Wednesday, April 28, 2010

But what do you do when you have massive amounts of ticks? Here's what we did.

Sometimes in life you are presented with a situation that has no perfect answer. This is exactly what happened with us the past few weeks.

If you are a frequent reader of Raise A Green Dog, you know how much we live the holistic, organic, natural, safer way of life. It's been our way of life, our entire life. That's what we practice, that's what we believe, and that's what we share with you.

We want to be completely honest with whatever major experiences we encounter and share here on our blog. Because of our recent encounters, and because we have been getting tons of email questions about what you do if you have tons of ticks and the holistic way just isn't enough to combat the little buggars, we are going to share something that will be surprising to our readers, especially in light of the recent report from the EPA about over the counter spot on topical flea and tick medications. It sure did to us.

There have only been a few times in our life that we were presented with a challenge that just couldn't be solved by following our holistic methods to the letter.

There was the time when I was attacked by a dog and had to undergo surgery. I had to take antibiotics to prevent infection. There was also the time that I got a nasty bout of gastroenteritis and had to take meds to prevent me from getting very ill and to prevent death. And just a couple of weeks ago, Gracie came down with what we believe is Giardia, which can be dangerous if the little parasites aren't killed, so Gracie had to take some antibiotics. Thankfully, we can count on one paw the number of times each of us - Mum, Gracie, Wolfie, Wiggy and me - have had to take antibiotics, and had to resort to means other than holistic methods to get us well.

When these potentially life altering, threatening and dilemmic situations happen, they aren't pleasant and they aren't easy. What we've always lived by is; the best thing you can do is get informed, do your research, talk with your holistic practitioners and DVM's, weigh the risks and make the best possible decision for you and your entire 'fur' family.

When we lived in Indiana, there were ticks, but not nearly to the extent of the massive tick population that we've encountered after our recent move to the mountains and deep woods of East Tennessee.

The tick population here took us by surprise. We had done research and looked into more 'powerful' holistic and alternative solutions for ticks before we moved here, knowing that we were going to encounter the little buggers more than we had in Indiana. But what we didn't know is how massive the population is, and how seemingly resistant they are to natural methods.

One week to nearly the day we arrived Mum found a tick on Gracie, my sis. She removed it utilizing safe methods. Then that afternoon she found another one on me. Later that night in the middle of the night she woke from a deep sleep and found one crawling on her. And this is only while walking on the paved path areas around where we live. This was just the beginning of tick season, even a few weeks early, which is a sure sign that, just like we heard happened last year, ticks here are going to be overwhelming this year.

Over the next few days, she continually found a number of ticks on us. At this time we were using many of the safer methods that we've blogged and talked about over the past couple of years, the ones we had planned for. We had to be careful utilizing some of these natural methods, because we live with two cats, and many of the recommended and safer natural methods for dogs contain essential oils that are very toxic to cats. Since we are close to our kittie bros, licking and interacting with each other throughout the day, Mum was very cautious in getting as much of the essential oils off of me and Gracie as possible after having it on during our hikes and before we spent time with the kitties. She also sprayed it on a bandanna and removed it when we got home, she tried many other methods to try and protect both me and Gracie, as well as our kittie bros.

As we said the massive tick population here didn't respond to any of our natural methods and we tried every type that was safer for us and safest for the kitties, except the electromagnetic type collars and amber stones which we didn't have on hand.

After doing a lot of research and talking with many holistic and local vets, we learned that many dogs in this area who had ticks were becoming sick from several diseases that ticks can transmit in this area - Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, and Canine Ehrlichiosis. In some cases the dogs had become very ill, even to the point of near death.

That's when Mum went into action. Faced with this dilemma of the holistic and natural methods not working on us and the potential dangers to our kitty bros, learning of the potential effects of tick diseases, and after talking with several holistic vets that specialize in integrative medicine and holistic practices, we decided drastic measures were needed.

The holistic vets in this area that have experienced these natural method resistant and prolific ticks are recommending something that we have over and over again indicated we would never use - Frontline (not Frontline Plus, but Top Spot or the spray).

Dr. Shawn, the natural vet, one of the respected vets that we follow says, "the occasional use of the products can be safely recommended for pets with potential exposure to large numbers of fleas and ticks." In addition, our good friends at indicates "there are significant health concerns associated with fipronil (the active ingredient in Top Spot and the spray) but in areas with severe tick problems, limited and careful use may be warranted."

