Fleas and Ticks, The Wholistic Truth
by Dr Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason

As Spring comes on and the warmer weather creeps up, many of us start to worry about those tough, relentless little survivors we call fleas. When your dog (or cat)is not around, they will even eat each other to survive and wait for your prt to become its new host!

Have you ever wondered why some dogs and cats have severe flea problems, while others are hardly bothered by the little pests? Fleas being present on your pet can be an indicator of the animal's general health. Parasites in general, and fleas in particular, are most attracted to the weak, unhealthy, or very young animal whose immune system is not functioning well. The best flea prevention is to reduce your pet's susceptibility to fleas by improving his/her health.

In the conventional veterinary industry, the fact that parasites (worms, heartworm, fleas, ticks, etc.) will attach themselves to a sick animal before they will attach to a healthy animal, is hardly ever made known to the pet loving public however, I want you to know the facts - the "wholistic" truth!

People that have dogs or cats with fleas, skin problems, allergies, digestive problems and behavioral problems are spending hundreds of dollars at the veterinarian on flea prevention, antibiotics, steroids, tranquilizers, and other medication.

The sad but all too truthful fact is that these toxic chemicals, antibiotics, steroids, and many other medications take a serious toll on the pet's internal organs and immune systems. The animal's problems become a never-ending circle of medication and sickness. Skin problems, allergies and flea infestations are in reality, just the obvious outward signs/symptoms of a nutritional deficiencies and toxic overload.

We are all bombarded with advertising on how to kill parasites/pests (fleas, ticks, heartworms, intestinal worms) with toxic, lethal chemicals of all types and strengths for all sizes and breeds of dogs or cats. More then likely, you have been using some of these chemicals that your veterinarian has prescribed and sold to you. You may even be one of the increasingly many that have even seen your dog go into an epileptic seizure almost immediately upon being administered one of the lethal chemicals sold to the unsuspecting public to "protect" their cherished little companion. Are you aware that there are some dogs and cats that are actually killed when these chemical products are administered to them?

You may be using these chemicals and maybe you are even troubled about it because your pet's health has taken a turn for the worse. You aren't sure why, but if you look back at what you have been using on your (or in your) pet to "prevent" fleas, ticks and even heartworm, you might realize that your dog's health began to decline some time after a foreign substance was applied to your dog's body or ingested. Be it a vaccination or be it a chemical to kill fleas, worms, ticks,or protozoa. Any time a chemical or something foreign to an animal is put into its body, there WILL be a reaction. Most of the time the reaction will happen internally and you may not be aware of it at the time of just how detrimental this foreign substance is. Imagine how extremely lethal a chemical has to be if it is administered only once a month or once a season and the label cautions you to wear gloves to apply it and not to allow the pet to come into contact with your children, furniture or bedding!

Common sense should tell us that if it is so dangerous that you have to wear gloves to administer it, that it has to be "bad news" not only for the fleas and ticks but to your poor pet whose blood stream and central nervous system these chemicals are now circulating through.

Did you know that your dog's liver and kidneys are adversely affected by the use of flea collars, topical drops, chemical de-wormers, heart worm drugs, etc.?

Some Things Your Veterinarian Never Told You About Pesticides (Flea and Tick and other parasite killers)

There is a list of side effects, written right in the PDR (Physicians Drug Reference- detail every drug any of the pharmaceutical companies manufacture) and the Owners hand out sheets (that should be given to you at the time the chemicals are dispensed for your pet. If you are not aware of these because your veterinarian does not give you one, ASK FOR ONE!

Fipronil, imidacloprid, methoprene, and permethrin are all considered highly toxic carcinogens, neurotoxins, teratogens and dermatogens, some of their known side effects are: lesions in the brain, lungs, liver and kidney damage, pulmonary edema, bone marrow ailments, and birth defects.

Pyriproxyfen and ethanol, both teratogens, cause damage to the reproductive system, causing miscarriages, smaller offspring and birth defects. Not only are your dogs and cats effected but when you pet or touch your dog (or cat) after applying these toxic chemicals, can cause reproductive damage in you and your children as well.

