Part 2: The Plan to Fight Off Fleas and Ticks
Since writing Part 1 just a week ago, I’ve found 3 ticks on the dogs; one sitting on Luke’s head, one crawling up Cricket’s leg at bedtime…ugh…and even worse, one biting Cricket’s neck. The war is officially on! It’s not going to be an easy battle doing this all naturally, but I am determined to try.
We will be attacking on two fronts….treating the dogs directly, and cleaning up our yard to get rid of the habitat that fleas and ticks thrive on. When we battled the fleas last fall, I did a lot of research and basically found out that our yard has probably pretty much become a haven for them. The dogs spend a lot of time out in our yard, either playing or just hanging out on nice days.
First level of attack:
Both Sheba and Luke will be getting vaccinated for Lyme Disease this month. Cricket has had reactions to vaccines, so we will not get it for her. As I wrote last week, dogs only have a 5% chance of developing Lyme when exposed, so for us it is worth the risk for Cricket. We’ve had too many worries with vaccinating her in the past so we only do what is absolutely necessary for her.
Next we will treat the dogs with products that do not contain chemicals or pesticides. After extensive research I decided on the two things seen below. Another product I was interested in was a flea/tick tag that hangs on the dogs’ collar (click here to read more), but we had to pass on that this year, because Luke chews on his own tags as well as everyone else’s, so we thought that was probably a bad idea for now. We’ll save that for possible future use.
The squeeze on is all natural and safe, and should repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. It gets applied between their shoulder blades the same way Frontline and many others are.
The garlic/brewer’s yeast tablets also repel fleas and ticks with the added benefit of maintaining a stronger immune system and healthy skin and coat. Everything I’ve read states that a healthier dog is less susceptible to parasites. The only issue with these tablets is that some dogs can become sensitive to the brewer’s yeast, causing itching, so we need to watch for that. I’m sure many of you have heard, as I had, that garlic can be bad for dogs, but the company assures us that the amounts in these tablets are safe for dogs (and cats).
In addition to these things each dog gets checked for ticks daily, and when we go for walks we avoid wooded areas and tall grass. I try to keep them on clear trails as much as possible. Our beagle Kobi was great for always wanting to walk in the brush, and I’d always be telling him to “quit trolling for ticks”!
There are a couple things I’m leaving on the table here, along with the flea tags: apple cider vinegar added to their water has been said to repel insects (we also used it for flea prevention and treatment last year and I believe it did help), but I need to make sure that is safe for cats too, because they all share the water in this household. Diet: it has been said that dogs fed a raw diet, or even possibly a grain free diet are less susceptible to these pests. I doubt I’d ever feed raw, but grain free is a possibility if needed.
Second level of attack:
Clean up our yard! When we had our house built 20 years ago, we had a large area cleaned out where the house and yard would be. Once we fenced in the yard for the dogs, we didn’t do as much with the rest of the yard (we own just under 2 acres). Therefore, over the years, the woods have been creeping up on us. I believe the ticks have been creeping up as well. Just last year I told my husband, when everything turned green for the summer, that I was starting to feel claustrophobic in our yard. I couldn’t even see out of my greenhouse, things had grown up so much. He did clear a big area around my greenhouse and outside the fence to the left of our deck. Look at some before and after photos of our yard:
Below our yard were fields before the woods. That garden was about where the corner of the fence is now:
My vegetable gardens are still in the same place, but the woods have grown up around there too (though some of that did get cleared out last fall to bring in more sunshine to the garden area).
As well as the woods creeping in and bringing the ticks with them, we’ve let leaves pile up in some areas along the fence, as well as some brush piles, and those could be harboring fleas as well as ticks. So we need to clean up the yard, clean under the deck where junk has accumulated over the years, and clean out under the trees (the dirt in shady areas can also harbor fleas). The recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control is to put a 3 foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas. So our plan is to put that barrier outside the fence.
Along with cleaning up the yard, we will be applying beneficial nematodes to all shady areas in the yard, as well as along the fence line. Beneficial nematodes are tiny worms that kill over 200 kinds of insects (but not the good ones like lady bugs or earthworms). They are completely safe for humans, animals, and plants. We ordered some from our local garden center and they are being delivered to us (they are alive so can’t sit on a store shelf). You can also order them online, but we actually got the best price locally.
We have our work cut out for us! We need to be diligent about keeping the lawn mowed this year; when you live in the country and your yard is really only for the dogs, you don’t worry about how the lawn looks (ours is full of holes dug by Sheba and now Luke anyway), since it’s not really seen that much. We are overdue to clean up the yard for ourselves anyway.
So this weekend both Luke and Cricket get baths, and then we apply the squeeze on treatment (this treatment needs to be reapplied after baths or heavy swimming). I don’t like to throw a bunch of new stuff at them at once, in case something doesn’t agree with them, so we’ll start the tablets a week or two after that. We’ve already started some raking and cleaning up in the yard (we just need more cooperation from Mother Nature).
Wouldn’t it be easier to just throw some Frontline or another chemical treatment on them and forget about it all? That is a last resort for us (though I’m sure my hubby wouldn’t mind that). I am trying to live a greener life in many ways (I garden organically and trust me that’s more work too) and that extends to my pets as well. I’ll be letting you know if we win the battle this way, or at least put up a good fight!
We are joining 2 Brown Dawgs Blog and Heart Like a Dog for their Thursday Barks and Bytes blog hop (with a little play on the word bytes, as in “bug bytes” – ha ha). Please visit them and others through the links below!