Along with the arrival of longer days and warm weather comes one of the most dreaded times for some dogs and cats, and their owners. I’m talking about flea and tick season.
One of the biggest surprises to pet owners is when they find only one or two fleas on an insanely itchy pet. How can so few fleas cause so much misery?
Surprisingly, a cat or dog can feel itchy all over and miserable after exposure to a single flea – and those feelings can last for weeks, long after the flea is gone. Your pet doesn’t even need to be bitten by the flea.
You see, it’s not the bite that makes your dog or cat itchy. It’s the saliva from fleas that can trigger a condition making him hypersensitive to fleas. This hypersensitive response tends to repeat itself with future flea encounters, and can even lead to secondary disorders.
How can you tell if your pet has a flea bite hypersensitivity? The signs are pretty obvious – frequent or continual itching and scratching, hair loss and the development of hot spots.
Sensitivity symptoms tend to worsen with age, and they can lead to behavioral changes that include restlessness, anxiety, irritation or nervousness.
When fleas do bite, they can cause skin irritation and allergies. With their specially-developed mouths, ticks can remain embedded in their hosts’ skin for days. Because a tick’s saliva contains anesthetics, your pet may not even feel the bite and know the flea is there.
Here’s an even bigger issue with fleas and ticks – they’re far more than just an itchy nuisance. They can carry potentially harmful bacteria and viruses, and transmit them to your pet.
In fact, fleas were responsible for the spread of the bubonic plague that wiped out one-third of Europe in the 14th century. Plus, fleas can serve as an intermediate host for tapeworm and pass it along to your pet.
Once thought to be found only in certain areas of the country, ticks are now widespread throughout the US. They can latch on and feed on your pet’s blood, and have the potential to transmit serious diseases, like Lyme disease.
Avoid These Potentially Lethal Flea and Tick Strategies
The best solution is to avoid contact with these pesky critters in the first place and not allow them to land on your pet’s body. But how do you do that if you live in a flea- or tick-infested region, as many of us do?
First, let me tell you what I advise not to do.
The go-to solution for fleas and ticks recommended by many conventional veterinarians includes flea and tick collars as well as spot-on products.
Unfortunately, with each ‘next generation’ of flea and tick products, one thing is apparent. Manufacturers are using more and more chemicals – and many of them are toxic to dogs and even lethal to cats.
Flea and tick collars alone, there have been more than 75,000 incident reports over the last nine years with the top-selling collar for cats and dogs. These numbers include 1,698 deaths of animals and nearly 1,000 incidents harmful to humans.
Many of the side effects are seen in dogs weighing between 10 and 20 pounds. The most affected small breeds include Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, Miniature Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds and Bichon Frise.
Cats are also often affected. Products that contain questionable ingredients carry prominent warnings against their use on cats, as accidental use on cats have resulted in a high rate of serious reactions and deaths. Cats can be adversely affected simply through exposure to a treated dog.
Despite pleas for its discontinued use, this product is still available for sale – and remains the most popular flea collar with 25 million sold to date. Even with that many incidents of adverse effects, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refuses to take action against the product.
Their reasoning? Only a fraction of the collars sold have caused ill effects. But what if it was your pet or family member that was harmed – or died?
Clearly, the well-being and safety of your pet lies in your hands. If something poses a threat to your pet’s health, don’t expect any governing agency to warn you about it or take steps to protect your pet. It’s up to you.
So, what makes these products so potentially harmful? Let’s take a closer look at some of the chemicals in flea and tick collars and spot-on products, as they often use similar ingredients.
My ‘Red Flag’ List of Flea and Tick Ingredients
Unlike other collars, the top-selling collar with more than 75,000 incident reports contains two pesticides – imidacloprid and flumethrin. While the synergy between the two chemicals might make it more effective, it also dramatically increases its potential for toxicity.
The following list of chemicals, found in the latest flea and tick collars, as well as spot-on products, are particularly concerning:
- Imidacloprid – This chemical is a neonicotinoid insecticide, the class of chemicals believed responsible for the massive die-offs of bees, butterflies and songbirds. In the European Union, imidacloprid is allowed in pet collars but banned for outdoor use.
- Flumethrin – A member of the pyrethrum family of chemicals, which includes permethrin and pyrethroid, pyrethrum-based products are the most common type of flea control products available today.
- Isoxazoline – The Food Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning that this chemical insecticide could potentially cause neurological adverse events, such as muscle tremors, seizures and loss of muscle control in dogs and cats.
- Fipronil – This chemical acts by disrupting the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Clinical signs of toxicity include itching, sores, skin irritation, hair loss, lethargy and vomiting. When applied, it turns into a metabolite that is 20 times more toxic. Family members cuddling with the pet can absorb the chemical as well. The US EPA has classified fipronil as a “Group C – Possible Human Carcinogen.”
- Permethrin – This commonly used insecticide is a central nervous system poison and can cause neurotoxic symptoms even if derived from natural chrysanthemums. An endocrine disruptor, it is toxic to the liver, thyroid, pancreas and reproductive system. Symptoms of toxicity include incontinence, tremors, paralysis, nerve damage, difficulty breathing, paralysis, coma and death.
