Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and biting flies are annoying, plus their bites can cause irritation or, in some cases, illness in pets. Some people choose a completely natural approach to protect pets from these pests, while others use a combination of natural remedies and prescription preventatives from their veterinarian. Whatever you use, it’s always best to discuss options with your veterinarian first to make they’re safe for your pet — certain products, even if they’re natural,  shouldn’t be used on or around cats — and that you’re keeping them fully protected from potential diseases like heartworm or Lyme.

When it comes to natural approaches to pest control, there’s an overwhelming amount of information out there, so we’re here to make it a bit easier (and less intimidating) for you.  Here are a few natural and effective solutions to help keep your pets and home free of unwelcome pets. Some of these methods might involve a little more work than their chemical counterparts, but it’s worth the extra effort to reduce your pet’s exposure to chemicals.

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1. Protecting Your Pets Outdoors

Even a short morning walk through the neighborhood can bring on the nastiest of biting bugs. Chemical sprays and spot-on treatments are often used as a preventative, but neem, lemongrass, citronella and other essential oils have also been found to effectively repel flying (and crawling) pests.

There are several natural shampoos and conditioners on the market that contain one or more of these oils, and the scent usually lasts at least few days. It is especially good to look for a natural solution here as some harsher products may cause pesticide poisoning in your pet, you can read more about what to avoid and look out for in these products, in the Humane Society of the United State’s guide, here. To add an extra layer of protection or refresh the scent a few days post-bath, lightly apply a homemade or pre-mixed spray to your pet before you head outdoors.

Always use caution when using essential oils: It’s important to dilute them in witch hazel or distilled water first, and make sure you don’t spray or apply products near the eyes, nose, mouth or other sensitive areas. If you don’t want to go the homemade route, companies like Wondercide and Only Natural Pet sell a variety of sprays and treatments for dogs and cats.

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2. Protecting Pets in and Around the Home

Since most pets spend part of their day enjoying the outdoors, you need to take steps to keep your yard as well as indoor areas pest-free. Diatomaceous earth (DE), a sedimentary rock created by fossilized algae that’s then crumbled into a powder, is widely used as a natural way to kill crawling pests. This product can be used in the yard and around doorways or worked into carpet fibers to help kill fleas (including eggs and larvae) and crawling insects.

Make sure you purchase food grade DE and remember that a little goes a long way. Even though it’s nontoxic, it can irritate the eyes and lungs of both humans and animals. This fine powder can also create quite a mess, so make sure pets are not in the room while you apply the product. Opening the windows after application can help remove any airborne particles, and doing a thorough vacuum a day or so later will remove excess powder.

Cedar oil has also been proven as an effective way to kill fleas and ticks. You can find pre-mixed solutions for indoor or outdoor use through pet supply stores or online. As with DE, a little goes a long way; all you need is a light mist on furniture and bedding to do the trick. An added bonus is a fresh scent that can help remove pet odors.

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3. Keeping Pets and Their Environment Clean

Keeping your pet’s coat clean and healthy is extremely important. Carefully check your pets for ticks after your walk, hike or visit to the park. If you find one, safely remove it and then clean the area with mild soap and water.

Regular brushing prevents mats and helps remove fleas, eggs, and larvae. Follow up with a natural-based flea and tick shampoo.  Work up a good lather and let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse and follow with conditioner. Check the shampoo label to see how often the process should be repeated (usually once a month for dogs).

Vacuum or sweep your home regularly, paying special attention to entryways, underneath furniture and your pet’s sleeping areas. Vacuum pet beds weekly, and wash the covers in hot water with an eco-friendly laundry detergent.

Don’t let pest problems ruin your summer fun. By taking these steps, you can help protect your furry companions without introducing unnecessary chemicals into your pet care routine!

Lead image source: Lee Haywood/Flickr