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Natural Tick and Flea treatment options continued..

By Andrea Liddell – Mai Co. Find out more here: www.shoporganic.co.za/mai-co.

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Many of us know and will admit to sending our pets scurrying away the minute they see you coming along with your 'little bottle of drops'! And somewhere there is a little voice in your head that says: “he doesn't like this”! So what are the alternatives available to us? Does the natural way really work? How long will it last? And will the natural options also send my pet running for cover??

In continuing our discussion on tick and flea treatments we arrive at the natural preventative methods available to us. So lets get straight down to the nitty gritty and answer some of those hard questions that many people have regarding the natural methods of treatment.

1. Are natural methods really safe?  
Yes, but you need to have a little knowledge and some common sense.
Herbs and even oils do contain pharmacologically active compounds that do have effects on the body when taken in medicinal doses, therefore can potentially harm if not used cautiously and responsibly. Bear in mind though that while there are poisonous herbs out there, they are not generally available to the general public for use. And if you come into contact with a herb that has potentially hazardous compounds, harm would only be caused if consumed in heavy doses far above the normal daily allowance. However once consumption has ceased, the symptoms will disappear and the body will return to normal.  As is the case with overconsumption of many natural substances, and quite unlike synthetic medicines which can lead to permanent and irreparable damage.
So it stands – although potent, herbs are still far safer than the synthetic/chemical methods.

As the old saying goes “knowledge is power”. So do some reading up on the herbs and oils that you are using and find out more about them and their uses.

Stick with the recommended dosages and do not exceed them.

Respect the fact the we are all different individual beings and may react differently to certain herbs and oils even if they are considered generally common and safe. Keep a watch for any unusual reactions – it happens.

As is the case with most medicine it is common practice to refrain from treatment during nursing or pregnancy – the same applies to your pet. Although there are herbs that can be of help in conditions related to pregnancy, apart from good nutritional diets, it would be advisable to keep all other treatments to an absolute minimum.

In the case of very young pets and again as with any form of medicine, care should be taken. Kittens, puppies or any little creatures, that are being fed a good quality milk by a healthy mom that is being fed a good quality nutritious diet, will be provided with all the nutrients that they require to build a healthy and strong immune system. As mentioned in the previous article – the stronger the immune system, the more resilient and less attractive they will be to pests.  It is also worth mentioning that essential oils should never be used on cats, kittens, puppies or any other 'little' creatures i.e. Birds, bunnies etc. as their systems are unable to metabolize and excrete certain compounds of the oils from their bodies. Here at Mai Co. we have a Herbal Powder for Adult Dogs and Horses which is made up of a combination of herbs and essential oils, and we have the Herbal Powder for Cats, Kittens and Puppies that is made up of only a mixture of herbs in a natural base powder.

If you have a pet that has a particularly sensitive skin, the it would be recommended to use a powder that is only made up of herbs and no essential oils because as previously discussed – skin issues are often a result of a 'clogged liver' and the essential oils would just be another substance that would have to be metabolised as it too is absorbed through the skin.

2. Do natural treatments really work?
Yes again. Herbs and Oils used in the natural tick and flea treatments are by their very nature and chemical constituents – just that – natural tick and flea repellents. But you need to bear in mind – nature is not about quick fixes, miracle cures and magic wands. There are numerous factors to consider like: are you staying in a high density infestation area, is your yard sandy, do your pets spend a lot of time in water where the treatments can wash off, how healthy is your pet? All these factors will contribute to the degree of effectiveness of the product. After spending much time rolling around in the sand or walking in the bushes, the flea treatment can only be expected to work for so long. As the pet owner, one needs to be aware of this, monitor the situation and if necessary apply the treatment more regularly – or as much as the recommended dosage will allow.

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3. How often may I use the natural treatment products?
The best thing to do is always first read the labels and follow the instructions for dosages very carefully as it can differ from product to product. In the case of Mai Co. products I always tell people that it is up to them to determine how often they need to put it on their pets. I recommend that an animal on a farm will need it far more regularly than an animal that lives in a flat with small garden. It would be up to you as the pet owner to monitor the situation and decide how often to treat their pets. It is one of those situations where common sense would have to prevail as you cannot stay on a farm and only expect to use it once every 6 weeks or so. That would be an unfair and unrealistic expectation.

4. Will the smell send my pet running?
Well in theory no, as natural products are made from Herbs or Oils that tend to smell like their garden as opposed to the harsh chemical smell of the synthetic treatments. But I have to admit – there are the 'actors' in certain families......like my Siamese that likes to make everyone believe that he is being subjected to the harshest form of abuse and torture when any one of us comes near him with the flea powder bottle...........simply because he knows that the more he can 'milk' the situation the longer he can get brushed after being powdered! ;)

5. So what exactly are the alternative options?
 - Safe and natural chemical free powders and shampoos that are made up of herbs and essentials oils
 - Herbs that are regarded as flea and tick repellents are Rose Geranium, Lavender, Tea-tree, Wormwood, or the South African version - Wilde Als, Elderflower, Feverfew flowers, Yarrow flowers, Sage, Thyme and of course Khakibos. (Please keep in mind that not all these herbs would be recommended for use on Cats)
- Essential oils that are regarded as tick and flea repellents are the following: Lavender, Rose Geranium, Tea-tree, Tagetes, Cedarwood, Citronella, Lemongrass and Peppermint (Please remember that essentials oils are not recommended for use on cats/kittens, puppies, birds, bunnies or rodents)
 - Diatamaseous Earth – But please use this with absolute caution! Make sure that it is the correct food grade and that you are obtaining it from a reputable source!!!!
 - Garlic – This is highly debated issue, but a herb that I have used with much success. As it is a very strong herb, it needs to be used with care and caution.  It is considered to be one of natures Antibiotics and therefore if given excessively it will kill both the good and the bad bacteria which will in turn cause a myriad of health problems for your pet. It would be advisable to work with your Holistic Vet to determine the safe amount to use according to the body weight of your pet.
 - Coconut oil – As discussed in our previous letters, it is a wonderful supplement to add to your pets diet to ensure a healthy and strong immune system which will make it unfavourable for internal and external parasites to thrive in.

Bath your pet when necessary and brush frequently enabling you to do full body inspections.
Try (within your means) to make your indoor and outdoor environment unfriendly to the pests!
And most importantly – feed your pet a good, well balanced, nutritional diet. The healthier the pet, the more resilient and less appealing it will be to the parasites.

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All this aside – while the natural route will require more effort and input – use it to spend quality time with your friend and you will soon realise that its not as bad as it seems.......especially after all the licks you will get after a good brushing!!

Sources:
Herbal Medicine Making – South African Herb Academy, Didi Hoffman
Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, Kristen Leigh Bell
Herbs for Pets – Second Edition, The Natural way to enhance you pets life, Gregory L. Tilford & Mary L. Wulff