Fleas getting the best of your pet?


By Dr. Karen Becker

Fleas feed on the blood of companion animals and their bites can lead to irritation and skin allergies. Sometimes these pests are no more than a nasty nuisance, but they have the potential to cause serious problems. Fleas can transmit tapeworms, bartonella bacteria, and can cause severe anemia in young animals.

They can also trigger a condition in pets called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is characterized by a hypersensi­tivity reaction to flea bites. It’s important to note that it’s not the bite of a flea that makes your dog scratch; it’s the flea saliva, which can cause overwhelming irritation dispropor­tion­ate to the actual number of fleas on your canine companion.

Symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Most pet parents assume if their pet isn’t covered with fleas, the itching can’t be caused by fleas. But if your dog has FAD, the saliva of just one or two fleas can make her miserably itchy and uncomfortable for weeks (long past the death of those two fleas).

The classic symptom of flea bite hypersensitivity is frequent or constant severe itching and scratching, hair loss, and hot spots. Secondary bacterial infections are a risk for dogs with open skin sores.

Most dogs with FAD have symptoms that worsen with age, and are often episodic, meaning they experience flare-ups in between periods of relative comfort. Sometimes they go on to develop neurodermatitis as a result of flea bite hypersensitivity. Neurodermatitis is a condition characterized by restless, anxious, irritated, or nervous behavior as a result of FAD.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

There’s no specific diagnostic test for flea allergy dermatitis. To confirm your suspicions, the best approach is to simply have your dog stand or lie on a light-colored towel and use a flea comb to help reveal fleas and flea dirt. Flea dirt looks like real dirt, but when you drop it into a small amount of rubbing alcohol or water, it will release a red color (blood) as it dissolves.

Resolving your dog’s flea problem will depend to a large extent on whether he’s reacting to just a few fleas or an infestation. Either way, you’ll definitely want to use the flea comb at least once a day until you’re confident there are no more fleas on him or in his environment.

Dogs with a sensitivity to flea saliva should also be bathed frequently until the fleas are gone. Even if he hates it while it’s happening, his skin will feel better after a bath, and any fleas on his body will drop into the water. Another benefit: pests of all kinds are less attracted to clean animals.

An alternative to a full bath and shampoo is to simply dip your dog in a sink or tub of warm water, which will cause most of the fleas to fall off. Adding a cup of apple cider vinegar to a gallon of rinse water will help make him less appealing to fleas.

Before You Reach for a Chemical Flea Preventive

I strongly discourage pet parents from automatically applying potentially toxic chemical agents to their dogs or around their home to repel or kill pests. The use of spot-on products may cause skin irritation, paralysis, seizures and even death if used improperly, and there are effective natural alternatives that are far safer.

If, however, you live in a flea-endemic area and have a family member with FAD or an infestation that requires that you use these chemicals, follow these precautions:

  • Be very careful to follow dosing directions on the label, and if your pet is at the low end of a dosage range use the next lowest dosage. Be extremely cautious with small dogs, and do not under any circumstances apply dog product to your cat.
  • Monitor your dog for adverse reactions after you apply a chemical product — especially when using one for the first time.
  • Don’t depend exclusively on chemical treatments. Rotate natural preventives with chemicals, including diatomaceous earth, pet-friendly essential oil products and natural deterrent collars. An every-other-month rotation works well for many pet parents.
  • Since your dog’s liver will be tasked with processing the chemicals that make it into the bloodstream, it can be very beneficial to give her a supplement to help detoxify the liver. I recommend milk thistle, which is a detox agent and also helps to actually regenerate liver cells. Another product I recommend is chlorella, a super green food that is a very powerful detox agent.

Work with your integrative veterinarian to determine how much to give your dog depending on her age, weight and any medications she’s taking. I recommend one dose daily for seven days following any chemical flea, tick or heartworm preventive application, especially if dogs need regular pesticides applied to their bodies.

Safe, Nontoxic Alternatives to Chemicals

There are safe, nontoxic alternatives for flea control for dogs, and they don’t have side effects, unlike virtually all forms of chemical pesticides. Alternatives I recommend include:

A safe, natural pest deterrent (see recipe below)
Cedar oil (specifically manufactured for pet health)
Natural, food-grade diatomaceous earth, topically (not on the head)
Fresh garlic (¼ teaspoon of freshly chopped garlic per 15 pounds of body weight)
Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate fresh food diet
Bathe and brush your dog regularly and perform frequent full-body inspections to check for parasite activity
Use a flea comb daily during flea season to naturally exfoliate your dog’s skin while removing or exposing pests
Make sure both your indoor and outdoor environments are unfriendly to pests

All-Natural Homemade Pest Deterrent for Dogs

You can make an all-natural pest deterrent for your dog very easily at home. It will help him avoid a good percentage of the pests he encounters, though not all of them (as many of you know, not even the heavy duty chemicals prevent all parasites). The recipe: mix 8 ounces of pure water with 4 ounces of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 10 drops of neem oil.

