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Spring is a time when nature blossoms. The wildflowers are out in full bloom and many baby critters are born. The downside of all this for those of us with pets are the pests.
If you’re around any kind of grass—unless you live in the desert—of course, there’s fleas.
In the wilderness areas, you’ll have to watch out for those ticks.
If you’re around standing water, you’ll more than likely get mosquitoes—which might be of concern because of the risk of heartworm. Of course, monthly heartworm preventatives, which are routinely prescribed at your typical vet’s office—along with the cocktail of flea and tick killers—shouldn’t be taken lightly.
So what are you supposed to do? Fortunately, there are a few natural options definitely worth trying.
1. Diatomaceous Earth
Pool owners may be familiar with DE as a pool filter. While the fossilized remains of sea and freshwater algae-like organisms that now make up the powdery white substance used in pool filtration systems are also used as natural pest control, it’s important to note that the quality is different. Only food-grade DE should be used for pest control for your pets. When food-grade diatomaceous earth is used, you have a healthy little alternative to chemical flea and tick control products.
While food-grade DE is safe for humans and pets, the microscopic glass-like fragments kill a variety of insects, including ticks and fleas. The DE can be applied directly onto your pet’s coat when a flea infestation is suspected; though you don’t want to apply it directly too frequently as the DE can be drying (which is how it helps kill pests). Consider a conditioning bath to prevent skin dry-out.
Diatomaceous earth can also be sprinkled around the house, on bedding and outside. When using inside, leave it there for a few days before vacuuming.
2. Lemon Skin Tonic
Veterinarian Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn recommends an easy DIY lemon tonic. Just take a whole lemon, sliced thinly, and place it into a pint of nearly boiled water. Turn off the heat and let it all steep overnight. The following day you can use a sponge or spray bottle to put it on your pet as a natural flea-killer and all-around parasite repellent.
It’s also very soothing to the skin, brightens up the hair and acts as a natural deodorizer. (Note: Combined with sun exposure, the lemon tonic may lighten hair of darker coats. But it’s probably a small price to pay if it can naturally keep the fleas away!)
3. Lavender-Lemon Eucalyptus
Essential oils have many potential benefits and uses for animals and humans. Of course, they are strong and you don’t just want to grab them and start applying them without doing your homework. Quality is extremely important and knowledge on what your dog or cat—cats are particularly sensitive to essential oils—may do well with. So do your research!
If you’re looking for an easy place to start, check out this lavender-lemon eucalyptus blend by Daisy Paw to repel mosquitos, ticks and other bugs. The company even sells collar attachments that you can easily apply the oil into. This blend is for dogs only and not to be used on cats.
The Other Surprising Reason Your Dog May Be Itchy…
While pests are a common and obvious reason for skin issues in pets, did you know the reason your beloved best friend may be itching and scratching uncontrollably may go deeper? It’s true! Itching and skin issues in dogs can sometimes be linked to a condition called dysbiosis, which refers to an imbalance in the normal microbial population living in the gut. The gut microbiota plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health, including the health of the skin and immune system.
When dysbiosis occurs, certain harmful bacteria may proliferate, while beneficial bacteria may decline. This imbalance can disrupt the gut’s normal functions and lead to a cascade of effects throughout the body, including the skin.
One of the ways dysbiosis can influence skin health is through the impairment of the intestinal barrier. The intestinal barrier serves as a protective barrier, preventing harmful substances from leaking into the bloodstream. However, dysbiosis can compromise this barrier, allowing toxins, allergens, and undigested food particles to escape into the bloodstream—a condition referred to as leaky gut (yes dog’s can have leaky gut too!). This triggers an immune response, which can manifest as inflammation and contribute to skin issues.
Moreover, dysbiosis can impact the immune system’s regulation and response. The gut microbiota interacts closely with the immune system, helping to train it and keep it balanced. When dysbiosis occurs, the immune system may become dysregulated, leading to hypersensitivity and increased reactivity to various allergens. This hypersensitivity can result in excessive itching, redness, rashes, and other skin problems in dogs.
Furthermore, the gut-skin axis plays a vital role in maintaining skin health. The gut and the skin are interconnected through various signaling pathways, and disturbances in the gut can influence the skin’s condition. Dysbiosis can disrupt these communication channels, potentially exacerbating existing skin issues or contributing to the development of new ones.
Addressing dysbiosis in dogs with itching and skin problems often involves rebalancing the gut microbiota. This can be achieved through dietary adjustments, such as providing a high-quality, species-appropriate diet and incorporating probiotics or prebiotics to support beneficial bacteria.
Additionally, managing stress levels, minimizing exposure to environmental toxins, and addressing any underlying health conditions can also help restore gut health and alleviate skin issues associated with dysbiosis.
As spring brings forth blossoming nature, it also brings along pests that can trouble our beloved pets. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes pose risks, but there are natural remedies worth exploring. However, while addressing pests is important, it’s also essential to consider factors like gut dysbiosis, which can contribute to itching and skin issues in dogs. Consulting with a veterinarian will provide guidance on the best course of action to address both natural pest remedies and potential underlying health conditions for your pet’s well-being.
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