There is nothing like the unconditional love we receive from our pets. We love our pets deeply, and want them to live long, healthy lives. So it makes sense that if we take care of our own bodies in a holistic way, that we extend that same practice to the creatures who bring so much joy into our lives. Everything that goes in and on our bodies, and everything we are exposed to in our environment, has the potential to either positively or negatively impact our health. For optimum health it is best to eat organic, whole food, drink clean, filtered water, use non-toxic household products and pay close attention to the ingredients in our personal care products. Well, the same is true for our pets!

A reflection of the human cancer pandemic, pets are also experiencing skyrocketing cancer rates. According to the University of Columbia School of Public Health, “95% of all [human] cancer is due to diet and the accumulation of toxins.” Since dog and cat cancers behave in biologically similar ways to human cancers, it logically follows that the risk factors for dogs and cats are similar to their human owners: food and water sources and environmental toxins.

What many pet parents do not know is that the flea and tick treatments they apply to protect their pets from these unwelcome invaders, contain the same pesticides and
insecticides used on lawns and in commercial agriculture. Despite reports from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) about the carcinogenic properties of these chemicals, they are routinely used in flea and tick preparations.

Fipronil is an insecticide and a parasiticide that is the main ingredient for many topical pet products, including Frontline®. It has been found to be harmful to humans and animals and has been implicated in bee colony collapse disorder. Here in the US Fipronil is classified as a “possible human carcinogen” by the EPA, though it has been banned by the EU for agricultural use. It should also be noted that similar to the way bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, there is evidence that flea and tick populations can develop genetic resistance to the effects of insecticides.

Your best bet is to stay away from chemical flea and tick preparations: not just for the health of your pet, but for yours as well. The NRDC report POISON ON PETS II: Toxic Chemicals in Flea and Tick Collars states, “Residue levels produced by some flea collars are so high that they pose a risk of cancer and damage to the neurological system of children up to 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s acceptable levels.”

The best natural defenses are:

Bathe your pet regularly. Fleas will fall off in a tub of water since they do not hold onto pet hair. Use natural ingredient shampoos with the addition of cedar, neem or peppermint. Regular brushing and combing helps too. Clean and vacuum areas where your pet spends time. Wash their bedding and use a spritz of citrus, such as grapefruit.

Make your own rub-on flea powder with baking soda and essential oils or make a spray for your pet’s coat. Lemongrass, rosemary, peppermint, thyme, cedar, lavender and citronella all work well. Note that cats are more sensitive to essential oils; tea tree can be toxic to your cat’s liver.

Ladybugs and nematodes are natural flea predators. You can find them at your local garden center and let them loose in your yard or spread them on your lawn. This will naturally cut down flea populations around the outside of your home.

Last, but not least, keeping your pet’s immune system healthy and strong is the best way to help him fight off parasites as well as disease. And like humans, food is a big part of health – but that is another whole topic for another time!