- Pyrethrin – This neurotoxic pesticide has been known to cause vomiting, seizures, skin reactions and death. Cats are often sensitive to this chemical – natural or synthetic – so it shouldn’t be applied to cats or any dog that comes into contact with a cat or has a predisposed sensitivity condition.
Here’s the question you need to ask yourself... Do you really want to expose your pet to these pesticides 24/7 for months on end?
What’s more, using products with these chemicals places your well-being at risk, too. The chemicals get on your hands when you bathe or simply pet your dog or cat, as well as your clothing and bedding.
These product ingredients are having a negative impact on the environment, too. A recent study has found that fipronil and imidacloprid are poisoning rivers across England, and the fish, birds and water insects that depend on them.
Because the highest levels of the chemicals have been detected downstream from water treatment plants, researchers believe urban use, including the bathing of pets, is the most likely source of the contamination.
So, what are my recommendations for keeping your pet comfortable and protected against biting insects – without creating harm to you, your pet or the environment?
Step 1: Create an Unwelcome Territory for Pests
Making your pet’s environment an unwelcome territory for pests is the first – and most important – step.
If your pet appears itchy or is licking and biting, there’s a good chance fleas are responsible. Remember, upon inspection, you may only find one or two, and that’s if you’re lucky. Fleas hop around quickly and are masters at hiding.
There are more than 300 types of fleas found in the U.S., but the cat flea is the most common threat to your dog or cat. Fleas feed on any warm-blooded body, but they prefer hairy animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents, skunks, opossums and raccoons.
Once a flea hatches and grows to adult size, it jumps onto a host. After attaching to its host, the flea will feed on its host’s blood, mate and lay eggs, which easily fall off onto bedding, carpeting, blankets or the ground.
Fleas can reproduce very quickly and produce 400 to 500 offspring in their lifetime. This makes flea infestations challenging to control.
To minimize fleas, you want to make your indoor and outdoor environments as pest-unfriendly as possible. Wash bedding and pet beds often, especially during flea and tick season.
Now that you have treated his environment, let’s take a look at what else you can do to help your cat or dog feel comfortable enough to enjoy the best time of the year...
Step 2: Inspect Your Pet and Remove Any Ticks
Especially if you live in a tick-infested region, develop the habit of checking your pet’s coat and skin thoroughly each evening.
Ticks tend to live in wooded areas, bushes, undergrowth, meadows and clearings. Because ticks are now widespread, they can thrive anywhere there is grass or brush.
Some ticks are so tiny they can be difficult to see – and remove. They attach and embed themselves to their host in areas where the skin is thin, inserting their rostrums – tube-like structures covered with backward-pointing spikes – and secreting saliva to help them anchor tightly to your dog or cat.
Because of the unique way they attach themselves, it is critically important to remove them properly.
If you try to remove a tick by squeezing it and pulling it out, this could cause the tick to secrete more saliva and pieces of the tick's rostrum could remain embedded in your pet's skin. So, how do you safely remove ticks?
The Tick Stick is one of the best tools I've found and recommend as part of my pest repellent system. This tool allows you to hold the tick without compressing it and remove it by using a twisting, rather than a pulling motion that can ‘lock’ the tick in place.
The twisting motion of the Tick Stick works with the tick's rostrum structure. As you twist, the spikes bend into the axis of rotation, making the tick easier to remove.
Here’s a short video showing how easy it is to remove ticks with the Tick Stick.
Step 3: Repel Pests With Natural ‘Pet-Friendly” Oils
To understand how to best prevent these pests from attacking your dog or cat, we need to look at how they recognize and find their victims.
Fleas and ticks have several mechanisms they use to detect their hosts. Odor, or olfaction, is the most common one.
Fleas and ticks have olfactory systems consisting of about 20 sensilla located on their first pair of legs. This odor detection system is narrowly tuned to specific scents, which allows them to sense and hone in on their intended target or host.
Many of the flea and tick repellents on the market work by masking the specific odors on your pet that pests are searching for. Effective formulas prevent fleas and ticks from smelling, tasting or otherwise identifying the host they're seeking.
The good news is, some herbal repellents work just as well, if not better, than the harsh chemically-laden formulas by using these same masking methods.
Our flagship pet pest repellent product, Flea & Tick Defense, is based on a formula created in the Amazon rainforest where fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are a way of life.
The indigenous Brazilian people living in the rainforest have always dealt with pests in their environment. The lush forests and tropical climate are perfect breeding grounds for fleas, ticks and mosquitos, and the window-less dwellings do little to keep pests out.
For centuries, the people have used a uniquely effective method to protect themselves from these pests – a combination of oils from their native surroundings.
We’ve used the same pest-repellent oils to formulate Flea & Tick Defense – a special blend of “pet-friendly” natural Brazilian oils, based on centuries of successful use in one of the most hostile, pest-ridden environments imaginable.
