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Mother Nature Fights Fleas

Posted: February 26, 2014, 3:30 p.m. EDT


Natural oils and herbs in sprays, powders and shampoos help repel pests while contributing to pet wellness.

By Cheryl Reeves

The flea and tick control product category, while a staple among pet retailers, is moving from a reliance on traditional spot-ons toward a more holistic approach, said interviewed retailers. According to industry sources, more pet owners are opting for an all-natural flea and tick control prevention plan similarly to how they are increasingly putting thought into the food that goes into their pets’ bodies.

When chemical-leery pet owners come into Earth Animal, a store in Westport, Conn., seeking advice on how to prevent fleas and ticks, owner Susan Goldstein offers them a "build-up program” custom-designed, above all, to boost their pets’ immune systems. The program centers around her own Earth Animal Natural Herbal Internal Powder, an arsenal of ingredients that include garlic, blue/green algae, hawthorn powder, spirulina and more. Further, she recommends giving the pet’s coat topical support with an all-natural flea and tick shampoo or spray.

"We believe you can, and should, fight fleas and ticks without using drugs,” said Goldstein, who co-owns Earth Animal with her partner and husband, Robert Goldstein, VMD, who also is the director of veterinary services of animal nutrition technologies. "Delivering a pet-specific system of quality nutrition, vitamins, minerals and herbs builds up the animal’s immune system to where you can get to a point of a strong, natural ‘from the inside out’ defense against fleas and ticks.”

flea and tick control
More pet owners are opting for an all-natural flea and tick control prevention plan. Shutterstock

"Animals with a weak immune system give off a particular odor that’s attractive to predatory pests,” Susan added. "So when you strengthen the immune system, you change the aroma of the blood, which, in turn, makes the pet a much less appetizing target.”

Kaelo Gallagher, dog and cat manager for Menagerie Pet Shop in Toronto, said that so many customers began asking for nontoxic flea and tick solutions that the store decided to cease selling any products containing chemicals. Customers were worried, he said, about aggravating or creating allergies as well as delivering drugs into their pets’ bloodstream through the skin.

"For example, a lot of people like using a liquid supplement that contains garlic and vinegar, or a powder supplement, because these are convenient,” said Gallagher. "But the key is to get people into natural prevention mode well in advance of flea season. And this includes treating their home as well as pet bedding.”

New Natural Pest Fighters
Manufacturers are taking note of this product category’s all-natural trend and are tweaking their products as well as introducing new items to market.

Kenneth Oh, director of the pet care division for W.F. Young in East Longmeadow, Mass., said his company is currently working on a new natural flea and tick control solution that will be launched under its Absorbine Ultrashield Green brand and introduced sometime this year.

"This new product features a proprietary combination of citronella, lemon and cedar oils as well as other ingredients to provide consumers with a natural flea and tick control product,” said Oh.

Another new product line is on the way within the next few weeks from Davis Manufacturing in Atlanta.
 
"The all-natural trend has been really gaining steam in the pet industry for the past several years,” said Matt McKee, sales associate for the company. "More consumers are studying what chemicals they are putting on their pets.”

To meet this demand, McKee said Davis Manufacturing is currently working on an all-natural, eco-friendly flea and tick product line called Pure Planet, featuring a Natural Flea & Tick Spray that kills fleas and ticks on contact. Another product within the brand that the company will be introducing is Pure Planet Flea & Tick Shampoo.

"Both of these products contain a tested and proven blend of natural clove and cottonseed oils, which work quickly to eliminate biting insects,” McKee said.

Additionally, he said that the new line of natural flea and tick products will be priced slightly below Davis’ pyrethrin-based products.

Synergistic Pest Proofing
"When it comes to flea control, you don’t want to mess around,” said Cindy Wenger, founder and owner of Peaceable Kingdom Essentials in Hershey, Pa. "You don’t want to leave your pet susceptible to fleas, which in turn can make your home a breeding ground for the pests. Effective flea control means balancing toxicity to fleas and safety for pets and people.”

Her newest flea product, Flea Flicker Flea/Tick Repellent Spray, is a USDA-certified repellent that also kills pests, Wenger said. Among the organic ingredients, the product features sweet orange essential oil, she added.

"Fortunately, the scented oils fleas dislike happen to have pleasant scents,” she said. "Peppermint, lavender, citronella, cedar, rosemary, lemon and orange essential oils chase fleas away without smelling noxious to animals—or people.”

Rickey Carter, a sales associate at Rocky and Maggie’s Pet Shop in Houston, said one key feature people like in all-natural flea and tick control products is that they smell better than chemical-based options.
 
"You can also use some of these natural topical sprays to treat pet bedding or carpet,” Carter said.

What are your best-selling natural pest control remedies? 

"The Petzlife line ... especially the powder supplement for its convenience. It works and it’s easy. This is the key to its popularity. Also, Riverside Natural Pet Products liquid supplement.”—Kaelo Gallagher, dog and cat manager at Menagerie Pet Shop in Toronto

"Pet Head Life’s an Itch Skin Soothing Dog Shampoo. Also Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe Totally Natural Shampoo.”—Pedro Andrade, owner of Tudor Paws in New York

"Pet Naturals of Vermont Flea & Tick Repellent Spray. This has no strong odor and applies evenly with a fine mist.”—Rickey Carter, sales associate at Rocky and Maggie’s Pet Shop in Houston

"Basically, what people value the most in a product—beyond that it works and is affordable—is a nice, clean smell and something that doesn’t leave a sticky residue.”

Accordingly, the NaturVet product line by the Temecula, Calif.-based manufacturer Garmon Corp. is designed to address the pet and its environment simultaneously, said the company’s public relations coordinator and graphic/web designer, Sitara Dickson.

"NaturVet’s Herbal Flea Shampoo, Herbal Flea Powder and Herbal Flea Spray work together synergistically for extra support,” said Dickson. "The unique combination of natural oils helps to repel fleas and flies while deodorizing with a fresh herbal fragrance.”

Pedro Andrade, the owner of Tudor Paws, a store in New York, said he’s seeing fewer customers coming into his store with flea and tick issues.

"It could be the nature of the city, that these dogs are mostly in apartments rather than running around outside like a rural dog,” he said. "However, I think a lot of the decrease in flea problems has to do with my customers practicing prevention. A lot of busy New Yorkers send their dogs and cats routinely to a groomer, but we also advise that they do an oatmeal bath in between appointments to be on the safe side. After all, we do have parks and dog runs.”

Emphasize Year-round Prevention
A common misconception among many pet owners (especially those living in cooler climates), is that fleas die off in the winter, McKee said. Retailers would do well to remind their customers that flea eggs can remain dormant for months—and in ideal conditions, even years, he said.

"It’s important for pet owners to keep treating both the animal and the environment throughout the year to prevent the risk of infestations,” he said. "Further, the best thing retailers can do is educate on how the flea life cycle works so customers are prepared.”

Wenger advised retailers to always stock a variety of flea and tick control products or herbal blends that address a range of pet health life stages and maladies, such as products for senior pets, puppies and kittens; pets with arthritis or digestive issues; those with sensitive skin; and those that require immune system boosters. 

Finally, dedicating display space and committing to stocking a depth of brand lines demonstrates to consumers that a retailer is an all-natural flea and tick control product destination, manufacturers reported.

"We recommend carrying the entire NaturVet flea product line to offer the consumer choices and a synergistic system for pest prevention,” said Dickson.

Retailers should cater to cat owners with a cat-only display in the dedicated cat aisle of their store, Dickson added.

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