Carbitol is a neurotoxin, meaning it can cause damage to the nervous system, and it can cause serious organ damage to both your pets and your family as well.

Fipronil has the possibility of causing thyroid cancer in your pet and to anyone holding or petting the animal. It can cause loss of appetite, lethargy, convulsions, excessive barking, body twitches and tremors, stiffened limbs, unsteady gait, lack of coordination, labored breathing, hair loss, ulcerations, itching, and chewing.

Permethrin, which is the common denominator in most of these products, is a broad spectrum insecticide/pesticide, that works as an endocrine disruptor and a carcinogenic insecticide, causing lung cancer and liver tumors in laboratory animals. The manufactures, companies and veterinarians are made aware of this information before they buy, re-sell, prescribe, or apply it to your beloved pets. Do you think these flea and tick killers might just be part of the reason why 4 out of 5 dogs and cats in this country have cancer?

The toxic chemicals in these products can, over time result in seizures, chronic skin itching and infections, renal failure (kidney failure )and/or liver damage to the point of the liver becoming unable to filter the blood and in many cases, complete liver failure and many more dis-ease conditions.

Contaminated blood circulating throughout your pet's body day after day will most definitely contribute to other more complicated health issues, such as diabetes and arthritis to name just two of the most common long term side effects.

The side effects from these toxic chemicals are so bad that in many cases, pets can actually die within days of receiving these lethal doses of chemicals prescribed to kill a little bitty parasite.

Does your pet really need to be poisoned just to kill a little parasite that could is easily prevented or removed without any of these dangerous side effects listed above? Especially when it is a known fact that there are a whole variety of God given remedies in nature; that were placed on this earth by the Creator to keep His little creatures free of parasites if only "man" was intelligent enough to discover and use them?

Still people continue to use toxic chemicals and drugs because they don't know there is a better, simpler, less expensive, SAFER way.

The presence of fleas (and/or any parasite) should be viewed as an indicator of an animal's overall, general health. Yes, you read that right ... Parasites in general, and fleas in particular, are most attracted to the weak, unhealthy, or very young animal whose immune system is not functioning properly. The long-term solution to a flea problem is quite simply to reduce your pet's susceptibility to fleas by improving his/her health.

Let's take a Wholestic approach here and begin with the foundation and cornerstone of good health.

Species Specific Nutrition
Good, proper nutrition from foods appropriate for the species (carnivore)can actually prevent (and dare I say the word?) "Cure" disease by providing the proper nutrients to keep the immune system balanced and functioning at optimal levels.

The food you feed your pets should provide all of the nutritional components which are necessary for all organs and systems of a healthy body to perform in harmonious unison. A properly functioning body does an amazing job at preventing disease and healing itself, however it requires the energies and nutrients of a species appropriate diet. In terms of finding the proper diet for our companions, this means learning to look beyond our own needs, opinions, and agendas to address the natural needs of the animals that we are responsible for by feeding and raising them according their species and nature. Dogs, are carnivores and need to be fed accordingly for optimal health.

One of the first things I recommend is researching and switching your dog (or cat) to a raw meat, organ and bone diet that their bodies are designed to eat and thrive on. (if you feeding raw meat and bones is a new concept for you, please request a consultation as there is a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there.)

Hopefully you will study into the benefits of a raw, species appropriate diet and the dangers of feeding kibble - all kibble is kibble is still kibble no matter what the ingredients are or if it is labeled "natural, holistic or organic" it is slow death in a bag for our beloved animal companions. All kibble is cooked at high temperatures that de-nature and destroy all nutrients. All kibble has to be sprayed or layered with some kind of vitamin/nutrient mixture before packaging since there is NO nutrition left after processing, no matter what great ingredients they may have started out with.

Probiotics and digestive enzymes are highly recommended to aid the animal's immune system come into balance. By assisting the transport of nutrients through the body and aiding in the breakdown and removal of waste products, probiotics and digestive-enzymes help alleviate allergy symptoms brought on by lack of proper nutrition and toxic overload.

