While brushing my dog Sammy today, I was mulling over the fact that I don’t brush either of my dogs enough, and I probably wouldn’t have been brushing Sammy if he wasn’t shedding so badly that black hair was lying in clumps all over the house every few days. But part way through being hard on myself I thought, but wait, I give them a life free of pesticides and other poisons, and the healthiest, most natural food available. That is a gift to them. What follows is what I do in this way.
Natural Flea and Tick Control
I know too many people who have developed multiple chemical sensitivities from exposure to flea bombs, and I hate to think of what the effect has been on pets. Working with a vet to find safer alternatives isn’t very successful, usually, so I have researched safer alternatives myself. (Hopefully, veterinarians will be taught more holistic practices in school as time goes on.)
I live in Lyme’s Disease central. I’ve had the disease, as has my daughter, and our dogs. Refusing to use pesticides after we became sick, I dug deep in herbalist lore to find a natural way to repel ticks. What I found is the essential oil rose geranium as an excellent tick repellent. I put just a drop or two – no more or the dog will hate it, as they are very sensitive to smell—of the oil on the dogs’ collars every week or so. It really repels the ticks. Palmerosa is in the same family as rose geranium, and a less expensive substitute. (Check with a doctor about using essential oils if anyone in the family is pregnant.)
The other trick for ticks? Keep them out of yard with carbon dioxide!
Carbon dioxide is the new trick for attracting ticks and mosquitoes. These blood-sucking bugs are drawn to the carbon dioxide—released every time we breathe--and it is thus a great lure to trap them. The carbon dioxide technique is fantastic for those living in tick havens, as it draws the ticks out of the grasses and bushes into the trap. What better thing to have to keep your yard free of ticks and mosquitoes? You will find carbon dioxide traps online and garden stores, and they can work over a ½ acre and more, depending on the size.
D-limonene—an extract of citrus peel-- kills all stages of the flea. Most pesticides can’t even claim that. I have successfully eliminated a large flea infestation in a summer house of a family member, to everyone’s astonishment! Note that d-limonene is a volatile organic chemical, if a natural one, so always use with adequate ventilation and avoid if someone in the family has asthma. Note that cats are sensitive to d-limonene.
Flea Killing Spray: Find a d-limonene product such as Citra Solve, and pour ¼ cup in a gallon of water, and wash the floor when fleas are present. Pour some of the mixture into a clean spray bottle, and spray on bedding.
Neutralize Pet Odors
There is nothing like a hot summer’s day to bring to the surface any pet odors that are lingering on carpets and dog beds. You can successfully remove almost any odor by alternating baking soda and vinegar. The baking soda will remove acid-based odors, and the vinegar, alkaline. I almost always start with baking soda, sprinkling that on carpets and dog beds, spraying lightly with water, and letting it set for as many hours as possible. Vacuum or sweep up the residue. Alternatively, put white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it directly on an area with odors, and don’t rinse. The smell of the vinegar will lift in a few hours. (Spot test the vinegar if spraying on a light fabric.) (Note that vinegar and baking soda neutralize each other, so don’t use them at the same time.)
Pet dander comes from their skin and fur, and this protein can cause allergies in many people. One way to do this is to have as few carpets as possible. Further, washing the dog beds frequently in 140F water is a help, as is vacuuming frequently with a HEPA filter. Tannic acid is frequently used to neutralize dander, and while a spray of black tea would be a good way to get tannic acid around, it is also a fabulous stain! Search the Internet for a supplier of pure tannic acid and start with a small amount dissolved in water and see how it works.
Lastly, note some safety concerns about pet chews made of animal hides. Lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium salts, and formaldehyde residues have been found in them.
Most importantly, of course, is to return to our pets the unconditional love that they give us. Even when they shed their black hair all over the house! Or make a mess on the pink carpet. Or scratch on your bedroom door at 3:00 a.m. and wake you up.