We live in a suburb full of natural bush walkways and reserves - this bush-land charm is part of the reasons why we love it here. But, one of the negatives is we often share our garden (and sometimes house) with native critters. Just recently a family of bush rats decided to move in. These guys are big, almost the same size as Chica (who weighs in at 4kg!).
Now, I hear you thinking ‘live and let be’ right? Well, the problem in our house is we have a pack of 4 dogs genetically bred to actually hunt badgers and other small critters, so I think you can see where I’m going with this!
Needless to say we had a wee massacre and unfortunately came home to the oldest (she's now 13!) and least active pack member, Chica, proudly curled up in her bed with one of the prizes - a very dead, very large rat! And this was the beginning of the last three weeks of itchy hell - fleas! Fleas on all our dogs and sleepless, itchy, thump, thump, thumping on the wooden floors as they scratched themselves silly!
Just give them a monthly flea and tick chew and be done with it right? So easy and convenient!
Except we choose not to use any of these types of chemicals on our dogs due to the overwhelming evidence that they can cause all sorts of harm both short term and long term. Chica is now 13 and never once have we had fleas or ticks on her or any of the others - and not once have we needed these pesticides to solve this itchy problem! So, let me explain to you why we have chosen to opt for a safe, all-natural solution. Sure the speed and convenience of chemicals was tempting..... but read on as to why we chose home remedies for all natural flea control for our dogs
WARNING CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC AHEAD!
What Are Chewable Flea And Tick Preventives?
There are three main brands in the category of chewable flea and tick preventives: Nexgard, Bravecto and Simparica. These flea treatments come in a soft chew that your dog can eat like a treat. After your dog takes the chew, the drugs circulate in the blood, and when a flea or tick bites your dog, it’s exposed to the chemical. This will kill fleas and ticks.
All three drugs are pesticides that work by attacking the nervous system of the fleas and ticks, causing death. The excerpts below from the manufacturers’ Information literature explain the mode of action of these drugs (we simply cut out all the technical jargon and highlighted the important parts) …
Nexgard (afoxolaner) ...Prolonged afoxolaner-induced hyperexcitation results in uncontrolled activity of the central nervous system and death of insects and acarines...
Bravecto (fluralaner) ...Fluralaner is an inhibitor of the arthropod nervous system...
Simparica (sarolaner) ...Sarolaner, is an acaricide and insecticide. Sarolaner inhibits the function of the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and works at the neuromuscular junction in insects. This results in uncontrolled neuromuscular activity leading to death in insects or acarines (so, basically seizures)
So, these chewable drugs work by destroying the insects’ nervous systems. Check out these screen grabs of the actual Fact Sheets included in every box of these chemical pesticides:
If it’s deadly for fleas and ticks, how might it affect your dog? Remember … these drugs stay in your dog’s bloodstream for extended periods of time. That means … once your dog takes one of these drugs, if they has any side effects, you can’t remove the drug from their body. What’s done is done basically!
What Flea and Tick Medication Adverse Drug Event Reports Say
An article published on 2 June 2020 in the Wiley Public Access Library of Veterinary Medicine and Science was titled:
Survey of Canine Use and Safety of Isoxazoline Parasiticides
It's terrifying and a heavy read. Here is a link if you want to have a look for yourself:
The summary is as follows:
A veterinarian and pet owner survey (named Project Jake) examined the use and safety of isoxazoline parasiticides given to dogs. Data were received during August 1–31, 2018 from a total of 2,751 survey responses. Forty-two percent (1,157) reported no flea treatment or adverse events (AE), while 58% (1594) had been treated with some parasiticide for flea control, and of those that received a parasiticide, the majority, or 83% (1,325), received an isooxazoline. When any flea treatment was given, AE (Adverse Reaction) were reported for 66.6% of respondents, with no apparent AE (Adverse Reaction) noted for 36.1%.
So, the cut to the chase here, 1594 dogs received one of the three chewable flea and tick meds. 66.6% reported Adverse reactions - that is 1061 of those test subject dogs had a reaction ranging from mild like vomiting, to severe including seizures and long term re-occurring health issues.
More alarmingly, this report highlights data from the FDA and EMA from January 2013 to September 2017 - about a five year period:
Over all 71,512 dogs were clinically reported to suffer serious adverse reactions - 6357 of these were death completely attributed to these three drugs. The vast majority of reactions recored were seizures, shaking and tremors. a total of 10,223 dogs.