EPA/DHA - Wild Salmon or fish Oil
Wild fish oil (beware of farmed fish containing GMOs, antibiotis, etc. in them) contains linolenic acid, which is broken down into the fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). When the immune system is activated by infection or injury, inflammation occurs, which can be evident by redness, swelling or pain. EPA and DHA fatty acids found inwild fish oil can modify the immune system response by decreasing inflammation.

Read more: about the benefits of fish oil for your pets Here

Other Supplements
Organic apple cider vinegar added to your pets water can also help in supplying lacking minerals and nutrients

In some cases, B-complex vitamins, trace minerals and zinc added to your pet's meal are very beneficial. (check with your Veterinary Naturopath or Certified Animal Nutritionist for dosages).

Remember, flea problems do not stem from the presence of fleas, but from health related and environmental circumstances which enable to fleas to thrive and reproduce. They are opportunists, preying on the weak and unhealthy whose immune system is not balanced and functioning at full capacity. Dry flaky skin, constant shedding, scratching, chewing on its self reveals a general susceptibility in the animal's immune system which in turn, provides the perfect environment for parasites.

Safe, Natural Solutions

A great weapon in the battle with fleas is the inexpensive Flea Comb. Removing and killing the adults (by drowning them in soapy water) can prevent a lot of future fleas being hatched. However, flea combing is best done on dogs with short hair and not a lot of undercoat. In that instance, bathing the dog and leaving the chemical free shampoo on the dog for up to 15 minutes before rinsing suffocates the fleas.

Another option for repelling fleas and ticks is an EasyDefense Flea Tag, which simply hang on your pet's collar and uses a revolutionary approach to repelling insects using the bioenergetic field around your pet.

For killing fleas and or ticks once they are on your pet, I recommend DE (diatomaceous earth) or Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy made from diatomaceous earth and herbs that is safe for use on dogs and cats, as well as around the home.

Treating the Home

Vacuuming and washing the hard floors often and daily (with a chemical/toxin free cleaner) during the height of flea season is the least toxic way to control fleas in the house. This will remove most of the adults, and some eggs and larvae. Vacuum some DE or the Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy into the vacuum bag to kill any fleas in the bag, and ALWAYS remove the bag and discard it in a sealed plastic bag after use.

Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy, discussed above for use on your pets, can also be used on carpeting, on the pet’s bedding, on furniture and on hard floors. It is a very fine powder similar in consistency to talcum powder, so it gets into cracks and crevices on hardwood and linoleum floors easily. It acts more quickly than boric acid products - a difference in the flea population can be noticeable in 24 to 48 hours.

Boric acid products, such as Fleabusters and Fleago, work in a similar fashion to the diatomaceous earth by dehydrating the fleas. When applied correctly, they offer protection for up to a year or more as they remain deep in the carpet fibers. They may take up to 2 weeks or longer for results to be noticeable, however.

Treating the Yard

Rake up any leaves and keep the grass cut short. Watering can help drown the larvae as well. A majority of the fleas and larvae will be within 50 feet of your companion's favorite spot to rest, so focus on those areas.

DE - Diatomecious Earth
DE contains Diatoms which are one celled microscopic algae whose walls consist of two parts and contain a mineral called silica. Under a very strong microscope, diatoms have very sharp edges. When a flea, ant, spider, etc comes into contact with the remaining sharp edges of the diatoms, they lacerate the waxy exoskeleton of the bug and the powder DE (diatomaceous earth) absorbs the body fluids causing death by dehydration.

NOTE: Be sure to us only food grade DE. The kind used in swimming pool and pond filters is to highly refined and can be dangerous to breathe or ingest.

Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy which contains DE can be applied to grass to kill fleas in the yard by sprinkling the powder or applying with a hose sprayer. Beneficial Nematodes are another great way to control fleas in the yard. Beneficial nematodes are a flea parasite (mother nature always has a balancing mechanism). They are tiny little bugs that prey on both adult fleas and larvae, which may be purchased at a local nursery or greenhouse.

Essential Oils
Plants produce essential oils as their own survival technique to repel bugs This makes essential oils great insect repellents for animals (and humans, too). Essential oils are all natural, mild and will leave your dog's coat healthy and vibrant while working at a cellular level to boost the immune system. For centuries, they have been used in a variety of ways to repel fleas, ticks and other biting insects. Essential oils are nature's own God given repellents. They ward off unwanted hitchhikers.

