Preventing Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes
Michael W. Fox
This topic is
important because of the adverse reactions many animals have to the new
anti-flea and tick medicines; the environmental and public health risks of
these chemicals; the suffering of animals allergic to fleas and other insects;
and the increasing risks of tick-born and other insect-transmitted diseases.
Since these new chemical compounds (and also
the heart-worm preventive medicine, ivermectin) are excreted in treated
animals’ stools, fecal material should not be left in the open or flushed down
the toilet, but be bagged and put in with separated, biodegradable household
garbage to go to the hopefully well contained and managed municipal land-fill.
holistic approach to flea and tick
control detailed below helps reduce the need to give your dog or cat
potentially harmful new anti-flea and tick medicines (as pills, spot/drops on
the skin, sprays, dips and collars). These new medicines do not eliminate ticks
and fleas, and when there are many, the additional control measures detailed below
must be adopted anyway.
collars are especially
risky since the chemicals are inhaled as well as absorbed by the animals and
anyone sitting close to and petting the animal, especially children. These
systemic insecticides that variously kill and disrupt the development of fleas,
ticks, and other insect parasites, have to be ingested by the insects for them
to work. This means that they must have at least one meal of your pet’s blood
before getting the poisons circulating in the blood stream. in the medicated
pet’s blood into their systems.
US government’s Environmental
Protection Agency announced in May 2009 that it will conduct a thorough
investigation of topical anti-flea and tick products used on dogs and cats.
Some 44,000 reports of adverse reactions were received by the EPA in 2008.
holistic approach to keeping fleas and
ticks at bay consists of: Daily checking with a flea comb, closely examining
between the animal’s toes, and ear-folds, noting any tell-tale shiny, black,
coal-dust like specks. These will turn reddish-brown on a piece of wet white
paper if they are flea droppings of digested dog or cat blood.
unattached ticks caught in the comb can be quickly disposed of by dunking the
comb in a bowl of warm, soap-sudsy water. Attached ticks should be removed by
grasping the tick with tweezers as close to where it is attached, using a
straight pull---twisting will break off the neck of the tick and leave its head
buried in the animal’s skin.
vacuum all areas where the animal goes
in the house every week thoroughly, and put cotton sheets over favored lying
areas, such as sofas, carpets and floor surfaces with deep cracks or crevices
where flea larvae can hide and mature. Roll up and launder these sheets in hot
water every week.
your dog or cat with diatomaceous earth.
Rub it deeply into the fur all along the back, base and entire length of tail,
and behind neck and ears. This is a super-fine, harmless powder of fossilized
microscopic sea creatures. It purportedly kills fleas and their larvae by
desiccation. (Birds often dust-bathe, probably to get rid of feather mites in
sprinkling this same material, or
borate powder ( treated with a static charge specifically to act as a safe
insecticide that also acts as a flea desiccant), on floors, carpets and in wall
crevices, then vacuuming up after 24-48 hours, and repeating every 2-3 weeks
during flea season, will help keep the home environment clear, provided animals
living there do not roam free and come home infested.
control-measures break down and fleas are found on the animal and cannot be
kept at bay with regular flea-combing and other controls in the animal's
environment, one of the safer flea-control products are those containing the oils
and essences of chrysanthemum flowers that paralyze fleas, and are considered
the least toxic to animals of all the insecticides; namely natural pyrethrins
and synthetic pyrethroids. Repeated spraying, powdering or shampooing is often
needed since not all paralyzed fleas die on first exposure.
a seriously infested house, use insecticidal
aerosols or "foggers" as a last resort, rigorously following all
operator instructions: Or call in a professional exterminator, and either put
your animals in a boarding facility or motel during home-extermination only
after each has been treated with
a relatively safe pyrethrin-based anti-flea shampoo.
diatomaceous earth of the approved type for animal use on your pet.
second round of fogging the house and shampooing/dipping the animals may be
needed since flea pupae developing in cracks and crevices in the house may not
be killed during the first treatment and may subsequently hatch out and start
biting people and animals in the home.
AWAY BUG HABITAT
all porch, yard, patio and garage
areas of old mats, debris, brush and dead vegetation where fleas and ticks may
hide and flourish, especially in those areas where animals like to lie: and
remove all old tires, plant pots and other objects where rain-water may
collect, including clearing blocked gutters, and drain or fill areas where
water pools, in order to control mosquitoes. Please avoid using ultra-violet
light attracting, electrocution bug-zappers, and spraying insecticides that kill
millions of beneficial insects, and instead put citronella candles out on the
patio and garden areas as repellants, use yellow, non-insect attracting light
bulbs outdoors, and put up insect screens on porches and repair door and window
small lamp with a 20 or lower wattage bulb
angled low over a large flat dish of soapy water or vegetable oil will become a
heat-magnet and trap for hungry fleas in an empty house, and this can be an
alternative, when set up in different rooms, to fumigation, while on vacation
or purchasing a new home where there were animals.
