Dog Scratching

Fleas and ticks are problems that all animal lovers encounter at some point, and your initial instinct is to get rid of them at all costs. Who wants those pests on our pets, let alone crawling around our homes. But before you go running to the store to buy whatever treatment your vet may have recommended, you may want to assess what other health risks you are exposing your family members – human and animal – to.

Even when applied as instructed, the toxic chemicals in many of these treatments can actually poison your pet and the humans in your home, potentially causing cancer or damage to the brain and nervous system. Some flea collars leave high levels of residue from the pesticide, as much as 1,000 times the EPA’s acceptable levels, even weeks later. Children are at particular risk. Since their nervous systems are still developing, the effects can have lasting damage, and they have frequent hand-to-mouth contact, exposing them to the chemicals they pick up while crawling on the floor, playing with your pet, or touching the pet’s toys.

Luckily, there are many ways to attack the problem while avoiding the use of these toxic chemicals.

Comb.
Sounds simple enough, right? It is! You can catch a problem before it gets bad. You’ll notice tiny black specs in the comb or around the area you comb if your dog has fleas, and you may even catch some of them in the process. If you do, drown them in soapy water.

Bathe.
A nice soapy bath can also make a big difference. 

Wash.
Keep your pet’s bedding clean since that’s where fleas tend to hide. Use hot water, and wash them once a week.

Mow.
Keep your lawn short and your bushes trimmed. It’ll help keep the fleas from hiding out in your backyard.

Vacuum.
Get rid of the fleas and eggs in your home. Make sure to get the crevices and under the furniture. If you already have a serious issue, you may need a professional steam cleaning.

Spray.
Try an essential oil spray before you go outside. You want to mix the oil with water, since the highly concentrated oil can cause allergic reactions. Also, not all oils are safe for your pet, so do your research before you try a new one. Cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and thyme are a few options that may work well.

Still have a problem?
If your flea or tick problem is out of control already, these techniques might not be enough. That doesn’t mean you have to fall back on those toxic chemicals though. The NRDC has made finding a safe option for flea and tick treatment easy. Check out this guide on their website.

image: Newtown grafitti