Debugging: The Wee Beasties

It's SUMMER...they're out there! The wee-beasties and the WEEDS!!!; enemies, adversaries!

Many people are becoming increasingly concerned with the numerous chemical contaminants in the environment: parents, grandparents and pet owners alike are questioning "overmedicating" and "over-treating" their environment with herbicides and pesticides and the impact that these chemicals are having on their habitat and the living creatures around them---including their own children!

Those who have not contemplated the hazards should think through the toxicity to their children or grandchildren, as well as their pets!!! Specifically for pets, there are, nontoxic, organic alternatives for the control of flies, fleas, mosquitos, and ticks. These include topical treatments (applied to the dog); nutraceuticals (fed to the dog), and environmentals (for use on premises).

Though these may assist in controlling insect infestations, they are not guarantees of immunity from heartworm disease, parasites, or other potentially serious health problems! They are, instead, organic, nontoxic alternatives to supplement your "debugging" regimen, and, hopefully, simplify it with less toxic alternatives than the commonly applied and, generally toxic, chemical alternatives!!

TOPICAL TREATMENTS: Many essentials oils are reputed to have "insect-repelling" qualities. However, some of them may be toxic if ingested or toxic in concentrated doses if applied topically, photosensitive (cinnamon oil will literally BURN the skin), or have other adverse reactions if improperly used. The following list includes essential oils with insect-repelling qualities (plants, etc.) with minimum toxicity and adverse reactions in dogs.

Insect repellents (essential oils) include:

lavender, clove (clove bud is less toxic than leaf or stem), rosemary;(general) rose, geranium, palmarosa, sweet myrrh; (opoponax)--to repel ticks cedar, lavender, and eucalyptus; (which can be toxic if ingested) to repel fleas, citronella, lemon oil, d-Limonene to repel mosquitoes

NOTE: pennyroyal, basil, cedar, and citronella should not be used with pregnant bitches! Citrus oils should not be applied to cats! Cinnamon oil and bergamot can make skin photosensitive and cause burns; garden sage and exotic basil are moderately toxic; sweet myrrh and melaleuca (tea tree oil) can be toxic if applied in concentration! ALWAYS DILUTE ESSENTIAL OILS WITH WATER or ALOE VERA GEL FOR SPRAYS OR A CARRIER OIL (almond or jojoba oils have the added benefit of soothing dry, itchy, or inflamed skin) FOR LOTIONS BEFORE USING!!!!

To make an insect repellent spray or an herbal "collar", see the "formulas" that follow!

"Some of our Favorite Recipes:"

General purpose mosquito and tick repellents:

Formula 1: mix 2 cups water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup "Avon's Skin So Soft" and 1 tablespoon of eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle; shake and let the contents settle; then mist yourself and your pet (I mist the dogs as they run out the door!) This formula was developed and is recommended by the Game and Parks Commission.

Formula 2: mix equal parts of essential oils of lemon, peppermint, and clove (a few drops of each will do); dilute with one cup of water in a spray bottle; mist. (OR, boil the rinds of citrus fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, and oranges; add whole cloves; simmer; strain; add a few drops of peppermint oil and put in a spray bottle

Formula 3: mix 3 to 4 essential oils from the above list depending on the pests you wish to avert, dilute with water or aloe vera gel and follow directions above.

Herbal Wipes/Topical Ointments: use a lightweight absorbent cloth, such as cheesecloth; select three to four insect-repelling essential oils from the list above. Remember that small amounts are sufficient; dilute with an equal amount of a carrier oil; soak the cloth and wipe on dog, especially behind ears and tail, and on chest (you may tore the wipe in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator). Or use this same formula, doubling the carrier oil and apply to the dog's coat with a brush (use sparingly and avoid eyes and mucous membranes).

For added coverage: add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to your favorite pet shampoo (some currently available shampoos now include insect-repelling oils)!