Some of the more common medical grade(therapeutic) essential oils that act as flea and insect repellents are: lavender, citronella, cedar ,peppermint, eucalyptus and lemongrass.

A sweet-smelling, all-purpose insect repellent, lavender essential oil performed well in recent studies as both a tick deterrent and a method of preventing tick eggs from hatching. Additionally, Ohio State University recommends it for controlling fleas. A 2007 South African study found that formulas containing diluted lavender at rates of 10 to 20 percent lavender performed well as tick repellents when compared to artificial DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) sprays.

Oil of citronella naturally repels insects such as mosquitoes, black flies, fleas and ticks, therefore, preventing bites. Citronella oil is a natural, non-toxic alternative to chemical insect repellents such as DEET , therefore, is usually the preferred choice. A combination of the citronella oil and cedarwood oil also helps to repel mosquitoes.

A wonderfully fragrant oil that provides a pheromone interruption agent that impairs the insects mental capacity and repels them.

An oil high in menthol - it repels fleas, spiders and even mice.

While better known for its anti bacterial properties it is a great natural pest deterrent as well.

Deters fleas but it especially works well to deter ticks. According to Ohio State University. Lemongrass oil contains a pleasing citrus scent that is useful in controlling oily scalps and skin conditions, making it suitable for use on dogs with skin conditions.

*CAUTION: Use ONLY therapeutic grade essential oils. I only recommend and personally only use Young Living Essential oils and products as they have tested and proven to be pure and safe enough to be taken internally - I don't know of any other essential oils that are as pure.

Essential oil formulations will need to be applied more frequently than synthetic pesticides, but the benefits far outweigh the exposure to harsh chemical smells and toxic side effects.

*please use glass bottles if you will be storing any left over oil mixtures.

* Mist the dog before going to training class and upon returning as well. You won't pick up fleas from other members of the training class.

* Spray the area where you set up your exercise pens and crates at the dog shows. Fleas will choose to go to the neighbors instead. The dogs themselves can be misted when you leave home and again before returning from the show.

* Set the squirt bottle near the door, so that you can mist the dog (and your own pants legs) when you take the dog for a walk. No hitchhikers will come home with your or your pet from public places.

* If you have a dog with flea allergies, it can get instant relief while you are ridding the environment of fleas.

* For dogs that are bothered by flies biting their ears, cover the eyes with your hand and mist the ear area. Flies will stay away and the ears can heal.

* For longer term control, a few drops of essential oil may be placed on a cotton pet collar and put around the dog's neck. Renew the oil whenever the aroma starts to fade. You can also put a few drops of one or more of the oils into the palms of your hands, rub your palms together and apply to the dog's coat and skin starting at the neck and down the front legs, then down the back to the base of the tail and down the back legs in a petting fashion.

Personal Use

* Mist your own skin, hair and clothing when outside during mosquito season. The oils set up a very pleasant smelling barrier for you but not such a great smell for the pesky insects.

CAUTION Some Essential Oils are not well tolerated by cats. Please only use 100% pure, medical grade essential oils (Young Living) and only in very small diluted amounts with the with cats.

* To learn more about medical grade essential oils and their many uses for our pets, please see the Essential Oils for Pets Program which is now available on-demand.

To order Young Living Essential Oils, call 800-371-2928 and use the Referral/Sponsor number 719671

Click here for Essential Oil Products guide and to order.

So, there really are natural alternatives with healthy and beneficial side benefits that you can use for your pet to eliminate parasites. Remember, fleas are a symptom. The key to dealing with parasites is to make your pet undesirable to them, and to take steps to prevent an infestation. A healthy dog (or cat) should not be troubled by an occasional flea.

Copyright 2006 - 2013 The Whole Dog, Dr Jeannie Thomason, All rights reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Author/Publisher. All the articles at The Whole Dog.org.

This article is intended to be educational. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a qualified animal health professional. Dr Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason, The Whole Dog, does not assume any legal responsibility for misuse of the products disucused in this article.