The biggest concern with moving to natural remedies is increasing any risk of contracting Lyme disease. This disease can be contracted through exposure to a bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) found in around 2% of ticks (in the UK). The number of ticks in the UK is increasing and the number of instances of Lyme disease in people is increasing too (however the same data of increasing instances in dogs does not seem to be present). Regardless, this is a valid cause for concern as there is a lack of data available as to how many dogs get diagnosed with Lyme’s disease each year.
What we do know is in dogs, only 5-10% of those infected will go on to develop any signs. However, for those that do, symptoms can be nasty and may include lameness, joint swelling, fever, anorexia and lethargy. If caught and diagnosed quickly, then treatment is typically effective (antibiotics can stop symptoms within days). Most dogs will fully recover after treatment.
Both chemical and natural treatments will not be 100% effective against ticks. Whilst natural treatments can reduce the number of ticks going onto your dog, with the increase in ticks each year, some dogs will still suffer bites. Just like humans, some dogs do get targeted more than others. The single biggest thing you can do to prevent Lyme disease is to regularly check your dog after walks or time spent outside. It is believed that the infection is transmitted after the tick has been attached for at least 24-48 hours. Making sure you remove the intact tick (using a tick twister device) within 24 hours is the best way to safeguard your dog from risk. It is important not to suffocate the tick (there are old wives’ tales of applying Vaseline or similar) as this will encourage the tick to release the contents of its stomach back into your dog (which could include the bacteria we are safeguarding your dog against)
What extra precautions can I take?
There are some simple things you can do to ensure you are reducing the risk for your dog of getting fleas or ticks. Here are some of our top tips:
- Keep their environment regularly cleaned. 95% of fleas don’t live on your pet…they live in your home (which is why bombarding your pet with chemicals seems a counter intuitive approach when you could treat the environment instead?!). Regular vacuuming and cleaning are your most effective way to stop fleas getting onto your dog
- Wash pet bedding. Fleas love warm, cosey bedding so frequently washing at a high temperature will ensure you catch any infestations before they can start
- Wash your dog: making sure your dog is regularly groomed and washed (inspecting for any signs of flea dirt) will catch anything before it can start.
- If you are taking your dog to places that are high risk for fleas or ticks (long grasses, near livestock or wild animals like hedgehogs for example) you can add an extra layer of protection by making up a natural spray (there are lots of examples online that include safe essential oils) or rubbing some human grade diatomaceous earth powder onto your dog’s coat
- Keep your dog in a healthy condition and on a balanced fresh, whole food diet
What to do if you get a flea infestation:
Flea infestations are horrible and can take months to successfully get under control as fleas procreate so rapidly. There are ways to get an infestation under control without using toxic chemicals, however, you often have to be more diligent. Using chemical treatments as a one off to help you get things under control can be an answer for some people and completely understandable. Here are some actions to take:
- Thoroughly wash your dog using a specialist flea shampoo and lather up before you add water (this helps to suffocate the fleas as they can survive in water). Repeat frequently until there are no more signs of fleas on your dog
- Where, possible, remove your dog from the environment and thoroughly treat the environment. Wash all possible bedding, clean and vacuum. For a natural option, human grade diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the house can help to dry up fleas. Alternatively, a stronger option would be a chemical spray such as Indorex (please make sure your dog is out of the environment and so does not breathe in the toxic fumes)
- Repeat the process until there are no signs of fleas in the environment or on your dog
- Once, you are flea free then you can go back to your preventative steps as above
Natural alternatives like ‘what fleas?’ are designed to promote health in your dog and be gentle on their systems. They are not designed to kill parasites and so comparing them to chemical treatments is like comparing apples and pears. They should be considered as part of a wider approach you are taking to safeguard your dog’s long-term health.
For a video on how to safely remove a tick visit click here
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