Pedro and Michelle Rivera live on the rural outskirts of Madison, WI. Far from the city lights, fast-food drive-through restaurants and bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, they share 65 acres with three spirited cats and four playful dogs. These critters bound in and out the front and back doors frequently during the day, all year long.
"None of our pets have fleas. Not a single one," declares Michelle Rivera, a licensed massage therapist and herbalist. "They have been flea-free for years."
What's their secret? A constant, all-out chemical warfare assault of flea dips, bombs, sprays and topical medications? Far from it. The Riveras attack fleas safely and naturally.
Some of their natural flea-busting tactics include homemade meals, vitamin and mineral supplements, specific herbs and itty-bitty yard residents known as nematodes.
"We've found that the number one method to control fleas is proper nutrition," says Dr. Pedro Rivera, DVM, a holistic veterinarian. Fleas are parasites that tend to live on unhealthy animals with low immune systems. "If an animal is healthy, it has a strong immune system and it won't harbor parasites."
Together, the Riveras operate the Healing Oasis Wellness Center that teaches alternative and natural therapies to practicing veterinarians. They practice what they teach at the center every day on their forever-expanding pack of pets.
Chow time at the Riveras features homemade meals high in protein-packed raw meats as well as vitamin C and fresh garlic supplements. All pets don't eat the same foods or take the same supplements because the Riveras recognize that dogs and cats don't share the same nutritional needs or physiological make-ups. For instance, dogs can easily devour lots of garlic, but too much garlic can upset a cat's stomach.
"We urge people to cook for their pets, but to consult their holistic veterinarian first before doing so," says Michelle Rivera. "A store-bought bag of food containing high quality protein and not containing meat byproducts or chemicals is much better than an improperly made homemade meal."
Fighting fleas naturally and holistically provides peace of mind in knowing that you and your pet are free from exposure to toxic chemicals. Like the Riveras, Mary Wulff-Tilford and husband, Gregory Tilford, both herbalists, rely on Mother Nature to prevent a flea infestation at their three-pet home in mountainous Conner, MT.
They regularly sprinkle borate powder into the crevices of their couches and chairs. Two to three times a year, they stock their yard with shipments of flea larvae-eating nematodes that are available by mail order or directly from some pet or garden stores. They add brewer's yeast and fresh garlic to their pets' food bowls as well as essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6. They brew tea made from freshly picked and chopped chrysanthemums and serve it as a liquid treat or flea rinse. They spray their window screens with a bottle of distilled water containing several drops of bitter orange essential oil (fleas hate citrus scents).
"Treating the entire environment, inside and outside, is critical," adds Mary Wulff-Tilford. "People think that fleas spend most their time on animals, but they don't. They leap, feed, and leave and spend most of their time in the carpets, couches, and floors."
Arden Moore was a contributing writer for two books, DogSpeak (Rodale Press, 1999) and PetSpeak (Rodale Press, 1999). She is a member of Dog Writers Association of America and Cat Writers Association of America. She is currently a writer and editor who shares her Irvine, California home with three dog-like cats. A contributing editor to Dog Fancy magazine and Pets: Part of the Family magazine, she also regularly contributes to PETsMART.com, Cat Fancy magazine, and Veterinary Practice News.
NATURAL HEALTH DISCLAIMER: Holistic/Natural veterinary health care is a specific approach to treatment of pets that may differ from the advice or practice of your licensed veterinarian. Information and advice contained in this section is for your consideration only, and for use in conjunction with the advice and treatment of your regular veterinary care. Please consult your veterinarian before implementing a natural health/holistic treatment program for your pet.