LET YOUR DOG BE YOUR GUIDE
Recently I was at my vets office and while I was waiting my turn I overheard the receptionist telling a client about the side effects associated with a flea medication. She said it can cause seizures, but on the positive side it will kill all fleas within 3 hours. WTF? And the dog is supposed to ingest this medication? Then we wonder why our dogs have become so susceptible to disease. We often want to blame the over breeding that has gone on, but we need to start taking a serious look at what we are giving our animals.
I am guilty of having used flea medications. I, like most of America, followed blindly in what the medical profession and ads told us is the right thing to do. But in the past years I started to doubt and ask questions. I started to notice issues with my first Great Dane Danai. She was a Merle with mostly white coat and she had striking blue eyes. Danai taught me a lot about dogs but in the most horrific way. She was my guinea pig, my test run, she forced me to look for alternatives. She taught me to question authority, as in veterinarians, and she taught me to REALLY listen to my dog. They can tell us so much. I am sure she will come up quite a bit in my blog, but today I must focus on those little tiny pests, the flea.
Danai had very sensitive skin and always had hot spots and issues, so off to the vet I went. My vet then (not any longer) took a quick look at her, diagnosed an allergy to fleas and gave me my first box of topical flea medication. He told me how to apply it and off we went. I hated the smell, the feel and everything about the product but I applied it none the less. The DOCTOR told me to. Poor Danai, if I thought she had hot spots before, now it was way worse. BUT I hadn’t learned yet to really listen to my dog. Sure I have all the excuses, I was a working Mom with three young kids, bla bla bla. Point is, I used the treatment the following month and she got worse. That’s when I saw the correlation. For you Oprah followers, it was an A-HA moment . I threw the box away. What I have failed to say through this diatribe is that I never saw a flea, not once. I just followed blindly.
There’s a long winded story in all of this, but the bottom line is that I learned to question authority and to ask for advice. But if you’re not asking the vet, who do you talk to? I started talking to breeders, dog handlers, groomers and God bless them, the rescue groups. These are the people who usually do not have a lot of money to spend and have found natural ways of helping their pets health. (Note: I am NOT advocating to not seek Medical help, just be more informed)
Danai’s problem was solved with adding Vitamin C to her diet. I didn’t exactly know how it worked, all I know is that her skin issues disappeared. It was like a miracle. But we are discussing fleas in this post and since I never really had fleas and never have used flea prevention. I realized I didn’t have personal experiences to share this time. So I asked around for the advice of those who have. Here is what I can share with you.
First of all consider your environment. Do you have an environment that attracts fleas? Do you have carpets, grass, nice furry warm areas for the fleas to live? I think part of the reason we have never had fleas is that we have no carpeting, no real grass (synthetic) and a lot of concrete. I also believe that diet has a part in this. I feed raw diet for the most part, and dog owners have noticed a decrease in flea activity once they switch to raw food. If you do have a flea issue, these things will play a big part in how successful you will be in eliminating them. Only treating your dog will not make the problem go away. I’ll discuss this later
When it comes to natural remedies there aren’t that many, or at least the premise is the same and people will switch up the ingredients a bit and swear theirs is the best. The one thing that is constant is that with natural ingredients you will need to perform these tasks more often. Natural ingredients do not last as long as toxic ones. My favorite and I believe the easiest to use is a product called Lice Off. It is a product used to remove lice from human hair and to prevent lice infestation as well. People use this on children’s hair all the time and it’s very effective. It is a combination of essential oils. NEVER use this product straight on the animal, it has to be diluted or given in an indirect method. I was introduced to this product by my cousin Maria who has two French Bulldogs, a large grass yard, carpeting and young kids. Fleas started to LOVE her dogs and her house. The thing I love about Maria is that she is always looks for a healthier way to raise and keep her family safe. So I knew her recommendation had been well researched and tested. Maria tried and still uses Lice Off and now they have a flea free home. I should point out here that she also feeds her dogs raw food.
How do you use Lice Off? The direct method should be used during bathing. Start the bath for your dog as you would always and when you pour the dog shampoo into your palm add two drops off Lice Off to your dog shampoo, rub your hands together and now lather your dog well. As always you should avoid their mouth and eyes. Start at the neckline and move towards the dog’s backend. This eliminates the posibility of the fleas running to the head for cover. Let the lather remain on your dog for 5 minutes and then wash it off completely. If you have a bad flea problem, you may have to repeat this process once a week until the flea cycle has been broken, then you can maintain it by bathing monthly. If your dog is a swimmer, realize that the essential oils will not work as well. The advantage to using this product is that it smells WONDERFUL and you won’t have to worry about your kids petting the dog. It is also not a pricey item and can be found at your local holistic or natural food store, like Whole Foods or Sprouts. For additional remedies click here.
