I stopped dosing my pets with chemical flea medication years ago; the awareness of the dangers happened gradually. A study here, an anecdote there. The fact that these products are marketed as “medication?” Let’s call them what they really are: pesticides and poisons that are putting our pets — and us — at risk.
What really solidified it for me were the questions I found while completing the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ Golden Retriever Health Survey after Haley was diagnosed with cancer. There are several questions that asked about the frequency of “drop on” flea/tick prevention in relation to cancer, specifically hemangiosarcoma (which took Haley) and lymphoma (which took my Charlie in 2010).
The flea dilemma came to the forefront after Haley came back from her four-day stay at the emergency vet with fleas. I had been a bit lax with the natural flea remedies I had been using because, well, my dogs and cats didn’t have any. But as Dr. Karen Becker, a popular leading integrative vet, states in her article, “These Natural Flea-Busters Help Your Pet Enjoy Summer More,” since “parasites are drawn to the weakest of the species” and Haley’s system was compromised, it became an issue.
But, what’s so bad about chemical flea meds?
As Will Falconer, DVM, one of my favorite natural vets puts it, the label “…says it’s OK to put on Spot’s skin, but not OK to get it on mine. Hmmm, and I shouldn’t eat, drink, smoke, or scratch myself while applying this?” And in her free downloadable book, “Finally Flea Free Forever,” Christina Chambreau, DVM states, “Remember that anything put on your pet can be absorbed into its body.” The other problem with pesticides is that they target the adult fleas, but do not do anything else for the eggs, which are actually the root of the problem.
And it’s bad enough for pets (and people) to be on the radar of the NRDC:
Many Americans believe that commercially available pesticides, such as those found in pet products, are tightly regulated by the government. In fact, they are not. …the poisons in many of these products are not safe, either for pets or humans.
But even with the limited government testing, the findings are alarming. According to “Keeping Your Dog Flea Free,” the effects of active and inert ingredients in flea control medications which accumulate in the tissues and persist in the environment for years can include this list of dangers:
Thankfully, the natural alternatives are plentiful and effective. Here’s my natural protocol.
The Natural Flea Control Plan
- FleaGo on carpets and upholstery – boric acid based crystals, $24.99
- Wondercide’s Flea and Tick for Pets + Home on the pets – it has just two ingredients: organic cedarwood oil and hydrated silica, $24.99
- Herbal Internal Flea Powder formulated by Dr. Bob Goldstein – all-natural ingredients are added to the pet’s meals: alfalfa powder, garlic powder, blue-green algae, kelp powder, papaya leaf, nettles leaf, hawthorne berry powder, $26.99
- No More Flea Drops – ingredients are garlic, wormwood, yellow dock, alfalfa, nettles and kelp; add to pet’s meals twice a day, $25.99
- Use a flea comb every day. I prefer the grip type, rather than the handheld comb. Have a small dish of soapy water ready; if you find a flea, drop it in and it will expire quickly, which is pretty satisfying.
- Bathe your pets with a non-medicated, natural shampoo. Shampoo and water will kill the fleas. Let shampoo sit for 10 minutes.
- Launder all pet bedding weekly in warm water.
- Vacuum every day.
Other solutions from the experts
- Feed a raw diet to ensure optimal health. Haley’s diet can be found here.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in the house and yard. Let sit for 12 hours then vacuum (if using indoors).
- Make a flea trap: at night, put bowls of soapy water with a light shining on them.
- Dr. Chambreau recommends nutritional yeast; 1 tsp. for a cat or small dog and up to 3 tbsp. for a big dog.
- Dr. Don Hamilton, a homeopathic vet, recommends brewer’s yeast.
- Dr. Becker recommends regular exercise and avoiding over-vaccination. If you are using conventional flea products, supplement with milk thistle and/or chlorella to help detox the liver.
- Put nematodes in the yard. They “hunt down fleas in the pre-adult, pupae, and larval stages of their growth, which account for 95 percent of the flea population,” according to Mother Earth News.