Flea, Tick and Heartworm - Prevention Without the Toxins

Mar 01, 2024 Dan

Natural Prevention for Ticks, Fleas and Mosquitos.

What we choose what to feed, how to vet and what we decide to put into our pets’ bodies is a very personal choice. This blog will look at the different options available to us to prevent the “bugs” from attaching and feeding while preventing the transmission of disease. What will follow contains my opinion as I always strive to deal with my pet’s health as naturally as possible.

A Special Note on Heartworm Prevalence in Ontario

The chances of your pet being infected with the heartworm microfilaria in our climate is rare. If you are being told by your neighbour, your vet or vet tech that heartworm in Ontario is considerable risk, then you need to ask them the following question. When was the last time you know a dog or cat was diagnosed with heartworm microfilaria that lives in Ontario and did not come from the deep south (or visited the southern states where transmission is likely)? Most pets showing a positive test for heartworm are rescues from southern states where the climate allows transmission to take place.

If you would like to learn more about heartworm and heartworm prevention, you can click HERE


I strongly believe that we can prevent ticks and fleas naturally while minimizing the risk of disease transmission. The risks of putting a parasiticide into my pet’s body is, in my view, significant. A natural prevention plan is enough to let me sleep at night versus always wondering what the short- and long-term consequences are of putting an insecticide in my pet’s system.

Let us have a closer look at the different options and the good, the bad and the ugly of each. We just want to help you make an informed decision as to how to keep your pet safe while allowing you to sleep at night.

These are the medications that are prescribed by veterinarians. They come in the form of a pill/chewy or a liquid to be applied onto the skin. Some of the top selling brands are Bravecto, Nexgard and Simparica.


The Good

  • They are effective at killing fleas and ticks that attach and or feed on your pet.
  • They are easy to use but you need to keep on schedule and apply the appropriate dose as recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Given the above, this can give you the peace of mind that your pet will be protected from the issues and diseases that these bugs can transmit.

The Not So Good

  • Most of these medications contain a parasiticide. This is what kills the critters as they feed on your pet’s blood. Many of these products have the potential to create adverse events in dogs and cats such as muscle tremors, ataxia (loss of coordination of the limbs, head and/or trunk) and seizures. In fact, the United States Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about these side effects. In addition, a survey called Project Jake just released the results of a flea and tick medication survey. The survey found the following:


58% of the respondents gave the dog a flea treatment.

48% gave their dog a treatment containing a parasiticide.

66.6% of respondents who gave their dog a flea treatment said their dog experienced a reaction.

36.1% of respondents who have their dog a flea treatment said their dog DID NOT experience a reaction.

8.2% said they were unsure.


If you would like to read Project Jake’s peer-reviewed and open-access paper, you can check it out here:  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/vms3.285


These chemicals are now seeping into the environment.

In a large UK study, 20 English Rivers were found to have elevated levels of fipronil and imidacloprid (Advantix). These chemicals can kill tiny aquatic insects, a crucial food source for fish and birds. 

Additional studies of San Francisco Bay water treatment plants show that levels of both fipronil and imidacloprid routinely exceed toxicity values for aquatic invertebrates.


KEY FACT – Flea and Tick medications do not prevent the critters from getting on your pet’s body and attach and feed. These medications work by killing the critter once they stop feeding because the blood contains a parasiticide that your pet ingested.


INDOOR HOUSE CATS – If your cat spends most of the time indoors, then the risk of a critter getting on you cat is incredibly low. Again, this is a personal choice but please consider the risk of disease transmission versus the risks of giving you feline friend and parasiticide.


Ensuring your pet is healthy with a strong immune system is always a good start. Pets that are unhealthy and have a weakened immune system are great targets for the critters. The lower digestive tract is where the majority the immune system resides. Feeding a balanced (over time) species appropriate diet is the optimal way to strengthen and maintain your pet’s immune system.

In addition, there are other things that one might consider.