These figures alarm me and, for obvious reasons anyone who actually finds out these unacceptable numbers. Or anyone who loves dogs. The manufacturers most certainly do not want to publicise these figures, and yet it's written in all of their leaflets included in every box!!
Imagine if these horrifying numbers were human reported and attributed reactions to a prescribed drug? (And you do not even need a prescription to obtain these - you can pick them up at your local pet shop). There would be a massive outcry! Why is it acceptable that drugs that are known to cause death are prescribed (or available over the counter) to our beloved dogs - our family members??
People speak to each other in chat groups via Social Media
Dog owners often ask me, “What is the safest flea and tick prevention for dogs?” Well, in my opinion (and thousands and thousands of others) it’s not these chewable drugs! Here I must add in the disclaimer: Your Dog = Your Choice. Facebook is another source of information about the side effects of these chewable drugs that many people turn to for advice.
These group pages contain thousands of horrendous stories from dog owners who believe their dogs have been harmed by these pest preventatives. Some of these groups have tens of thousands of members … so the risks must be there is there are that many people sharing awful stories of their own animals health decline or in some (many) cases even death.
If you are interested have a look at these Facebook Groups:
The FDA has also issued Fact Sheet about “potential adverse events associated with Isoxaline Flea and Tick Product. The FDA specifically warns that “Isoxazoline products have been associated with neurological adverse reactions, including muscle tremors, ataxia, and seizures in some dogs and cats.“
All Natural Flea Control for Dogs
Thankfully there are ways to treat for fleas so you can avoid harmful pest preventives for your dog. There are lots of home remedies for all natural flea control for dogs, natural, safe options that do work - and trust me our household have tried and tested everything listed here thanks to Chica: The-Bush-Rat-Killer!
Are they Fleas or something else? (not so fun Flea Facts)
An adult female flea can lay up to 5000 eggs laid in her lifetime (OMG)
Flea eggs are laid on your pet, and then drop off into their environment, so most eggs, larvae and pupae are found in your pet’s bedding or favorite resting spots.
Flea eggs and larvae like dark, cool areas, so carpets, under furnishings, cracks between floorboards, underneath the house, and the garage or garden shed are prime real estate.
In ideal weather conditions, the flea’s whole life-cycle (female flea – egg – larva – pupa – adult flea) can occur in as little as three weeks (again OMG)
Approximately 95-99% of the flea population in your home resides OFF your pet. Treating flea ‘hot-spots’ with a safe, effective environmental control product makes more sense than simply relying on a chemical product applied to your pet.
The flea’s entire life cycle can be as long as several months … so you’ll need to repeat these steps to make sure the flea infestation is completely gone.
Step One: Retake your home from a flea infestation
Steam-clean your carpets and rugs, the heat will kill the eggs
Vacuum regularly – at least weekly, daily if possible. Your vacuum is one of your best weapons, effective at sucking up and killing flea eggs, larvae, pupae and adults without any additional measures.
Minimize soft furnishings and limit your pet’s access to carpets, rugs, the couch and other textiles.
Place rugs, doormats and pet bedding in the sun every day. The sun dries out flea eggs and larvae and the UV rays are a natural germ and bacteria killer.
Wash pet’s bedding twice weekly in hot water then hang in the hot sun to dry.
Keep outdoor areas swept clean and free of debris.
Keep grass cut short, as flea eggs and larvae don’t like heat or sun.
Block off access to any areas underneath your house or deck, the garage or the shed, as the damp, cool climate is prime flea real estate.
Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around any shady areas of the garden or spots where your pet likes to lie (we go into hat this is and where you can get it next).
(Needless to say we now have a spotless house!)
Step Two: Topical Natural Flea Remedies for Dogs
Skin and Coat Sprays for Dogs
Apple cider vinegar’s slightly acidic pH level creates an inhospitable environment for fleas. Mix six cups of ACV with four cups of water (use a 6:4 ratio), add a pinch of salt, and spray the mixture on your dog’s coat and underbelly, making sure to avoid their eyes and any wounds they may have. Initially I used this mix as a final rinse after a shampooing - do not wash it off just allow your dog to drip dry. (I went for the ‘bomb from the sky scorched earth theory lol!)
