a healthy diet. That means a natural pet food (or raw diet) free of meat by-products, wheat, corn and fillers like melamine. (Remember the BIG pet food recall of 2007? Thousands of pets died from ingesting melamine, an industrial chemical used in the manufacturing of plastics.)
Before you use any of the following formulas on your pet, please note the following:
Do not use essential oils on pregnant or nursing animals. Why? The effects of EOs have not been studied on pregnant pets and most people aren’t willing to volunteer their beloved expecting cat or dog as a guinea pig (no offense to guinea pigs).
Do not use essential oils on kittens or puppies, unless under the direction and supervision of a veterinarian.
Be cautious about using these or any other formula on a pet that weighs less than 10 pounds. Consult your veterinarian first.
One more bit of advice… be mindful of your pet’s superior sense of smell. Respect their need to lick their fur, too, especially when something foreign lands on it. In other words, avoid using any of these formulas near your pet’s eyes, nose or mouth, as well as leaving a big splat or spray of product on a spot that Fido or Fluffy will be sure to clean off with her tongue at the first opportunity. Also, don’t be surprised if your dog, in particular, rolls around on the floor repeatedly like his hind end were on fire. My dog acts like I’ve put hydrochloric acid on her no matter what the substance is, even when it’s plain water. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Flea & Tick Spray
Spray lightly on our pet’s coat before going outside to help deter fleas and ticking from latching on.
1 cup distilled water
2 tablespoons organic witch hazel extract
12 drops palmarosa essential oil
6 drops citronella essential oil
4 drops rosemary essential oil
4 drops clove essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before using. Avoid spraying near your pet’s eyes, nose and mouth.
This salve doubles as a hot spot treatment and a flea repellent. Use it on minor cuts too.
1 cup organic extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce beeswax
1 tablespoon shea butter
8 drops Virginia cedarwood essential oil
5 drops cajeput essential oil
3 drops rosemary essential oil
3 drops lavender essential oil
Combine the olive oil, beeswax and shea butter in the top of a double boiler. Gently heat while stirring until completely melted. Remove from heat; stir in the essential oils. Pour into clean tins. Let cool for several hours or overnight before capping and labeling. Store in a cool, dark place. To use, rub a small amount into the skin behind the ears, base of neck and just above the tail. For wounds, apply directly to skin and rub in gently with fingers.
Skin and Coat Rescue
If your dog tends to experience dry, itchy skin in warm weather, and bathing only seems to make it worse, give this simple formula a try. The oils condition skin and fur, while the chamomile tea and essential oils exert anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects.
1 ½ cups strong chamomile tea
2 tablespoons organic witch hazel extract
1 tablespoon vegetable glycerin
1 tablespoon sweet almond oil
1 tablespoons pure aloe vera gel
6 drops lavender essential oil
6 drops palmarosa essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a large spray bottle. Shake well before using. To use, spray onto pet’s coat, getting as much as possible into the undercoat (if applicable). Brush through to distribute oils. Repeat weekly.