The reasons that the holistic vets that we spoke with directly have recommended this product is because in cases where we live it is the safest alternative they have found for special cases like we have encountered. They have shared with us that they have not seen or heard of definitive cases of Frontline Top Spot creating a problem for dogs (although we have heard reports to the contrary from other sources, as well as reports of some of the 'natural' method products creating severe reactions in dogs, including Sentry's spot on product). All of them indicate they have had no patients with any type of reaction to the medication under their supervision and direction. This medication, they indicate, also has fewer amounts of chemicals than many of the topical tick meds, using only the minimum for the need.

After trying everything holistic in her arsenal, researching hours on end, talking with these holistic vets for hours on the phone, reading up on the risks of Frontline spray, and taking into consideration our senior kittie bros and the effect that frequent and extensive use of essential oils on us may have on them (and even us), Mum decided it was best for our entire 'fur' family to give us (only me and Gracie) the Frontline Spray and use it with the guidance of our holistic vet, as sparingly as possible, with recommended usage depending on the season and weight/health of me (JoJo) and Gracie. So Mum got the stuff...and a local house call vet here in town came over and put it on us a couple of weeks ago.

Mum and the local vet watched us very closely for any signs of a reaction. The DVM was standing by just in case we did. We got our holistic DVM's cell phone number to call too, just in case. We are very relieved and happy to say that it's been a couple of weeks, and we've had no effects and no ticks, even with several deep woods hikes over these past weeks. We even went on Wednesday following 'spray day' for our annual checkup and all four of us are in great health.

We don't like the fact that we've encountered a situation that has made us go to such extreme. The whole ordeal has been difficult for all of us. But we do want to be dogs. We want to live. We want to go hiking everyday in the woods. We want to be able to do agility in the pastures that border the woods. We want to be able to be free to go where ever (on a leash, of course) we want and know that we're not taking a risk of contracting some horrible, potentially life threatening disease from a tick. And Mum wants that for us too.

Thankfully all of our other new encounters - large amounts of ants, scorpions (yes, I said scorpions), and other nasties, have all been taken care of by our holistic methods of Diatomaceous Earth and an occasional squirt of eco-friendly bug spray. And the kitties (indoor lovers) are being treated with D-Earth as are our beds and theirs.

While our holistic approach to fleas and ticks worked perfectly when we lived in Indiana, we now know that there are parts of the country, like here in East Tennessee, where you may also be faced with the same situation we were, massive amounts that call for special case decisions.

We don't recommend what we did for everyone, we didn't need this in Indiana where we lived before because the natural methods we practiced worked perfectly. And we want all of you who read our blog to understand that this is a very extreme circumstance and very extreme decision.

We are not veterinarians, we are here only to share how we live the closest we can to a pure organic, natural, holistic, healthy, and environmentally friendly life. So, when you are presented with a dilemmic situation like ours, we hope you will do what we did - try holistic and natural first, do your research, talk with your holistic vet, learn and expand your knowledge of not only holistic and natural methods but conventional methods as well, to keep your pup safe, healthy and happy for your specific situation. Then you will have everything you need to weigh the risks and help you make the most informed decision possible for your 'fur' family, just like we did.

UPDATE: We've since moved from Tennessee mostly because of the tick problem. We just felt like it was a situation we couldn't afford for our health. So now we have a nice cabin in the Mountains of NE Georgia, and have found that there are many, many fewer ticks here. We've found only three in one year!

Here's what we've done to keep the ticks at bay here in our home in Georgia:

  • We fenced in an area around the cabin and raked all the leaf matter out of that area.
  • Then we sprinkle Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth around the outside of the fence line to keep the little critters out.
  • When out and about hiking, we utilize Earth Heart's Buzz Guard on a bandana to keep and ticks and fleas off when we're away from home.

And all of that has been working very well. Yeah for being able to live your dream in the forest and live without ticks and fleas!


  1. I use earth animals "internal Powder tablets" Works AWESOME! I have a foster dog that has to be on Frontline, I pulled two ticks off of her last week and 0 off of my dogs so far this year and they are on the natural method! We live in an area infested with ticks, if we go outside we often find one crawling on us!!! So now I also spray the foster with a natural spray: Yucca Natural Flea & Tick Spray:

    We don't use Frontline anymore of any kind. Frontline "guarantees" killing ticks within 24 hours, but it takes 24 hrs to catch lyme disease.