Flea Comb for Dogs
An affordable and practical solution, a flea comb is a must-have for pet parents looking for a natural flea-killer. They come in various sizes, but all have closely spaced teeth that remove both eggs and fleas from the dog’s coat. (Be sure to dip the comb in soapy water after each pass to kill the eggs and adults the comb picks up.) This is a great first step in your war on these pests. Here’s a link to the ones we bought from Amazon for less that $10:
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth Powder
Is a natural powder made of fossilised remains of single-celled algae known as Diatoms. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (or DE) is a type of rock that has been ground down so finely it actually looks like powder. When this rock is in this powdery form, although it’s safe for humans and pets, it’s deadly to insects including fleas and ticks. Essentially the powder will stick to the insects body and because it is so fine and sharp (almost glass like at a microscopic level), it actually cuts and pierces the insects (and their larvae) protective structures causing them to dehydrate and die (I say whoooohoo to this bit!)
You can buy DE at most holistic dog supply stores, health stores, here’a link to the one we used:
To use simply dust it all over the dogs body avoiding the eyes - simply rub it really well into their coat every couple of days. Warning... Wear a mask if you are dosing multiple dogs as it can cause coughing although it’s completely harmless to breath in.
Essential Oils for Dogs
I know nothing about essential oils other than some can be toxic and dangerous. I opted out on this much written about topic as all the information I could find was conflicting and confusing. Unless you are working with a qualified homeopathic vet trained in Essential Oil medication I'd advise against his option!
Step Three: Retake your Garden
Diatomaceous Earth (my new best friend!)
As well as rubbing all over your dog a couple of times a week you can lightly sprinkle it all around the areas that your dog lies on outside, and in and around all the shaded cooler areas - fleas do not like direct sunlight so there’s no real need to do the spots that get full sun. Make sure you cover any areas of dry earth, in and under their kennels or favourite sleeping spots.
Garlic Garden Spray
Fleas don’t like garlic, so it’s a natural flea repellent that’s safe to use in the yard and with your pets.
Garlic Water For Your Outside Areas
What you need:
8-10 entire bulbs (heads) of roughly chopped garlic (there’s no need to peel it for this recipe)
2 Litres of almost boiling water
Place the garlic in an extra large saucepan or pot and pour the water over it
Cover and let the mixture steep for 12 hours
Pour through a strainer into a garden sprayer
Lightly spray the garden area as discussed above.
(if per chance your neighbour is actually a vampire they’ll move out!!)
Step Four: Attack from the Inside Out
You can use small amounts of garlic as an internal flea repellent. So, how much garlic should you give your dog?Using a level measuring spoon, feed the following amount per day, according to your dog’s weight:
2.5kg: 1/6 tsp
7kg: 1/2 tsp
10kg: 2/3 tsp
15kg: 1 tsp
20kg: 1.5 tsp
Use only freshly chopped garlic. Here’s how to prepare the garlic to activate allicin, the active medicinal ingredient in garlic.
Peel the cloves then mince, chop or crush your fresh garlic and let it sit a couple of minutes before use. Allicin degrades quickly, so use the garlic immediately after the “sitting” period for maximum benefit. Measure and chop up your garlic and set a timer for 10 minutes. Measure out the right amount of garlic for your dog’s body weight and mix it into their food.
Feed Apple Cider Vinegar
Fleas don’t like a dog who’s pH balanced. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) creates a more acidic environment on your dog’s skin and in their gut. Feed your dog 1/4 teaspoon of ACV per day per 5kg of bodyweight. ACV contains important nutrients, vitamins, minerals, vital acids and potassium.
Dog Nutrition To Help Prevent Fleas
This last recommendation is probably the most important of all. Good diet is the foundation of good health. Keep your dog glowing with health by feeding them a diet full of fresh whole foods and unprocessed proteins.
In particular, supply them with:
B vitamins (found in most meats, organ meats, oily fish and eggs)
Probiotics (like fermented vegetables)
Sulfur-rich foods (eggs, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts)
Omega-6 fatty acids (poultry, eggs, flaxseed, and hempseed)
Omega-3 fatty acids (mackerel, freshly ground hemp and flaxseed).
Success! All Natural Flea Control for Dogs Works! (slowly)
It has taken quite a bit of effort, but the alternative pesticide poisons were never an option in our house! Be FLEA FREEEEE my beautiful doggos!!
Dedicated to Chica the silent but deadliest member of Pack Jimenez