Neem oil is not an essential oil. It’s expelled or pressed oil and is effective because fleas (and ticks) are repelled by it. It’s also great for pets who are very sensitive to odors. Catnip oil can also be used as a pest deterrent, since it has been proven to be as effective as diethyltoluamide (DEET), the mosquito and tick spray humans use that has a number of toxic side effects.

If you want to add some extra punch to your dog’s pest deterrent recipe, go with five drops of lemon, lemongrass, eucalyptus or geranium oil. I use geranium oil quite a bit because I find it very effective. In fact, I use it in my Dr. Mercola natural flea and tick products. If you have a dog who comes in contact with ticks, adding the extra punch of one of the essential oils I listed can be very beneficial.

You can store your homemade pest deterrent in the fridge, which is what I do. Before your dog goes outside mist him with it, being careful to avoid the eyes. The active ingredients, especially the oils in the recipe, dissipate in about four hours, so you may need to reapply it several times throughout the


There ain’t no bugs on me!

Essential oils can assist animals with their healing using energetic vibration and the essence of the natural product. They can help bring balance and healing through their sense of smell which is the most receptive of the pet’s systems.

The oil stimulates the olfactory system which in turn sends a signal to the brain regarding the specific oil. The brain then activates the pet’s natural ability to begin the healing process.
Aromatherapy does not cure conditions, but helps the body to find a natural way to cure itself and to improve immune response.s the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.

the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.


Ingredients:  Essential Oils of Eucalyptus citriodora, Catnip, Citronella, Lemon Tea Tree, White Cypress

Away was created for many purposes, but all are encompassed in the word “Away”.  Bugs go “Away”, smells go “Away”, and stale energy can also go “Away”!  I put it on my dog any time we are going into the woods or open field for a walk.Petting Technique
The petting technique is a way to apply the oils to your pet. This technique is well tolerated by almost every form of animal. The technique can be modified for small rodents, amphibians, or animals that may be difficult to handle, simply by having the oils absorbed into your hands, and then “cupping” and holding the animal within your hands.

Petting Technique
The petting technique is a way to apply the oils to your pet. This technique is well tolerated by almost every form of animal. The technique can be modified for small rodents, amphibians, or animals that may be difficult to handle, simply by having the oils absorbed into your hands, and then “cupping” and holding the animal within your hands.

s the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.

Dogs:  Away can also be applied to most dogs topically using the “Petting Technique.”  Place 1-3 drops into your hands, rub them together until a light coating remains, then pet onto areas of need.  For insect repellent; rubbing down the legs, neck, shoulders, and back are good locations to concentrate on.  I especially focus on the “ankle” area of my dogs, since ticks will often contact this area first, as they start to climb up the legs.

Cats:  Diffusion of Away in a water-based diffuser is also recommended for cat households.  Away is wonderful for eliminating pet odors from the household, and litter box areas.


Petting Technique
The petting technique is a way to apply the oils to your pet. This technique is well tolerated by almost every form of animal. The technique can be modified for small rodents, amphibians, or animals that may be difficult to handle, simply by having the oils absorbed into your hands, and then “cupping” and holding the animal within your hands.

Away product sheet

Home Remedies for Common Problems your Pet Encounters

By Dr. Becker and Diane Weinmannchristmas-cat-tree-issue

Many pet parents look in their cabinets first to treat minor health issues in their animal companion.

There are a number of household items many people have on hand that can serve a dual purpose as health remedies. Good things to have in your cabinet at all times include canned 100 percent pumpkin, povidone iodine and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.

8 Home Remedies for Minor Dog Emergencies

1. Problem: Constipation, Diarrhea and Other Minor Digestive Issues

Solution: Canned pumpkin. It’s a good idea to keep a can of 100 percent pumpkin in your kitchen cabinet for occasional mild tummy upsets.

Give a teaspoon of pumpkin for every 10 pounds of body weight, one to two times a day, either in food or as a treat. Pumpkin is rich in soluble fiber that can ease both diarrhea and constipation.


Diane has also used canned pumpkin to stimulate her dog’s appetite when the dry dog food just doesn’t appeal to him.


2. Problem: Minor Skin Abrasions, Cuts, Infections or Hot Spotsdog-and-cat-scratching

Solution: Povidone iodine. Povidone iodine (Betadine) is a gentle disinfectant that can take care of staph, yeast and almost any common bacteria. It doesn’t sting or irritate the skin, and it’s safe if your pet licks it.

Dilute the povidone iodine until it’s the color of iced tea, soak a clean cloth in it and gently wipe the soaked cloth over the infected areas of your pet’s skin. Rinse the cloth and wipe it over the skin, then pat dry.

I recommend you do this disinfecting process twice a day if your dog has a minor skin infection or other problem.

3. Problem: Itchy, Irritated Paws

Solution: Footbaths. Did you know about 50 percent of your dog’s foot licking and chewing can be alleviated by mechanically removing allergens and other irritants collected on a dog’s paws? “Mechanically removing” simply means rinsing them off.