    After many years of using holistic sprays, the most effective product I have found so far is the Earth Animal "Internal Powder". I use it for my cats too. In the last two years of using it, not one tick on my pets. Like I said the foster is on Frontline and she has had two ticks already.

    My mom stopped using Frontline on her cats because the ticks used to attach themselves at the site of the Frontline application and my mom would often pull 4-5 ticks every day off of Lilly, in the spot where the frontline was applied!

    Another thing you can use in your yard is Food Grade Diatomaceaus Earth Powder. The food grade can be used outside to get rid of the pests naturally by spraying the yard(it breaks down the shells on the fleas and ticks and kills them) and brings the population down near your home. It is also edible and used to kill parasites so it can also be fed to your dogs.

    You should look into the Internal Powder Tablets, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results especially if you prefer natural methods! And it repels Fleas, Ticks, black flies and mosquitos.

    Thank you for the blog!

    Always looking for more natural solutions for both my pets and I!

  2. Interesting Christina, thanks for sharing the info. We'll check it out. Love Dr. Goldstein :)

    Just curious what part of the country you live in? The info may help others who have been emailing me nearly everyday...

  3. Had a thought...since we've been using Frontline, I haven't found any ticks on either JoJo, Gracie or myself. So something must be working. Am wondering however, if it's working well because they have never had anything like this on them before...guess time will tell if it continues to work as well as it is now. But we are continually looking at alternatives. Thank you to anyone who would like to share their experiences, we appreciate it!

  4. Fantastic info about natural tick treatments! Thanks.

  5. Excellent information about natural tick control! I recently moved to NYC and am more concerned with fleas and the dog park....will search your site for natural solutions to that. For now, I too and sticking with Frontline, and I do believe it controls fleas as well, if I'm correct?
    Thank you for all of your research and time and energy in giving us such a wealth of helpful information!

  6. Hi DogBlogNYC! Thanks for your comments. Just want to tell you that we believe the natural methods will work very well for fleas. Ticks are a whole different matter, however, because of the deadly diseases they carry.

    JoJo actually had fleas when I adopted him at 12 weeks. All I did was give him a good bath, combed him with a flea comb and sprinkled some D-Earth in his bed/crate, and voila, they were gone! D-Earth is wonderful! His good diet really helps keep the fleas at bay too.

    Do take a look at the natural methods link we have in the post, we think they should be fine for flea control for you.

  7. I live in middle tennessee and was glad to read your post. I have looked for more natural remedies for ticks and fleas (ticks are far more of an issue) but was having no luck (I've been looking for the 3 years we've had our dog). I use frontline and only on occasion (once a year at worse) do we find tick anymore.

  8. What a fantastic blog packed full of really useful information. I will definately try your natural products for fleas - I have used frontline in the past but have always wanted to find more natural remedies for the little so and so's! My dog Ollie seems to get them either as presents from our two cats or from playing with other dogs. Must be cheaper too! We don't have too much of a tick problem here in the UK but I will keep my eye out for them as well.
    Great resource - so glad I found you.

  9. Ticks are definitely no fun to get infested with. After a camping trip, we brought home a bunch. Our organic pest control guy helped us get rid of them completely with peppermint oil treatments. The perk was our house smelled like a candy cane factory! You can read about it at

    Great post; I learned some good stuff!

  10. I am a vet tech and do recommend K9 Advantix to our clients but if you are looking for natural methods then all of these suggestions are good. I do have something extra to add though. There is a homemade dog shampoo that can be used to help prevent fleas and ticks. Here is the recipe.

    *Empty bottle (old shampoo bottle)
    * White Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
    * Clear liquid antibacterial hand soap (such as Dial): I get mine from the Dollar General Store for $2.50
    Simply mix equal parts vinegar and soap to the bottle and give a shake. This shampoo has a wonderful amount of suds!
    Note: If you wash your dog outside be aware that vinegar will kill your grass.

    All this costs under $5 and should last one dog around 3 months depending on how often you use it. Not only is it good for fleas and ticks but its also great for sensitive skin,skin irritations, and leaves a beautiful shine to their coats. Plus your dog will smell like a salad for weeks :)

  11. This blog gives lot of informations so thanks for all efforts.Thanks


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