Introduction to Fleas and Ticks

Fleas are such a pain! In some parts of the country, they are a horrible menace, and in others hardly a flea is around. Here in Kansas, we aren't overrun but we do get our fair share. Ticks are quite numerous here too, but again not as bad as certain areas of the country. Since I would rather keep my animals' (and my own) exposure to chemicals as small as possible, I opt to prevent fleas and ticks in a natural way. Here are some good tips for keeping those pesky critters at bay!

  1. Good nutrition. This cannot be stressed enough. Study after study has shown that fleas and ticks are not as attracted to healthy animals like they are to ill animals. Good nutrition means a natural diet of meat, bones, and vegetables. Premium quality kibble (NOT Science Diet or Purina) is better than some, but still can't compare to the quality of a homemade diet. If you have questions about a BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet, please let me know and I will forward you information on it. Sugar of any form in the diet should be avoided, because bugs like the taste of blood with lots of sugar in it. Grains behave the same way in the body, so avoiding them too is a good idea.

  2. Garlic. Depending on weight, your pet can ingest garlic and help repel bugs of all kinds. My 40 pound dog gets about a clove of garlic a day and my cat about 1/4 a clove. If you don't already know, the cloves of the garlic are the smaller "pearls" inside the whole bulb of garlic. I wouldn't give garlic everyday - 3-5 times a week should suffice. Also, don't give garlic to your animal if he or she is anemic - it can thin the blood.

  3. ACV, or Apple Cider Vinegar. A splash of ACV in the water or in the daily ration can do many things (like garlic), and just one of those is helping keep the bugs away. Organic unfiltered is the best ACV.

  4. Essential Oil flea products. These include collars, sprays, shampoos, etc. Divine Dog Co. formulates all-natural flea and tick repellents with essential oils as well. Their products are formulated for maximum safety and effectiveness by a certified Aromatherapist - an individual trained in the safe use of essential oils. Divine Dog Co. only makes products for dogs, as essential oil use in cats is considered to be unsafe. Their website, is rich in information on how to use essential oils safely in dogs as well as how these potent substances work. Kristen Bell-Sprouse, Divine Dog Owner and certified Aromatherapist can be emailed from their site for answers to specific aromatherapy-related questions. You can also send a blank email to Natural Animal's Herbal Shoo and collar are also good flea repelling products, although the essential oil mix does contain some Rosemary EO, which can induce seizures in those prone to having seizures. Just because something is 100% natural doesn't always mean it is 100% safe.

  5. Vitamin B Complex. Bugs hate the taste of B1, or thiamin, in the blood. B vitamins are found in many dietary sources, but if you are feeding a commercial diet you may want to supplement with the entire B complex (supplementing with only one B can lead to deficiencies in other B's). B vitamins are water-soluble, which basically means it would be almost impossible to overdose on them. Small amounts, in the neighborhood of 5 mg are fine for pets. B vitamins are another item that does so much more than just repel fleas - for further reading in vitamins I suggest Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible. If you decide to get a supplement, try to get a source of B vitamins that is yeast and dairy free. Raw liver contains a lot of B vitamins.

  6. a clean house!! Regular vacuuming can work wonders for picking up the eggs of fleas. A chemical flea collar inserted in the vacuum bag will kill the fleas/flea eggs/larvae that the vacuum picks up. Remember to vacuum under the bed, in the couch cushions, etc. several times a week - daily if you can. Change that bag frequently (the chemical collars are good for months, so you wouldn't necessarily have to buy a new collar every time you change bags). Fleas eat a bloodmeal on your pet (or you!) then drop off of him/her and lay eggs, which can take several weeks to hatch (usually in the carpet or in the blankets of a cat bed/dog bed). The hatchlings, until they are adults and can hop on their own animal, eat the excretia from the adults, called flea dirt. If you can start breaking the cycle, you can be flea-free! Fleas will freeze outside, but unless you let your house freeze, they can remain cozy inside all year long. Frequent washing of any bedding or pillows that your pet likes to curl up on are a good idea too - the washing can remove them (or if washing with hot water, the hot water can kill them). Try to time your flea eradicating together - one day take the dog outside and spray him/her down with an herbal flea repellent and let him/her stay outside for a while, so all fleas will jump off outside, rather than inside. Then head inside to throw all the laundry in and vacuum everything. Let the dog back in several hours later (another spray down outside couldn't hurt, just make sure you cover their eyes/ears/nose/mouth). Spraying a dog from the head to the tail, as opposed to spraying from the tail to the head is best, as the fleas will start migrating when you start spraying, and it is easier to remove them from the tail than it is from the head. A good flea comb is handy in removing fleas outside daily.

  7. Since ticks can carry diseases, there is a vaccine now out for Lyme disease. In my opinion (and in the opinion of MANY vets, allopathic or homeopathic), this vaccine is not only useless, but can cause major problems for your dog. For more information on the harm of Lyme disease vaccine, email me and I will send you some.

  8. Herbs like fennel, peppermint, tansey or lemon balm grown in the garden and placed in the house (like under beds, in blankets pets like to lay on, etc) are very helpful too in repelling fleas.

  9. Diatomaceous earth. I have mixed feelings about DE. I personally don't use it because of the harmful side effects, but some have used it with great results. Please email me if you are interested in learning more about DE (the info is rather long, and this post is getting on!)

  10. Beneficial nematodes. These are small worms that you spread in your yard to eat fleas. I haven't used the personally, but they are definitely worth looking into.

  11. Ants. If you have ants in your house, they are probably feasting on flea eggs and larva. I am not saying you should encourage ants in your house per se, but maybe don't discourage them.

