Keep your dog itch-free by taking a well-rounded holistic approach to fighting fleas and other pests.
Have you ever heard the term “integrated pest management”? It sounds rather dry and intimidating, but it’s actually a holistic strategy for dealing with the threat of insects and diseases in plants. It operates on the tenet that healthy plants are rarely targeted by pests, and takes into account the entire well-being of the plant and everything it needs for optimal growth – soil, water, light and nutrition. Any controls required are applied with minimal impact to the environment.
Of course, dogs aren’t plants. But when it comes to flea and tick control, we can draw inspiration from the integrated pest management concept. By taking a fully-rounded holistic approach that goes far beyond what is offered by conventional fl ea prevention medications, you can not only help keep pest populations down, but also ensure your dog is so healthy he won’t suffer from the few bites he might get.
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As with plants (or any other living being, for that matter), healthy dogs are far less prone to being attacked by insect pests. Fleas and ticks are much more likely to go after animals that are sick. By keeping your dog in top notch condition, you can help make him less attractive to parasites.
A varied, high quality diet rich in vitamins and minerals and free of fillers, by-products and additives is crucial. Supplements of “super greens” such as fresh wheatgrass or barley grass are good, as are blue-green algae such as spirulina and chlorella. Fresh veggies contain beneficial enzymes and vitamins, as well as chlorophyll, an excellent antioxidant. When feeding fruit and vegetables to your dog, ensure they’re thoroughly washed to eliminate pesticide residue.
Some holistic veterinarians recommend the use of garlic and brewer’s yeast to help repel fleas. Dogs also require Omega-3 fatty acids. These have anti-inflammatory properties that help combat allergies. Use a high quality fish oil.
3. Clean water
A fresh, clean source of water is also extremely important. Use pure, filtered water, and change it frequently so it stays fresh. Ensure all food and water dishes are cleaned regularly. A case may be made for using metal bowls, since they aren’t porous and are therefore less likely to trap bacteria. Use phosphate-free soap.
It is essential to give your dog regular exercise and playtime. Physical and mental stimulation are beneficial to health. Schedule time with your dog as you would with a child, and make it fun and meaningful. Ensure toys are washed regularly in hot, soapy water.
Regular grooming not only contributes to your dog’s overall health; it’s also a good way to check for signs of fleas or ticks. A clean, healthy coat and skin are also less likely to harbor these parasites. Clean grooming tools between uses.
6. Limit toxins
Avoid the use of chemicals in your home and yard. Rethink everything from toilet bowl cleaners and ant traps to air fresheners and hairspray. Toxins are everywhere and dogs can easily collect harmful residues on their coats and paws, and then ingest them when self-cleaning. Toxins can severely impact the immune system and contribute to disease.
Last but not least, always avoid over-vaccination!
Prevention — house and yard maintenance
Flea larvae are minuscule and can live in cracks in the floor, or in the fibers of rugs, blankets or upholstery.
• Regularly wash all soft fabric surfaces in hot water and phosphate-free soap, and if possible, put them in the drier on a hot setting.
• Frequently steam-clean rugs, but be careful not to use harsh cleaning products. Vacuum carpets daily and immediately dispose of the collected debris in the bag or canister. Don’t miss the dark spaces beneath couches and beds, where fl ea larvae like to hide.
• If at all possible, wall-to-wall carpeting should be replaced with hard flooring, which can be swept on a daily basis. Many flooring types can be cleaned and disinfected with a solution of warm water and vinegar.
Fleas and ticks aren’t the only pests to be found outdoors. Mosquitoes and other flying, biting or stinging insects may also cause your dog trouble.
• Fleas and ticks love tall grass, so keep your lawn mowed and free of leaf litter.
• Beneficial nematodes can help get rid of fleas in your yard.
• Practice integrated pest management on your garden: keep grass and plants healthy to discourage harmful insects.
• Eliminate sources of standing water to deter mosquitoes.
• Try attracting insect-eating birds and bats to your yard by creating safe habitations.
• Ants are voracious eaters of fl ea larvae and shouldn’t be disturbed outside. If you have problems with them in house, do not use toxic traps and sprays that could harm your dog. Research more natural alternatives. For example, ants hate fresh sliced cucumbers and will move away in a hurry.
• Make sure the house is well sealed, with caulking in window and door frames and other entry points.
While it’s true you can’t completely eradicate fleas and ticks, you can go a long way to protecting your dog with this far-reaching holistic approach. Keep him healthy, strong and active…do what you can to make your home and yard unfriendly to fleas, ticks and other pests…and avoid using toxic chemicals to combat them if they do arise.