The polar vortex that encompassed the East, extreme drought in the West and changing climatic conditions throughout the world, means the possibility of facing another bad year for flea and tick infestations.
Many customers are turning to their local retailer to find natural solutions to this pesky problem.
Depending on the species, insects can detect potential hosts through a variety of methods. Some pests rely on “tasting” the host; others locate their victims through a combination of odor, air movement, moisture levels and temperature. For example, the olfactory system on fleas consists of sensitive chemoreceptors on their legs. If the highly attuned receptors detect anything other than what it has been programmed to identify, the flea will reject a host.
“I prefer natural botanicals over pesticides for treating fleas and ticks, and there are a number of good natural products that work without harsh side effects,” Nancy Scanlan, DVM, executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and past president of the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association, said. “Herbal flea and tick products tend to be safer than pharmaceutical or pesticide flea and tick products, but all products that are formulated to rid pets of fleas and ticks pose some percentage of risk.”
This has prompted many manufacturers of natural pest control to release full disclosures on their websites. One such disclosure can be found at Ark Naturals on their Flea Flicker! Tick Kicker!, a natural, botanical alternative to chemical pesticides.
“The pet’s guardian should always process the overall health and or age of their dog or cat,” Susan Weiss, CEO of Ark Naturals, said. “Both issues factor into the safety of using our product, as well as any other type of product in the flea and tick category. Remember, at the end of the day, you are your pet’s guardian. Your four-legged guys are counting on you to make the best decision.”
Wondercide is a relatively new addition to flea and tick, and brings an entire line of products to the industry that allows an owner to safely treat everything from their yard to their pets.
Stephanie Boone founded Wondercide in 2008 when her dog, Luna, became deathly ill from pesticide poisoning.
“Wondercide products, like Evolv, are completely safe to use around your home, children and pets,” Boone said. “As a Green America Gold-Certified Green Business, Wondercide is dedicated to ecological, ethical and social standards that make the world a healthier place.”
The manufacturer reports that Evolv is free of harmful chemicals, 100 percent biodegradable, made from human-food-grade ingredients, organic cedar oil and hydrated silica, and is safe for children, puppies, kittens, nursing mothers and the environment. It kills insects on contact, while dissolving eggs and larvae for the elimination of the next flea life cycle.
Other companies are also demonstrating their innovation with natural pesticides. Pet Naturals of Vermont has developed two flea and tick solutions that are made from natural Brazilian oils. Flea + Tick for dogs uses a proprietary formula of lemongrass, cinnamon, sesame and castor oils to repel pesky insects from our pets.
Cats are a little trickier to treat and special care must be used when selecting a natural formula.
“Cats are very sensitive to any type of natural [or commercial] solution,” Dr. Adelia Ritchie, founder of DERMagic, said. “We strongly recommend using our gentle Flea Dust, which immediately kills insects, but is completely safe for all animals, including cats and even fish or birds. It is made from certified organic, food-grade diatomaceous earth, which kills fleas and lice by dehydration, not poison.”
DERMagic also offers a new Flea Bar for dogs, which kills fleas and lice while leaving your pet’s coat shiny and healthy.
EarthHeart, Inc. is another popular addition to the market that utilizes a natural blend of neem seed oil with citronella, fir, geranium, rosewood, basil and myrrh essential oils. Made in the USA, their products utilize BPA-free, recyclable containers to continue their earth-first philosophy.
“Outdoor pests can cause a variety of dangerous illnesses and problems, making protection a vital part of your family’s care,” Vicki Rae Thorne, owner of Earth Heart and creator of Buzz Guard outdoor spray, said. “Insect repellents work by masking the human scent or mimicking a scent that insects typically avoid, and are helpful in preventing and controlling insect-borne diseases, such as malaria, West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Neem seed oil at just 1 or 2 percent of the total product is an effective insect repellent. Many essential oils, including citronella, rose geranium, myrrh and the mint family, are also known to have insect-repelling properties and can mask the strong [and] somewhat disagreeable scent of neem seed oil.”
Made from a blend of cedarwood, lemongrass, palo santo, eucalyptus and geranium essential oils, NatuRepel from A Balanced K9 is another all-natural tick, flea, mosquito and gnat repellent that is designed for dogs.
“NatuRepel is a great alternative to topical spot treatments because it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals or unnatural ingredients,” Paula Prickett, CSMT, Dip C.N. and founder of A Balanced K9, said. “It is safe, effective, and gives you the peace of mind that you aren’t using anything that may jeopardize the health of your furry best friend.”
Natural Chemistry’s Natural Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs contains natural botanical ingredients that work synergistically with one another to provide effective and natural flea protection. Natural Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs has been proven to provide a residual effect for up to 7 days and is also effective on black flies and mosquitoes, according to the company.
Aroma Paws All Natural Repellant Shampoo and Conditioner in One uses peppermint, eucaluptus, lemongrass, clove and peppermint oils to prevent against bug bites, as well as tea tree oil to serve as an all-natural antibacterial to soothe areas already bitten. Lavender, sweet almond and coconut oils relieve dryness and act as a natural conditioner for detangling hair, while the green leaf extract leaves the coat shiny and healthy. Their products contain no DEA, TEA, SLS, sulfates, parabens or animal by-products.
Other soothing products include Organic Oscar’s Holistic Bite & Itch Relief Shampoo, which contains peppermint to soothe itchy skin while repelling insects. Bobbi Panter Pet Products’ Charlie Dog Flea & Tick Shampoo uses natural essential oils to repel fleas, ticks, lice and mosquitoes.
The Tick Key is another must-have item for veterinarians, pet-friendly boutiques, and pet owners when it comes to removing a tick.
“The tear-drop shape is the most unique part of our product,” Donna LaFountain, founder of Tick Key, said. “It’s large enough that when you move over the tick, you don’t touch it. If you don’t remove a tick properly, the tick will become traumatized and expel its stomach contents into the host. With our product, you don’t traumatize the tick.” The high-strength anodized aluminum key is available in seven bright colors and easily stored on key rings or lanyards, and can be private-labeled with rescue or store information.
But if a pet does happen to get bit, there are plenty of products on the market to soothe it. Ark Naturals has released a neem-based spray called Protect. Neem Protect Spray is an environmentally friendly, nondrying formula that soothes skin irritations caused by pests.
“The lavender aroma of Epi-Pet’s Skin Enrichment Spray provides a calming, therapeutic effect on hyperactive pets while providing six natural insect-repelling properties,” Dr. Michael Fleck, owner of Epi-Pet, said. “The cedar mint scent also has six natural insect-repelling properties, while the unscented skin spray offers relief from skin irritations without the essential oils. It also helps aid in hairball reduction in felines when used daily.”