  12. The salt method. Put all animals in crates or carriers or take them to the groomers for a bath. Next, take a container of ordinary table salt and run gleefully around sprinkling and spreading it liberally on everything: floors, rugs, under beds and other furniture, on all upholstery, soft chairs, under sofa pillows - everywhere a flea larvae could hide. Rub it into everything (except maybe the black leather sofa). Let is sit on any surface you can't rub it into, leave overnight, and vacuum up the next day. Bring the pets back into the house (or out of their crates) after you have already vacuumed up the salt.

  13. Avon Skin-So-Soft - Mix together a cup of SSS, 1 Teaspoon of the oil of citronella or eucalyptus or geranium, 2 cups white vinegar and 2 cups water. Apply from spray bottle, taking care not to get in eyes or mouth. Also helps repel flies. Shake well before each use. Since our animal friends have a much more sensitive nose than ours, go easy on the oils for animals. If it smells strong to you, it is too strong for the animal and should be diluted with a carrier oil or water. This goes for any recipe involving oils.

  14. Natural flea/tick dip - 2 cups, packed, of fresh rosemary and/or peppermint (can use 50/50 of each); 1 quart boiling water; 4 quarts warm water. Pour the just boiled water over the fresh herbs and let steep, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain and add liquid to the 4 quarts of warm water, then saturate the animal. Air dry. Note - dried herbs may be substituted.

  15. Use magnets. Placed in four corner of your house, they can really repel fleas and ticks and other unwanted bugs. Call (in the states) 1-800-695-9956. These are good for several years.

  16. Try these essential oil (EO) recipes for dabbing on yourself or your animals (don't ingest or get near eyes). A couple drops of citronella, lavender, peppermint, clary sage, lemon or lemongrass in a spray bottle filled with pure water works well. If you add some vodka or vegetable glycerin to the water it will help the essential oils to emulsify better. EO's do not mix with water, so shaking well is necessary. Or add this to 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle - 2-4 drops of each EO - tea tree, Atlas cedarwood (it must be Atlas cedarwood or it can be toxic to animals), peppermint, sweet orange, eucalyptus and citronella. (you can start out with 2 and add others if you need some extra ammunition). Or try mixing 10 drops of lavender, 10 drops orange, 5 drops of eucalyptus, 5 drops of citronella, 10 drops of neem in a base of 50 ml apricot or almond oil (use a lighter oil like coconut or grapeseed for your furry friends). Use sparingly on exposed areas (human) - dabbing on or spritzing on with a spray bottle and water. Lemon grass candles in the evening act as repellents too. Another nice recipe is to take 5 drops of Lavender off. and 5 drops of Eucalyptus radiata in 4 oz of purified water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray over coat. If this doesn't get rid of all the fleas, try adding 2 drops peppermint to it. Another recipe is - 15 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil, 15 drops Atlas cedarwood ESSENTIAL OIL, 10 drops tea tree ESSENTIAL OIL, 10 drops geranium ESSENTIAL OIL, and 2 oz carrier oil. Don't forget to dilute if it seems strong.

  17. Try this non-toxic treatment for your carpets (if you think you have an infestation, can be used in conjunction with washing everything mentioned at #6). Mix one cup cornstarch, one cup baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of flea repellent oils (listed above). Mix together and let sit for 30 minutes. Sprinkle into carpets and let sit another 30 minutes. Leave your doors and windows open if possible so that the fleas can leave. Vacuum up and notice the lovely smell your house will have!

  18. For an inexpensive, non-toxic way to get rid of fleas and ticks (or whatever insects you are concerned about) head over to under the "Classical Homeopathy" section. There is a great article written by a homeopathic doc about making your own cure.

  19. Here is a nice skin wash for any icky skin - 1 quart water 1 heaping tsp. dried sage 1 heaping tsp. thyme 1/4 tsp. Epsom salt Boil everything together ~ 5 minutes and then let it sit overnight. Strain off herbs and refrigerate. Dab onto skin. Can add to shampoo to make a "medicated" shampoo. Thanks to Karen Perdue for this great recipe.

Notice that all these methods work at REPELLING fleas and ticks, not at killing them.


Essential oils can be very detrimental to bird and cats. Never have essential oils around a bird - this includes diffusing them, candle with Essential Oils, topical applications, etc. Cats are VERY sensitive too - they should follow the same guidelines as birds, although essential oil *hydrosols* are ok to use as the percent of ESSENTIAL OIL in the hydrosols is very small. The product you buy must be a HYDROSOL and not a floral water though. No oil should be used on cats topically either, as they have very sensitive and thin skin, which absorbs Essential Oils very quickly. Only the highest quality oils should be used because in cheaper versions there might be adulteration and often synthetic chemicals are added. If you have any questions about aromatherapy that are not answered by this document, you can email Kristen Bell-Sprouse, who has worked with essential oils with dogs for the past 6 years an pose your question to her -

If you already have some bug bites, try wetting some baking soda and making a paste and putting it on the bite - it will really soothe! Also you can try 1 teaspoon meat tenderizer (basically a source of enzymes) in 1/8 cup water, stir to dissolve, then put on bite - same thing happens as the baking soda.

To pull out a tick, take your fingernails or tweezers and grasp at the base (head area). Slowly pull straight out. Put tick in jar of rubbing alcohol to die and also to preserve in case it ever needs to be tested for Lyme or Ehrlichia (a date would also be good to put on the jar). Ticks will feed for a very long time - if you pull the tick off before 18-24 hours, you are basically home free, as the organisms that cause Lyme reside in the gut of the tick and won't be introduced into your animal until 18-24 hours go by - when the tick starts regurgitating waste (ticks have no anus). So a daily tick check is really important.

Thanks goes out to Leah Knipp, for her timely and welcome tips and for her help in revising, as well as Kristen for helping me with the aromatherapy guidelines.

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