For big dogs you can use a bucket and soak one foot at a time. Little dogs can stand in a kitchen or bathroom sink. Dilute povidone iodine with water to the color of iced tea and add it to the footbath. Swish it around while your dog stands in it for from two to five minutes.

If your dog is antsy about being in water, talk to him in soothing tones, and of course, offer him treats. Also try dunking one paw at a time in a container of solution versus putting him in the tub.

Diane sells a product that is completely natural paw & nose lotion bar that her friend makes.  Email Diane at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com to order one today. The cost is $10 plus shipping or Diane can tell you where her next book signing is to enable you to meet her and pick up your lotion bar.

4. Problem: Fleas

Solution: Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) doesn’t kill fleas, but it can help to keep them off your dog. One of the simplest approaches is to make a solution of equal parts ACV and water.

I recommend using raw, organic ACV. Add the mixture to a spray bottle and spritz it on your pet before he heads outdoors. You can also spray his bedding. Consider adding ACV to your dog’s food as well, in the amount of 1 teaspoon for every 20 pounds of dog. And during baths, you can pour diluted ACV over your dog as a flea-preventive rinse at 1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of water.

Pour it over your freshly bathed dog (avoid his head), massage into his coat and towel dry. Don’t rinse. Alternatively, you can add about two cups of apple cider vinegar to his bath water.

To prevent fleas Diane recommends “Away” essential oil by Dr. Melissa Shelton.  Here is the link: http://www.animaleo.info/learn-more.html


5. Problem: Upset Tummy

Solution: Ginger. Mix either fresh ground ginger or the dry herb into a tasty meatball or other yummy treat. Use 1/8th teaspoon for dogs under 10 pounds; ¼ teaspoon for medium-sized dogs; ½ teaspoon for large dogs and ¾ to 1 teaspoon for giant breeds.

Give the ginger infused snacks one to three times a day as needed. And if your dog’s problem is motion sickness, be sure to give it to her at least an hour prior to travel. Alternatively, you can add ¼ cup ginger tea per 20 pounds to food daily as needed.

I remember how my mom would give me ginger ale when I didn’t feel well—it’s the same principle.  Anyone who has had a baby can remember the ginger ale and saltine cracker phase to help the queasy stomach.

6. Problem: Crusty Skin and Nails

Solution: Coconut oil. Coconut oil (I recommend 100 percent organic, cold-pressed and human grade) skin treatments can be very beneficial, especially for seniors with crusty patches of skin and funky nails. The treatments help reduce flaking and improve the integrity of the skin.


They also support the lipid barrier, which makes skin healthier and more resistant to pathogens like yeast and opportunistic bacteria.

First, bathe your dog, and then rub the oil into the skin all over his body, paying special attention to dry areas. Let it absorb into the skin for about five minutes. Follow with another bath (not too much lather) and a very light rinse. You can also dab it directly on hotspots, eruptions and rashes after disinfecting.

Coconut oil has many benefits from helping cracked noses and paws to taking off your make-up!!  Enjoy!

7. Problem: Skunk Encounter

Solution: Skunk rinse. Tomato juice isn’t nearly as effective as this recipe, and it’s easy to follow. In a pail, mix 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (the drugstore variety), ¼ cup baking soda and 2 teaspoons dishwashing liquid. If you have a large breed dog, you may need to double, triple or even quadruple the mixture.

Apply the mixture to your dog’s dry coat, taking care to avoid the eyes. Massage the mixture into the coat and skin for about five minutes or until the skunk smell starts to dissipate. Use a sponge to apply the solution to the chin, cheeks, forehead and ears, if necessary, being very careful not to go near the eyes.

Rinse thoroughly once the smell starts to decrease. When you rinse the head area tilt your dog’s chin upward so the solution does not run into the eyes. You may need to repeat the lather and rinse process up to three times. Make sure to completely rinse the solution off your dog.

Diane has had this experience many times with her dog as Neko loves to play with the black and white kitties!  Diane uses Dawn dishwashing liquid.  Be aware, when your dog gets wet he  may still have a lingering odor for a few weeks.

8. Problem: Toxin Ingestion

Solution: Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and give 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters or ccs) for every 10 pounds of dog weight. You can mix it with a little vanilla ice cream to encourage your dog to get it down, or try using a little bit of honey, or simply syringe it down her throat if necessary.

Walk your dog around for a few minutes to get her moving, which will help the hydrogen peroxide do its work, which typically occurs within about 15 minutes. If your dog doesn’t vomit in 15, give her a second dose. If after another 15 minutes she still hasn’t vomited, call your veterinarian.

Do NOT induce vomiting if your dog is throwing up already; has lost consciousness or can’t stand; it has been over two hours since she ingested the toxin or if she has swallowed bleach, drain cleaner or a petroleum distillate. These chemicals can cause burning as they are swallowed, and secondary additional burns as they come back up. Seek veterinary care immediately.

I hope these remedies will serve to show that you have mad skills that will help you and your pets.  Feels great to participate in their wellness—doesn’t it?!