In my last blog, I discussed the topic of holistic pet care. If you missed it, you can read it HERE.
Many people who subscribe to the “old school” idea of pet care scoff at the idea of holistic care as too “woo-woo."
But the truth is that the idea of creating and maintaining optimal health has always been the gold standard of care.
I mean, didn’t your grandmother always say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Of course!
Now that tick season is in full swing, I wanted to let you know some natural ways you can protect your animals from those blood sucking pests.
“But Diane! Why would I want to use ‘natural products’ rather than the tried and true flea and tick drops? My vet recommends them. And besides, isn’t ‘natural’ just another word for ‘less effective’?
If you have these same questions, you’re in good company! Let’s unpack this bit by bit.
The Truth About Flea and Tick Topicals
Flea and tick chemicals like those found in popular topicals like Frontline and Hartz are still prescribed as a monthly preventative by many vets, in spite of the fact that…
…products containing isoxazoline, one of the main ingredients in these products, has been flagged by the FDA as causing:
If that’s not enough to make you wary, listen to this:
Isoxazoline is effective at killing ticks because it attacks the insect’s nervous system. As it turns out, these chemicals are neurotoxic to dogs and cats, too.
And at the risk of sounding like a bad infomercial, that’s not all!
When you wash your pet, the water becomes contaminated with these chemicals, winding up in our municipal wastewater, eventually putting aquatic organisms at risk as the chemicals flow downstream when the wastewater is discharged.
It’s clear that using these chemicals isn’t ideal. How can we keep our animals safe from ticks?
Natural Tick Prevention
Walking your pup outside is one of life’s great pleasures! It’s good for you, it strengthens the bonds between you, it’s mentally stimulating for your dog, and it does your spirits good to be out in nature.
But that’s where those sneaky ticks lie thirstily waiting.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent ticks from viewing your dog as their next meal ticket.
Prevent ticks by pumping up the immune system.
In keeping with the holistic approach, a dog or cat with a healthy immune system is much better at fighting off parasite infestations. The healthier the animal, the fewer parasites they have.
Try these approaches to strengthening your pet’s immune system:
💉 Check your pet’s titers before okaying the next vaccine.
The next time your pet is due for a vaccine, before giving an automatic yes, ask your vet to do a blood test to check for antibodies to see if the previous vaccine is still providing protection. Over-vaccination can actually cause harm.
🍄 Begin a mushroom supplement.
Mushrooms are excellent immunity boosters because they stimulate cytokine production, your pet’s natural defense against free radicals. Mushrooms also decrease overall inflammation, the root cause of many diseases.
I feed my own dogs Immune/Mushroom Blend from Sustenance Herbs. It’s a blend of 14 organic mushrooms that promote normal blood values, enhance cellular health, and reduce oxidative stress. Sustenance Herbs is a small company located in Maine. Committed to sustainable sourcing, they use only certified organic, ethically wild-harvested herbs and superfoods.
🌿 Add immune boosting herbs.
Also from Sustenance Herbs is a blend of organic adaptogens that help your pet’s body manage all body stressors. These herbs help support the body systems for healthy structure and function. When your pet’s body is in balance and has a strong defense, it’s better able to fight off all potential invaders, including fleas and ticks.
🧪 Minimize household toxins and chemical exposure.
Household toxins and chemicals are toxic to pets and can not only make them ill, but prolonged exposure can compromise their immune systems. Try using natural products to replace:
Ice melting products
👀 Be vigilant!
Having a strong immune system isn’t a guarantee that your pet will never get a tick, so it’s important to regularly inspect your pet’s fur. Always inspect the fur and skin after any time outdoors and use a flea comb regularly to be sure there aren’t any stowaways.
Natural Pest Deterrent
Ticks HATE certain smells! Instead of using chemical deterrents, keep ticks at bay with these natural solutions. Mix and store in the refrigerator. Spritz all over the body taking care not to spray the face before going outside.
8 oz. water
4 oz. organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
20 drops neem oil
If you live in a particularly tick prone area, add five drops of lemon, lemongrass, eucalyptus, or geranium essential oil.
8 oz. water
4 oz. organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
10 drops neem oil
10 drops catnip oil
Bor-L-Immune to Help Prevent Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called a spirochete. They corkscrew their way into the skin to infiltrate tissues where they colonize. The body has natural immune defenses, but the tick’s saliva neutralizes that response, allowing the tick to thrive.
Bor-L-Immune boosts those natural defenses, limiting the effectiveness of the tick’s bite.
For use with dogs and horses, I recommend using Sustenance Herbs’ Bor-L-Immune during tick season.
Now that you’ve got your pet’s immune system running like a well-fed (species specific, high-quality, of course) tail wagging/purring machine, what should you do if you see an unwanted tagalong?
Removing Ticks Safely
You’ve boosted your pet’s immune system.
You’ve spritzed them with repellent and kept vigilant.
And one day, you spot one of those nasty critters.
Before you try to remove it, follow these tips to ensure that you get the entire tick off your pet:
DON’T try to remove it with your fingers! Don’t expose yourself to infection.
Use fine point tweezers or a tick removal hook. Most tweezers have blunt tips. That won’t do for tick removal because the tick may tear, leaving its mouth behind. 🤢
Grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can without pinching the animal.
Gently pull straight up in a slow, steady motion.
Wash your hands.
Clean the bite sight with rubbing alcohol.
Disinfect the tweezers.
Continue to do all the preventative measures you can as I’ve described, but if you live in a particularly infested area, you may have to resort to using a chemical flea and tick product.
If so, I recommend alternating the chemical protocol with the natural methods. That way, you’re reducing the chemical exposure to every other month as you rotate in natural deterrents.
It’s no fun to talk about, but Lyme disease and tick infestation can be tragic for your animal companion.
By staying on top of your inspections and using natural deterrents regularly and keeping your pet’s immune system strong, you and your pet can happily venture into the great outdoors without worry.