If this blend works in the Amazon rainforest, imagine how well it will deter fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and even flies where you live.
The Secret Behind Flea & Tick Defense’s Fighting Power
How can natural oils work so effectively to repel fleas, ticks, mosquitos and more?
Safe for use on both cats and dogs, here are the oils and ingredients that make up Flea & Tick Defense:
- Lemongrass oil – Pleasant smelling to humans and pets, the scent of lemongrass is repugnant to fleas. Two major ingredients in lemongrass, citral and geraniol, act as natural repellents against fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. When used in a spray for pets, this oil promotes a shiny, healthy coat.
- Cinnamon oil – A versatile essential oil widely used in the household and for outdoors, it contains a natural chemical called eugenol that is fast-acting against ticks and effectively repels mosquitoes, fleas and other pests.
- Sesame oil – A rich, almost odorless oil derived from sesame seeds, sesame oil contains what’s known as alarm pheromones which signal “danger” to insects and helps keep them away. The oil also promotes the health of your pet's skin and coat.
- Castor oil – Castor oil contains esters that interfere with the pests’ ability to locate their hosts. When combined with other oils, it helps repel a variety of pests and provides soothing relief if a bug does bite.
- Purified water – We use the purest water possible to blend and properly balance our unique formula of essential oils.
While the individual ingredients each play important roles in repelling pests, the real secret behind Flea & Tick Defense’s effectiveness is the expert blending and balancing of the Brazilian oils with the purified water.
Balance is key to a safe, effective pest repellent product. If too much of any one ingredient is not blended properly in a formula, it can lead to skin irritation.
Designed for short-term use, Flea & Tick Defense must be reapplied after swimming, bathing or exposure to heavy rain.
Convenient, Continuous Protection Without Harsh Chemicals
Want effective protection against biting insects for your cat or dog, but prefer convenient, continuous coverage?
Free of harsh chemicals, the Herbal Repellent Collar uses a special blend of natural oils that allow it to work for up to four months. Along with its active ingredient, Geraniol, it contains Wintergreen and Almond Oils:
One of the safest and most effective natural alternatives for protecting pets against unwanted pests, Geraniol is derived from Geranium Oil, a sweet-rose scented essential oil from geraniums (a flower).
Safe for both cats and dogs, Geraniol acts as a repellent to keep insects away and works specifically against the flea eggs and larva.
Wintergreen Oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of the wintergreen plants, and is used to help repel insects, as well as to help relieve discomfort.
Almond Oil is used as a carrier oil for the essential oils, as it nourishes the skin and makes an excellent emollient.
Unlike other pest repellent collars, the oil blend is integrated throughout the collar – not just applied to the outside. This enhances the collar’s effectiveness and longevity, especially when it gets wet during swimming or bathing.
With three varieties available for cats and kittens, small dogs and puppies, and large dogs, the Herbal Repellent Collar is veterinarian recommended for all sized dogs four months and older, as well as cats and kittens.
I recommend replacing the collar every three to four months for maximum protection.
What Type of Protection Does Your Pet Need?
For maximum protection, Flea & Tick Defense, the Herbal Repellent Collar and the Tick Stick work best when used together as a complete pest repellent system.
But what if you need only a limited amount of protection – or somewhere in between? Every pet’s need is different, depending on where you live and the type of exposure your pet has to woods, grass and brush, as well as her sensitivity.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Low Exposure: For indoor animals, city pets or those with little exposure to tall grass, brush, woods or potentially infested environments, the Herbal Repellent Collar continually releases active ingredients to protect your pet for up to four months.
- High Exposure: For pets regularly exposed to potentially high tick- and flea-infested environments, the Herbal Repellent Collar provide optimal protection against pests. Consider adding Flea & Tick Defense, too, if needed.
- Short-Term Exposure: For excellent short-term protection, Flea & Tick Defense is an ideal choice for an occasional walk in the woods, day hike or weekend camping trip. Apply every two to three days, and reapply if your pet gets wet.
And of course, I recommend keeping the Tick Stick on hand so you can remove any ticks as quickly as possible, just in case your pet does come into contact with one.
Keep in mind, the more complete the protection you choose, the less likely your pet will attract and end up with unwanted pests and their bites.
Stock Up Now to Keep Your Pet Comfortable and Safe
It’s never too early to stock up and be prepared. Ideally, you want to be ready so you can get a head start before pests have a chance to make your pet’s life (and maybe yours, too) miserable.
For optimal protection, I recommend our suite of highly effective products for helping to keep fleas, mosquitoes and ticks away – Flea & Tick Defense, the Herbal Repellent Collar, along with the Tick Stick for any ticks your pet may have now or accidentally pick up.
Each of these products are effective on their own, and can be used separately, but complement each other and work best when used together.
Don’t let the long, warm summer days catch you – and your pet – off guard. Stock up now on the protection your pet needs to enjoy the finest days of the years.
Order your supply of Flea & Tick Defense, the Herbal Repellent Collar, and Tick Stick today.