Protect Your Horse from Hazards

Protect Your Horse from Hazards

By Barbara Sheridan


Bailing twine in the field can pose a serious problem for a horse,
including being chewed and swallowed, if not picked up and properly discarded.


Often times, horse owners feel their beloved equines are simply a magnet for injuries. Being accident prone just seems to be in their nature, most times brought on by their instinctive fight-or-flight response, their need to establish herd hierarchy, and in some cases, their sense of natural curiosity.

By spending time to minimize the various hazards found on your property through identification and removal, you’ll take one step closer to making your barn and property safer for your horse and eliminate any potential accidents that may occur.

“There is no such thing as an accident, they are only incidents,” says Dr. Rebecca Gimenez, Primary Instructor and President of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Inc. (TLAER), based in Georgia. “No matter how unfortunate the situation, looking back, something somewhere probably could have prevented it from happening in the first place.”

Gimenez provides training in technical animal rescue techniques, procedures, and methodologies across the U.S. and internationally. In addition to publishing numerous critiques, articles, and journal submissions on horse safety, technical large animal rescue and horse handling issues, she published her first book, Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, in 2008.

She recommends that horse and facility owners become educated in both prevention and safety in order to identify any possible hazards and take the appropriate action beforehand to help offset an emergency visit from your veterinarian or even worse, having to resort to calling 911.

“The issue is usually having enough knowledge to understand where these hazardous problems lie and to act on them,” says Gimenez.

Farm properties can commonly become a catch-all for clutter and various safety hazards. Make it a habit to walk the property and be on the lookout for anything that could pose a problem should a horse connect with it. Keep an eye out for any sharp edges or protruding items such as nails, screws, torn metal, etc. Farm and maintenance equipment such as mowers, bailers, and harrows, should all be stored away in its proper place. Take the necessary steps to dispose of any clutter or debris that has been collecting along fence lines, laneways, or around the barn.

toxic plantsWalk your pastures and fill in any holes to prevent torn ligaments or a broken leg, as well as collect any discarded round bale netting or binder twine – it’s surprising how some horses like to munch on this. Also keep a look out for any potentially poisonous or toxic plants, such as tansy ragwort, nightshade, cocklebur, etc. While they may have not bothered with them in the past, a hungry horse without adequate pasture or hay will eat anything. Inspect not only your grazing field, but your hay as well. For a list of dangerous plants in your area, check with your local ministry of agriculture. If you are unable to tackle any of the potential hazards immediately, make note of your findings so that they are not forgotten.

For a complete list of identifying hazards on the farm, please visit

Hidden Hazards

Dusts, fumes, and vapours are hidden hazards that can have long-term effects on respiratory health for both horses and the humans who work around them. Poor ventilation can contribute to allergies and respiratory ailments including recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), better known as heaves.

“We’ve all been in barns during the winter, where all the doors and windows are closed up tight because of the cold,” notes Gimenez. “And this comes down to human comfort. We’re cold, so we think the horses are cold and close everything up. Without proper ventilation, the horses breathe in all that dust and ammonia. This is an unseen hazard that a lot of people don’t think about.”

A properly ventilated barn encourages correct airflow movement that expels stale air and pushes chemicals odors such ammonia out of the barn and allows fresh air to enter.

“I’ve seen people spend $100,000 on a new barn and put in cheap $10 box fans, which are also a huge fire hazard,” continues Gimenez. “Why didn’t they spend a bit extra and install overhead fans? Or bring in a ventilation expert to look at their place and evaluate a proper ventilation system that can release the fumes and help improve the air quality in that barn?”

High Risk Factors

Statistics show that the two most common emergencies affecting horse owners are trailer wrecks and barn fires, notes Gimenez. This is followed by entrapment-type emergency situations where the horse is stuck in mud or icy water, tangled in fences, or other around-the-farm situations where they become trapped and cannot remove themselves.


While a necessity, fencing is also a major contributor to hazards on the farm and inspection should be done as part of your daily routine. Don’t forget to check BOTH sides of your fencing and look for any protruding nails or wire, rotting posts, loose boards, dropped gates, etc.