your dog or cat daily with a floral
scented shampoo or hand soap, diluted in warm water, rubbing it into the fur
and ear-tips and let it air-dry. A half cup each of organic cider vinegar and
warm water can be a good bug-repelling spritz. This will change the scent
signal of your companion animal and may help deter insect pests. A drop each of
oil of lemon and eucalyptus, neem and karanja, or cedar, cinnamon and peppermint
(or trial mixture of various combinations of same ) in a cup of warm water, shaken
vigorously and then rubbed on the fur, especially around the ear tips to also
repel biting and flesh-eating flies, may significantly help repel fleas, ticks
and mosquitoes from dogs. Do not use these oils in cats who are self-groomers
and could become ill especially from neem, after ingestion. If not well diluted,
these oils can cause some dogs great distress because of irritation or
fearfulness over the new scent.. It is advisable to put only a little of the
mixture on one spot on the animal to begin with. Alternatively, put one drop of
each of the selected essential oils on the upper side of a cotton bandanna
around the dog’s neck when going outdoors.
lemon and eucalyptus oil combination has
been recently approved for human use by the FDA as a safe and effective
alternative to DEET to repel mosquitoes. But be prudent especially with cats
and some dogs who should not be allowed to lick off these various sprays or hand-applied
emulsions. Slicing a lemon and placing it in a cup-full of boiling water and
after letting it stand overnight will provide a quick emergency potion that can
be rubbed into an animal’s fur and let dry to repel fleas and other insects.
bed for your companion animal that has
been stuffed with cedar shavings mixed with crushed neem leaves and bark, and
dried bunches of rosemary and lavender may help deter fleas and keep them off
an animal lying on such a bed. Few animals to my knowledge are allergic to
these various plant materials. Pennyroyal has been advocated as an herb that
helps repel fleas, but has fallen into disuse because it can be toxic if
is no need except under the most
unsanitary, tropical and sub-tropical conditions, to have to use potentially
life-threatening, health-impairing and environmentally harmful chemicals to
ward off fleas, like these new and very expensive anti-flea and tick and other
parasite-eliminating drugs, that could put your animal’s health at risk and be
of greater environmental risk than the benefits that you may derive from the
erroneous belief that these new products will mean your pet will never have
fleas or ticks. Only too often, in spite of using these products, animals get
severe allergic reactions to flea bites/saliva, commonly called ‘hot spots’, such
that they are then routinely put on steroids, thus compounding the attendant
risks of these products, especially to animals’ immune and neuro-endocrine
of topical and oral products to control
fleas and ticks should follow manufacturers’ instructions exactly to minimize
risk, and to never treat a sick or otherwise immunocompromised animal. Over
44,000 reports of adverse reactions to topical anti-flea and tick products were
compiled by the US
government’s Environmental Protection Agency in 2008. For details, see www.Biospotvictims.org. In my opinion
all non-herbal anti-flea and tick products should be avoided and never used as
a routine preventive.
I advise against using all spot-on, oral and
non-herbal products such as Bayer’s new long acting flea collar “Seresto” for
dogs and cats. The collars contain a nicotine chemical (imidacloprid) that can
cause seizures, thyroid gland damage, mutations, abortions and birth defects,
(and is a class of widely used agricultural chemicals implicated in the
catastrophic demise of honey bees, banned by the European Commission in 2013
for 2 years in Europe); and a pyrethrin chemical (flumethrin) that can cause
nausea, vomiting and seizures among other harmful side effects. I think also of
children and adults petting animals with these chemicals seeping over the
animals’ skin, and of the animals grooming themselves and each other. Sheer
Coat spray, which contains a natural and safe insecticidal substance from
the Peruvian Quassia tree, would be my first choice when fleas are found on a
cat or dog.
animals are less attractive, for
reasons that science has yet to determine, to fleas and other external and
internal pests and parasites, whose whole existence is one of opportunistic
survival and multiplication.
and cats on the kind of ‘junk’ foods
that are still widely sold are far more prone to fleas and other parasitic and
infectious health problems than those who are on a wholesome, whole-food diet,
ideally organically certified and of course nutritionally complete. So many are
not, so I strongly advocate the use of the following inexpensive nutrient
advise giving Brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast (not Baker’s or bread-making yeast);
about one tea-spoon per 30 lb body weight mixed into the animal’s food every
day, plus half a teaspoon of cinnamon per 30lb body weight. Begin by giving
only a pinch of these nutriceuticals so the pet will get used to them. Most
love them. A tea-spoon of Flax seed oil per 30 lb body weight will also help
improve skin and coat condition, (though cats do better on organically
certified fish oil). For most breeds of dogs, but not for cats, one garlic
clove per 30 lb body weight, chopped up daily and mixed into the food, may also
help increases resistance or deterrence to fleas and other opportunists from
the insect world.
ticks, mosquitoes, bighting flies and
other insects whom we hate and fear are far more ancient than we and our animal
companions. Our irrational flea-phobias and tick-terrors reinforced by pesticide
manufacturers that advertise nightly on TV to billions of viewers world wide to
convince us of the need and wisdom of buying their poisons.
should try to keep these creatures at bay
with the least harm to all. And that entails a holistic approach to animal
health, a kind of ecological diplomacy based upon the ultimate empathy of
enlightened self-interest. This involves companion animal’s emotional/
psychological as well as physical well being, (the two being inseparable in
making for a well functioning immune system).
means an optimal environment for
companion animals that is not so stressful as to impair their immune systems,
and that they are not already genetically compromised, or are victims of a lack
of care-taker empathy and understanding. Nor are they deprived of a wholesome
diet and appropriate health-care maintenance by veterinarians.