As spring approaches, so does flea and tick season. Both pests thrive in warm, humid weather and multiply rapidly, threatening to infect your pooch while he enjoys the great outdoors. In addition to veterinarian-approved flea and tick medication, what are some natural preventive measures you can take to protect your pup from getting infected? The first step is to remove their habitat from outside your home. Here are some tips and tricks for keeping your yard dog-friendly but unfavorable for fleas and ticks.

Maintain Your Landscaping

Keep your yard clean. Get rid of flea and tick hiding spots by removing the following items from your yard:

• Any furniture that’s not being used

• Leaf litter and plant clippings

• Dead limbs

• Trash

• Wood piles (flea- and tick-infested rodents can hide there, too)

Mow your lawn frequently. Fleas and ticks prefer to breed in tall grass because it offers more protection from sunlight, so don’t let your grass grow too high. At the same time, don’t shear it so short that the fleas’ natural predators (ants and spiders) are repelled as well.

Prune thick shrubs. Fleas and ticks thrive in dark, damp areas. So by keeping your shrubs pruned, you’re allowing sunlight to penetrate your yard and forcing the pests to seek shelter elsewhere.

Create Barriers

Apply cedar mulch to your garden and around the perimeter of your home. Cedar is one of the most effective natural insect repellents, as it gives off a powerful earthy scent that is noxious to fleas, ticks, and other pests. Although cedar mulch is not toxic to dogs, it can pose a choking hazard and excessive ingestion can cause vomiting and diarrhea, so monitor your dog to make sure it doesn’t chew or swallow the mulch.

Create a barrier between your lawn and wooded areas. If your property borders a wooded area, the CDC recommends placing a 3-foot wide strip of wood chips or gravel at the edge of your yard. This helps prevent fleas and ticks from migrating onto your property.

Prevent unwelcome animals from entering your yard by building fences. Deer, raccoons, opossums, rodents, and stray dogs and cats could be carrying fleas and ticks and spreading them onto your property, putting your dog at risk.

Introduce Natural Flea and Tick Killers

Spray your lawn with food-grade diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a white powdery substance made of the fossilized skeletal remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms, found in the sediment of dried up water sources. Under a microscope, DE looks like shards of glass. When DE touches the larval and adult fleas and ticks, it pierces and absorbs moisture from their bodies, causing them to quickly dehydrate and die. Thankfully, though, DE does not harm useful garden critters such as worms and ladybugs.

Food-grade DE is not toxic to humans or animals when ingested. However, it can cause skin dryness and irritation and damages the lungs if inhaled, so be mindful when applying DE to your lawn. Wear gloves and a face mask, and make sure your pets are inside your home. It’s recommended to mix DE with water and spray it onto the lawn so that it will stick to surfaces before it dries. Reapply the solution after a rainfall, as DE can only kill fleas and ticks when dry.

Treat your lawn with beneficial nematodes. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic roundworms found in the soil all over the world. These kinds of nematodes do not infect animals, such as the heartworm, but are rather used as a highly-effective form of natural pest control. They enter the body of a flea or tick, release a bacteria that kills it within 24 to 48 hours, and then reproduce inside the dead carcass.

Most garden centers sell beneficial nematodes packaged on a flexible material that can be added to water in a spray tank. Spray all of the solution onto your lawn and garden soon after mixing it, as the nematodes will drown if left in water for too long and then become useless. Because nematodes are sensitive to light, heat, and drought, it’s best to apply them early in the morning, in the evening, or on a cloudy day.

Release ladybugs throughout your garden. Ladybugs eat soft-bodied insects, including fleas and ticks. A mature ladybug can feast on more than 50 insects per day! You can find ladybugs at a local gardening shop. It’s recommended to release them into your garden in the evening when it’s cooler, as they will fly away for cover during the heat of the day. Spray water onto your plants to provide them with something to drink.

When preparing for flea and tick season, prevention is key! By removing their habitat from your yard, you can better protect your dog from infection. Experiment with the above suggestions to see what works best for your home and lifestyle.

Click here to read part two of this mini-series to learn about more methods for natural flea and tick prevention.

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