"Commercial" and surprising alternatives to essential oils include: Listerine--flies, fleas, mosquitoes; Avon's "Skin So Soft" (see Formula 1)--mosquitoes and ticks; apple cider vinegar--fleas and ticks! You can make an insect-repelling spray from any of these by diluting 1 part with 6 parts water)! A number of pet and veterinary supply companies also offer organic insect-repelling products. Please check out LINKS/SUPPLIERS!

You may have to experiment to see what works best for you and your pet, so keep a record!


NUTRACEUTICALS: many holistic/homeopathic veterinarians advocate feeding animals herbs that have insect-repelling qualities--pennyroyal, black walnut, etc. However, toxicity levels, adverse reactions, contraindications, and complementarity of various herbal remedies are best left in the hands of an experienced herbalist or holistic veterinarian! Caution is recommended.

Two "nutraceuticals" have time-honored acceptance:

Garlic--grate or mince it in your dog's food and

Brewer's Yeast--this is a "leftover" from the beer-making process and can cause allergic reactions in some dogs--you might consider, instead, nutritional yeast! Brewer's yeast can also be applied topically to eliminate fleas! Sprinkle some through your dog's coat and brush!

The "Healthy Dog" syndrome: most holistic/homeopathic veterinarians subscribe to the belief that health is determined by nutrition and that, therefore, a dog fed a healthy diet is less susceptible to disease and less "tasty" to the vampires of the insect kingdom!

Environmentals: Many commonly used commercial herbicides and pesticides are now being viewed as carcinogenic (cancer-causing), or, at best, creating serious health hazards for both animals and humans, including immune-mediated diseases! This includes pesticides used inside the home. The continued use of these substances has deleterious effects for all of us; it pollutes our environment, the residual effects affect our water supply, it harms wildlife, etc.! Let's look at alternatives:

Again, there are many organic, nontoxic "remedies" for pest control within the home!

For fleas: a borax powder or diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled on lawns, carpeting, furniture, and your pet's bedding to aid in the control of fleas. (Some recent studies suggest that the microscopic particles in diatomaceous earth may be harmful if inhaled, so caution is recommended). Cedar fill in your pet's bedding can be helpful as can a cedar mulch applied to the flower beds surrounding your home. Boric acid or borax can be applied to lawns with a "spreader" to help in controlling fleas, as well. (Carpets should be vacuumed every week and your pet's bedding should be washed in hot water each week).

For flies: sticky fly traps, while unsightly, are quite effective in controlling flies in the house. "Stinky" fly traps serve a similar purpose out of doors. Both are nontoxic Making sure that animal waste is picked up and put in sealed containers will also help control the fly population.

For mosquitoes: mosquitoes are attracted by standing water. Eliminate as many sources of standing water around your home (wash bird baths frequently, check gutters, etc.) as possible. "Mosquito dunks" (Bt Israenellis) are available through many garden stores. They are reported to be nontoxic to fish, plants, birds, etc. By placing them in sources of standing water such as ponds, etc., they prevent mosquito larvae from "hatching" and help to control the mosquito population.

For ticks: keep all lawn surfaces mowed. Ticks thrive in cool weather and will be most active in the spring and fall! Be vigilant about checking for ticks during these seasons!

For Your Lawn! Avoid the use of "herbicides" and "pesticides" in areas that your dog frequents. (If you have an Airedale, forget about having that well-manicured lawn or cultivate it in areas that your Airedale does not frequent!) If you continue to "mow down" broadleaf weeds, they die! If you continue to mow down "grassy" weeds, they live! Mow! Mow! Mow! Grassy weeds look like a lawn (if that's what's important to you!!!)

Add "insect-repelling" plants to your flower beds around not IN (some of them can be toxic) your dog's yard. Among others, these include Bold Painted Daisies, Scented Geraniums, Marigolds, Basil, and Sage. (Please check the Archives for a list of Toxic Plants!)

Check with your local extension service for nontoxic or organic alternatives for weed and pest control or check out Jerry Baker's website at!