Summer is here and that means more outside activities for you and your dog. The great outdoors is a wondrous place, the possibilities are endless! But nothing can bring the fun to a halt faster than those annoying, bloodsucking insects. Not only are they annoying, but they can carry diseases that are dangerous to both you and your dog.
Most people know mosquitoes can transmit heartworm to dogs, which if left untreated can be fatal, but other insects such as ticks can transmit a host of different diseases which can be just as dangerous. Ticks can transmit Lymes Disease, Canine Ehrlichiosis, Canine Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Canine Babesiosis, Canine Bartonellosis and Canine Hepatozoonosis. While various chemical flea and tick preventatives are available I personally do not, and will not use them. The risks and well known potentially dangerous, even deadly side effects are not worth it considering there are natural alternatives.
My rescue boy Loki came to me with chemical burn scarring down his back from someone applying a topical flea and tick preventative on him. Those scars still remain and his hair has never grown back. I have never used any chemical flea or tick treatments on him or my other rescue Kippah.
So what are the natural alternatives? As always nature provides!
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria) While Catnip has many health benefits for dogs (see the benefits of catnip here), mosquitoes absolutely hate it! There have been studies that show catnip is actually more effective than DEET, a chemical used in some bug repellent sprays at repelling mosquitoes. Not only is it easy to grow and very hardy, as an added bonus it will attract butterflies and bees too!
- Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) Lemon Balm is a beautiful, easy to grow plant. This is another herb that mosquitoes hate! It’s strong lemon scent drives them away, but once again bees and butterflies just love it!
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Who doesn’t like the smell of lavender? Not only is it a beautiful plant with an abundance of showy purple flowers, but that scent is unmistakable. Thankfully lavender is another plant with many uses! We can add it to the list of herbs mosquitoes really hate!
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita) Peppermint is a very easy plant to grow. So much so it can take over an area of your garden even if you forget it’s there! The strong minty scent I find to be very soothing, but most insects really don’t see my point of view! Many people claim that rodents really hate the smell as well.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Rosemary is a tall woody plant with a strong scent. While most people think of rosemary as a herb used in cooking, it’s actually used in a lot of natural insect repellents for good reason. Not only mosquitoes but other pesky insects stay far away from rosemary.
I personally prefer to make an herbal infusion with raw organic apple cider vinegar which I make into a spray. To make this infusion place the herbs you want to use in a clean mason jar, (although you can use any clean jar with a lid). Then add the apple cider vinegar, using enough to fully cover the herbs, while not filling the jar completely. Before screwing on the lid place a piece of wax paper between the jar and the lid. Apple cider vinegar is acidic and can cause metal lids to corrode, so don’t skip this step. After everything is ready place the jar out of direct sunlight, and let the herbs infuse into the acv for a minimum of two weeks. After the two weeks are up I strain the mixture using a cheesecloth or something similar and place the liquid in a clean spray bottle. I spray the dogs as needed, making sure to avoid spraying directly in the eyes. To apply to the face I usually spray some on a clean soft cloth and wipe the face, again avoiding the eyes. If your pup is afraid of the spray bottle you can always use the cloth method on the whole body which can be less stressful. You don’t have to use all the herbs listed. Each dog is different. While one herb or a combination of herbs might work for one dog, it might not for another.
Most of all have fun in the great outdoors, bring your pup, breathe the fresh air, respect Mother Earth and all her living creatures. Nature always provides if we take the time to learn. Happy trails!