If you do not have fleas in your home but worry about them because of places you take your dog, you can create a spray that you use before going out. Purchase a good spray bottle, one that’s not going to clog on you and that has a mist like spray. Use 2 drops of Lice Off per each cup of water. This product contains Tea Tree Oil and MUST be fully diluted, because it can be dangerous if ingested. Mix the solution well and spray your dog, let him/her dry and feel safe that fleas won’t attach themselves to Fido on your walk. Do not use this spray around a food preparation area, or around your pet’s food. This spray can also be used around your home to keep carpeted areas flea proof. If you have cats DO NOT USE this product. If you have a very small dog, such as a Chihuahua or any toy dog, I would strongly suggest using the indirect method. You can use this spray on you and Fido before a hike to help keep ticks from attaching themselves to you.
The indirect method won’t help you remove fleas, but it can help keep your pets from attracting them. This method you can use with a cat, because the oils will never be on the animals skin. First you will need a collar that is from natural materials such as leather or cotton. It can not be a synthetic collar. Then you will need a strong essential oil such as Tea Tree Oil or Mint. Take the collar off of your pet and put 2-3 drops of the oil on the collar, allow it enough time to dry on the collar. Alternatively, you can take a cloth bandana and spray it with the essential oil solution and let it dry completely before use. Now make sure your pet wears the collar when they are out and may be exposed to fleas. This will help keep your pet safe without exposure to the oils. Keep in mind that this will be better for smaller animals because the oils will extend to the end of their body. I wouldn’t use this on my Mastiffs, they are just too big for the oil to extend that far. I would probably be spraying them before we went to a park or hiking. This collar method will be good for a month at a time, as long as the collar isn’t getting wet. If the collar gets wet, let it dry completely and add drops to the collar again. In essence, you will have created a holistic flea collar.
Keep in mind that not all products that are safe for human use are equally safe for animals. For example, this product that I am discussing is great for dogs, but is VERY dangerous for cats. NEVER use essential oils on cats unless you have discussed it with a holistic professional that can help you. A cats system can not break down Tea Tree Oil and it can even cause death in cats. Tea Tree Oil that has not been diluted can be dangerous to animals and humans. Even though this natural treatment, if not used correctly can be dangerous, I still prefer it over the toxic chemicals present in medical flea treatments.
If you have a flea infestation, in your home, the key is going to be how well you clean it and how often. You must locate your problem areas. Maybe it’s your carpeted bedroom, and start a campaign of spraying the carpet with the Tea Tree Oil solution, allowing it to dry and then vacuum. Make sure you discard the vacuum bag or clean out your bag less vacuum well. Flea eggs can hatch anywhere and what we are trying to accomplish is to break the flea cycle. If you allow them to mature in your vacuum cleaner, they will hatch and just crawl out to start this cycle again. Mature fleas that have not fed on blood can not lay eggs. So if you can break this cycle you will become a flea free home. You will have to do this at least once a week, until your fleas are gone. Remember to use the treatment on your pet, and use a treated collar during this process to keep them from re-inhabiting Fido. If the fleas are biting you, you may want to spray your socks, or pant legs to keep them from feeding on you. Don’t forget Fido’s bedding. If your dog has a designated area where he/she sleeps make sure you clean it well and spray it. If your dog bed has a zippered cover, think about putting cedar or pine inside the zippered area to keep the bugs off. They dislike strong scents. The advantage to this is that your home will smell wonderful. If Fido sleeps with you, make sure you wash your bedding often. While you have your sheets off, spray your mattress with the Tea Tree Oil. This will keep them from trying to enjoy a midnight snack of you and Fido.
Do your own research, there are many essential oils that can be used for this same purpose. So research and find what will work in your household. I am hoping that you choose not to use a toxic chemical. Dogs can not speak up for themselves. They can not read labels or reason the cause and effect of what they are exposed to. This responsibility is left to US, we the humans who have chosen this animal and have vowed to love and protect it. We have to become their advocates. I am not a medical professional, nor am I even a licensed dog trainer. I am a dedicated dog owner that is forever researching and learning. I am committed to giving my animals the best and safest care I am capable of. I am always looking for more information. So if you have a flea solution that you would love to share, please post it below in comments. I would love to have more ideas available to all of us.