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Canine Holistic Pest Management

Written by on October 29, 2019

Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are the most common pests when it comes to dogs. Aside from being an annoyance, these parasites put canines at risk for a variety of dangerous diseases. Many of the traditional pesticides used to control these pests can be detrimental to the health of the dogs, however, there are more natural approaches that can be just as effective. 

Many traditional pest management systems involve expensive monthly medications. The problem with using a topical or oral pesticide is that the chemicals enter the bloodstream and have to remain at levels high enough to kill pests for at least a month. Many of these pesticides have been linked to health issues and adverse reactions in dogs, including skin irritation, tremors, hyperactivity, stiffened limbs, seizures, and even death.  While there is testing done on the safety of these chemicals, the studies have only been short term, with most lasting only a few months. Many dogs are given these pesticides every month for their entire lifetime, and there have been no studies evaluating this kind of long term use. The way that these chemicals work is by poisoning the blood, meaning that the pests also have to bite the dog in order for them to work, so the irritation of the bite is not prevented and there is still an opportunity for disease to spread.

The best pest management strategy is to be proactive. Parasites are more likely to target individuals with compromised health, so the first defense is to optimize the immune system. Diet is the foundation of health, and the majority of the immune system is in the gut, so providing a biologically appropriate and nutritional diet is the first step. There are things that can be added to the diet, including garlic and foods high in b vitamins, which make the blood less attractive to parasites. It is also important to regularly look for pests. Checking a dog for fleas involves taking any dirt that is on the skin and placing it on a damp paper towel. If the dirt turns a rusty red color, it means there are fleas present. This reddish material is flea feces, called flea dirt. The best tool for checking a dog for fleas as well as removing any fleas that are present is a flea comb, which is a very fine-toothed comb. Any fleas that are combed up should be placed in soapy water, as they can jump out of plain water. Looking for ticks requires methodically checking the dog’s entire body. Ticks like to hide in crevices such as between the legs, under the collar, in the ears, around the eyes, and under the tail. Mosquitoes don’t stick around like fleas and ticks do, so it is not possible to check for them, but it is beneficial to regularly test for heartworms. One of the best defenses against fleas specifically is to regularly vacuum and wash any soft surfaces, such as dog beds. Getting rid of any standing water and debris on the property can also help to manage mosquito and tick populations. 

Beyond these preventative methods, there are things that can be done to prevent or get rid of fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Essential oils, diatomaceous earth, and natural sprays and shampoos have proven to be extremely safe and effective. Many essential oils, including lavender, lemon eucalyptus, pine, rose geranium, and cedar, have natural pest repellent properties, and there are no risks involved with their use as long as they are properly diluted and research is done as dogs are sensitive to some oils. Essential oils should not be used for cats, except in approved products, as they are particularly sensitive to many. Diatomaceous earth works by dehydrating the parasites. The benefit to this is that they cannot build up a tolerance to it like they can pesticides. It can be spread in the yard, sprinkled in the carpet or any other fabric, and worked directly into the pet’s coat. Diatomaceous earth is effective as a repellant as well as to deal with an existing problem. The only precaution to take with this product is to avoid inhalation by any people or pets. There are plenty of shampoos and sprays available that help to repel and kill pests as well. Bathing can be a very effective tool to deal with fleas, as they drown in soapy water. Many of these products contain essential oils and other natural repellants in amounts an forms that are completely safe for use on pets. One such product is Wondercide, which can be used on yards, in the home, and directly on pets. This product contains cedarwood, lemongrass, rosemary, and peppermint essential oils, along with other ingredients to effectively repel and kill pests on contact, meaning the parasite does not have to bite the dog for it to work.

Using one or a combination of these pest management methods can be just as, if not more effective than the traditional pesticides without risking the health of the dog. Traditional pest management medications can be effective, but are costly, both in terms of money and the health risks. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can be a nuisance as well as a danger to canine companions, but there are a variety of ways to combat them and successful management of these parasites can be achieved just as easily through a natural approach. 

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