Natural Flea Repellent
With summer just around the corner, nobody wants their dog to get fleas or ticks!
These little friends can be picked up virtually anywhere outdoors and we’d like to help you avoid the pesky intruders. It would be amazing if conventional flea and tick repellents were all-natural, single ingredient products but unfortunately, they are really just chemical pesticides.
Maybe you’re wondering if they’re really that bad since they’re prescribed from the vet…
…Ok, well let’s take a look at 3 commonly used active ingredients found in pharmaceutical flea and tick products and then you can draw your own conclusion on how you feel about their safety, or ask a holistic/alternative vet for a second opinion.
We’ve been told for a long time that flea and tick preventatives like meds, sprays and spot ons are safe for dogs. But there is more and more evidence that ingredients in these products can do more harm than good!
Dr Deva Khalsa VMD, citing the EPA’s Pesticide Division, says that fipronil enters the body and can be contained in the fat, organs, urine and feces of dogs. According to Khalsa, lab tests have shown that with long-term exposure at low doses, fipronil has still the potential to cause (from most dangerous to least) :
- nervous system and thyroid toxicity
- thyroid cancer
- altered thyroid hormone levels
- liver toxicity
- kidney damage
- barking or crying
- loss of appetite
- locomotor difficulty
- reduced fertility
- fetus mortality
- smaller offspring
- loss of hair
- moist inflammation
- chemical burn
When exposed to light, fipronil breaks down into a molecule called fipronil-desulfinyl which, according to the EPA, when altered becomes 10x more toxic than the fipronil itself. In other words, you don’t want to keep vials of fipronil products in the sun, don’t let your dog sit around in the sun after applying said products and short-haired dogs should probably avoid the sun altogether.
Products containing fipronil include : Frontline Plus, PetArmor, Sentry and FiproGuard. Please note that Fipronil is the main ingredient in Frontline and its adverse effects are well reported.
2. Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids
These two compounds, pyrethrins (naturally occurring compounds from the chrysanthemum plant) and pyrethroids (the synthetic counterpart) are just as dangerous as fipronil, if not more…
Data from The Center for Public Integrity found that from 2002-2007 at least 1,600 pet deaths from pyrethroid spot-on treatments that were reported to the EPA. That’s almost twice the number of reported deaths linked to flea and tick products without them. CPI’s data was based on an analysis of 90,000 adverse reaction reports, so that’s roughly 2%. Dr. Khalsa specifies that many deaths or just adverse reactions are not reported so the number might actually be a lot higher. Pyrethroid spot-on treatments have also accounted for more than half of the major pesticide pet reactions, including: brain damage, heart attacks and seizures.
Products containing pyrethrins and pyrethroids : permethrin, pyriproxyfen and etofenprox: BioSpot Active Spot-on, Defend EXspot Treatment, Zodiac FleaTrol Spot On and K9 Advantix II
Imidacloprid belongs to a class of chemicals called the neonicotinoids and is a systemic insecticide found in flea and tick products that acts as an insect neurotoxin, explains Khalsa. While they’re said to present lower toxicity to mammals, lab studies show that imidacloprid has been found to cause: thyroid lesions, liver toxicity and has the potential to damage the kidneys, liver, thyroid, heart, lungs, spleen, adrenal, brain and gonads. (So many vital organs!) After it was introduced in 1994, researchers also found an increase in the occurrence of birth defects while tested on rats, mice and dogs.
Products containing imidacloprid: Advantage II, Seresto Flea and Tick Collar and K9 Advantix II.
Our holistic motto is this — if your dog is healthy, it’ll attract less bugs. While that may be frustrating when you’re in the middle of dealing with a situation, it’s a good place to start when you’re not in the thick of things. Here are a few tips to avoid the problem to begin with, according to Dr Khalsa:
- Feed a raw, whole foods, species-appropriate diet. (Hey, hi!)
- Avoid chemicals, including pesticides, fertilizers and toxic cleaners.
- Minimize vaccines and pharmaceutical drugs.
- Use a natural tick repellent spritz with oregano, thyme or citronella.
- For dogs who are more at risk for fleas and ticks because of their environment (good ‘ol farm dogs) try amber collars or electromagnetic tags instead. You can also spray your dog’s underside lightly with a natural protective spray or try food-grade diatomaceous earth into your dog’s coat. Make sure to ask your holistic veterinarian about these alternatives if you aren’t sure.
Natural tick repellent DIY :
- 4 oz spray bottle
- apple cider vinegar (fill ⅓ of the bottle)
- water ( ⅔ distilled, filtered, or spring water is best)
- geranium essential oil (10 drops)
- cedarwood essential oil (5 drops)
Mix all ingredients together!
If your dog is exposed to tick-y environments often, spray him 1x a day or every other day, otherwise use as necessary.
In our opinion of course, it all really starts with a healthy dog eating what he’s supposed to be eating – a raw, species-appropriate diet. Beyond that, we hope that some of these natural solutions helped!
*Please note that PLDF does not give any medical advice, we simply suggest a natural approach prior to a conventional one. You should always check with your vet before making any decisions surrounding your pups health to help you choose what is best for you and your dog.