Essential oil-based, non-chemical sprays can be effective repellents to fleas and ticks. Lavender, geranium, and neem are some examples. However, some essential oils can be dangerous to cats, so you need to ensure that a spray you purchase or put together is cat safe. Natural spray repellents should be applied often during your walks and hikes. Most need to be applied every 45 minutes of so.

Some people like to include garlic into their pet’s meals. By doing so, your pet’s skin will not be as attractive to the critters. As an aside, garlic is not dangerous to dogs when given the appropriate amount.

There are also natural products that are pre-mixed and packaged that you can include in your pet’s diet. We have been providing one called Environmental Aid made by Earth MD, out of Ridgeway Ontario. It is a powder containing garlic powder, neem leaf, spirulina and quassia bark. You feed it to your dog or cat (in their food) each day for 7 days. You do this every other month. This mixture does two things. First, it will change the odour of their skin to repel the critters. Secondly, if the critters do get on and start feeding, they can be repelled by the taste of the blood and detach and move on.

For those with active lifestyles and a lot of outdoor activity, one might want to consider using an ultrasonic device that transmits a signal that disorients the tick, and eventually will deter the tick from attaching and feeding.

Have a look HERE to see the prevention solutions that are available to you.


What about treating a dog or cat that gets fleas?

The best first line of finding and getting rid of fleas is a good flea comb. Make sure to really check around ears, the bum and other moist dark areas of you pet’s body.

There are excellent all-natural flea shampoos that can help rid your pet of fleas.

Finally, an all-natural powder called Diatomaceous Earth or DE, can be used. The DE we are referring to is a food-grade DE, not the DE that is used in some filtration units. It is a fine powder that is applied in your pet’s coat and should be combed through. DE powder is like tiny little swords that will cut through the eco-skeletal structure of a flea and will kill it. It can also be used to kill fleas if they get into your house. The one downside of DE is that it can easily get air-born and when inhaled it can cause irritation in the airways and lungs. Best not to use DE around individuals who are prone to breathing issues.

What about ticks? What do I do if I find a tick on my dog?

Ticks freak us out the most. They are nasty little critters that can attach onto our pets (and humans) and feed away on blood until they are engorged. The nasty side of this is that ticks can transmit some serious illnesses into our pets and us humans. The tick most of us are aware of is Lyme disease, primarily transmitted by the Deer Tick or black-legged tick. So here are a few things to consider:


  1. If the tick is attached, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. There are tick tools that make it easy to remove a tick safely AND with the head intact. You do not want to leave the head under the skin potentially causing irritation and infection.


  1. Try to identify the species of tick. The prevalent tick in Ontario is the dog tick or brown tick. If you do identify the tick as a deer tick, then you will want to connect with your vet and arrange for a blood test that will tell you if your pet is infected with Lyme disease. Many healthy dogs that test positive for Lyme are asymptomatic. This means their immune system is dealing with the disease and your pet will show no symptoms of Lyme. Your vet can ascertain this through a second blood test. If your pet is diagnosed with an active Lyme disease, catching it early is key and most pets can be effectively treated with no long-term consequences.

Knowing your pet inside and out is best way to stay on top of ticks. Try your best to look and feel around your pet, especially the head area. Many ticks will get onto your pet from grasses and bushes/tree branches low to the ground and with most dogs, it is usually head-first. Right? Do not ignore the paws and legs as well. A good once-over after a hike or play in grassy and wooded areas is always a good idea.


Let us Summarize!

Flea and tick medications are effective but do have potential consequences.

The Snap 4DX blood test is an effective way of screening for early heartworm detection. This same test can be used to identify Lyme disease if you find a deer tick on your pet. Again, early detection is important to properly treat and prevent long-term health consequences.

Natural approaches in conjunction with effective screening tools can be a solid plan when choosing not to put pesticides into your pet’s system.

How one chooses to protect their pet from insect-borne illnesses is a personal one. Your pet lifestyle and where you live and what it takes for you to sleep at night all play a role in what you decide to do. We just want to make sure that all pet parents make good, informed decisions about your overall pet’s health.