Nontoxic alternatives for repelling ticks, fleas can spare your family dogs from carcinogens

July 27, 2013 

DEAR OLD TRAINER: I enjoy your columns about the effects of toxic chemicals on dogs, and my three dogs are a lot healthier as a result of the information you provide. You mentioned you were researching nontoxic tick products. What was your conclusion?

— Evan, Glenwood Springs, Colo.

A: For readers who missed the original column, Evan, I decided to never again use any flea product applied to the dog's skin. The carcinogenic chemicals in them have caused an explosion in skin cancer in our dogs.

Then I unwrapped a tick collar sold by most veterinarians and the instructions read, "If the product touches your skin wash with soap and water for 20 minutes and contact your local poison control center."

A tick collar is as toxic as any flea product. If one touch can send a human to the poison control center, what is it doing to our dogs when it is on their skin all summer? What is the cumulative effect of exposing your dog — and you and your family — to toxic flea AND toxic tick chemicals for months on end?

I decided on the spot to find a nontoxic tick repellant. I found there are dozens available. Products containing every oil know to man — geranium oil, cedar oil, eucalyptus oil, citrus oil, gladiola oil, vegetable oil, and oils from plants in the Rain Forest.

No way could I test that many products, so I relied on loyal readers to help. I also reviewed online posts from pet owners who tried the products. The consensus is that all of them work to some extent, and there were owners who gave strong recommendations to each product.

They all repel ticks to some degree, but a common shortcoming is they make the dog's fur oily and sticky. Another is that some need to be applied daily.

I decided to forget the oils and use two natural products. One, a mixture of half apple cider vinegar, half water, works like magic to cure any rash or red spots on your dog, and I have used it for years.

It also repels ticks. I rub it on the legs, chest, and belly of my short-haired dogs, and they haven't had a single tick.

The other is diatomaceous earth, a natural product that kills all parasites.

I sprinkle it on the legs, chest, and belly of my long-haired dogs and have not had a tick all year. It repels both ticks and fleas and kills them on contact. Make sure it is "food grade" DE. Unless you see those words on the pack, don't buy it.

DE is useful in another way, as well. If you do find a tick on your dog, all you have to do is sprinkle it with DE every day and it will die and fall off in a couple of days, leaving no trace it was ever there.

Nontoxic alternatives to chemicals exist and they work. Discard toxic flea repellants and chemical tick collars and replace them with one of the healthy alternatives.

Do a little research on the subject and find what works best for you. Your dog will live longer and so will you.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to:

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