Controlling Fleas and Ticks:
The Holistic Approach

by Gary Le Mon

Fleas and ticks are two parasites we pet lovers love to hate.

They can cause itching and lots of scratching as well as secondary bacterial or fungal infections. Ticks create diseases like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis. Like everything else, prevention is the best medicine. Here are some of the best tips to prevent problems with fleas and ticks without having to resort to chemicals:

1. Keep your pet healthy. A healthy pet is not as susceptible to parasites. Holistic vets often recommend a natural, whole foods approach to feeding our pets to create a more balanced, systemic energy.

2. Use a flea comb. This is a special comb with very closely spaced teeth. Comb your pet every day. Since fleas are not able to escape the comb, and you can easily see if your dog or cat has any. Plus, if they do, you will be able to remove them. But be quick. Fleas can jump quite high!

3. Groom your pet each day. In addition to the flea comb, regularly feel your dog or cat’s body. This will help you find fleas and ticks. It is important to remove ticks within 24 hours, so everyday do a thorough check. Ticks like to go to certain spots on your pet more than others. Be sure to carefully check the armpits, around the ears (inside and outside), around the bottom and under the tail, and around the neck.

4. Trim the overgrown hair on very furry dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors: less hair for parasites to hide in.

5. Use a natural herb or plant oil based insect repellent. Products developed with scientific use of natural repellents not only smell great on your pet but work to keep parasites at bay.

What if you already have fleas and ticks? Here’s what to do.

1. Bathe your pet. Apply shampoo thickly and allow it to sit for 5 to10 minutes. Fleas drown in water and heavy shampoo. You can then go back over with your flea comb for extra measure.

2. Have a pair of tweezers handy to fully grasp and remove ticks. Make sure to remove the entire tick. Removing them alone does not kill them, so make sure they are dead when you dispose of them.

3. Wash pet bedding in hot water. This will kill and remove fleas and ticks plus their eggs.

4. Fleas can quickly inhabit the house. Use a vacuum cleaner with a bag and thoroughly vacuum your home and furniture. Throw bag away in an outdoor container. You might want to double-bag it so they do not escape.

5. One last suggestion for the house comes from Sandy Arora in her 2006 book titled Whole Health for Happy Cats. She suggests making a natural flea trap with a shallow pie plate. Fill with water and swirl in a few drops of dish washing liquid. Place pie plates in areas around the pet’s bedding or where fleas hide. Place a lamp so it shines over the water. Leave the lamps on overnight with no other houselights on. Fleas are attracted to the warmth and light and will jump into the water and drown.

These simple measures to rid yourself of fleas and ticks will get you through the warm, moist times in which these parasites thrive. Just as important, you won’t have to deal with toxic chemicals.

Reference: Arora, Sandy. 2006. Whole Health for Happy Cats. Gloucester, Massachusetts: Quarry Books.

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