“Make a habit of checking your fences regularly,” says Gimenez. “Not only can your horses injure themselves on broken boards or wires, but it only takes a stiff wind or the snow being so deep that the horses can just step over them, and then they’re loose.  And a panicky, loose horse on the run can then open up a whole new set of emergency situations.”

Another danger that Gimenez warns of is housing horses in fields with ponds during the winter. If you are not able to relocate them to another area of the property, ensure that ponds are fenced off with some form of temporary fencing before they freeze over. There have been numerous incidents where a horse will walk out across a snow-covered pond and fall through the ice into freezing water. Sometimes it doesn’t end well.

“Last December, the Emergency Equine Response Unit in the Kansas City area had the horrifically tragic and difficult job of retrieving the bodies of three young horses out of a pond after they fell through the ice and drowned,” she says. “I can’t stress it enough, people have to fence off their ponds and keep them out of mud, ice and water.”

Don’t Fall Victim to “It Won’t Happen to me” Syndrome

Accidents involving horses can happen anywhere, anytime, and it’s an unfortunate fact that many could have been prevented. By taking the time to identify and correct any hazards that may be found on your property, you’ll be in a better position to prevent any possible injuries that can arise. This saves aggravation on not only your horses, but also your pocketbook.

“I can’t stress it enough, take the time to educate yourself on accident prevention and maintain your facilities so as to minimize injury to your horses,” says Gimenez. “They will thank you for it.”

Sign up for our free e-newsletter at, which delivers monthly welfare tips throughout 2014 and provides tools to aid all horse owners in carrying out their ‘Full-Circle-Responsibility’ to our beloved horses.  In partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Equine Guelph is developing a ‘Full-Circle-Responsibility’ equine welfare educational initiative which stands to benefit the welfare of horses in both the racing and non-racing sectors.

Visit Equine Guelph’s Welfare Education page for more information. 

Equine Guelph is the horse owners’ and care givers’ Centre at the University of Guelph. It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups. Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government – for the good of the equine industry as a whole.
For further information, visit

Reprinted with kind permission from Equine Guelph.

Silent Night . . . All Is Calm!



I just like to bark!Excessive Barking – a very frustrating problem! One of the reasons it can be so frustrating to try and solve is that barking is a self-reinforcing behaviour – it just feels good to do it. That’s a problem because behaviour that’s reinforced will continue and if you aren’t the one in control of the reinforcement, it’s difficult to solve the problem. But wait, all is not lost!  You can solve this tricky issue, but . . . . it does require a commitment to do it right and to put the time into the training.

Why do dogs bark? Well, dogs bark for many reasons – fear of things, alerting to things, excitement and over-arousal, demanding attention, boredom, or frustration. It is, of course, one way that dogs use to communicate with us and with the outside world. It’s not something we should ignore or shut down completely without some understanding of the reasons behind the barking. They are, after all, trying to tell us something. For this article, I’m going to focus on a most annoying barking situation – dogs who bark for attention.

Attention Seeking Behaviour – Demand BarkingBarking-2

Barking is the most irritating of the various attention-seeking behaviours. What does barking for attention look and sound like? It literally seems like your dog is yelling at you to do something while looking right at you – “give me something to do!”; “get up and play with me!”; “come and feed me!”; “rub my tummy!”; “my ball is under the couch!”; “this toy is too hard!”; “here’s my ball – throw it!”. It sounds just like what it looks like – demanding, repetitive barking with a single tone that’s often higher in pitch than barking at other times. The energy behind it just “feels” like a demand for something vs. “someone is at the door” or “I’m afraid of that person”. If it’s ignored and continues, the barking tends to get louder but remain the same tone.

One way to stop unwanted behaviours is to simply ignore the behaviour – remember that behaviour that’s reinforced will continue, but behaviour that isn’t reinforced will stop. That’s great in theory (and does work with many behaviours) however; it’s very difficult to ignore a dog who is “yelling” at you as loud as they can for attention!  It’s particularly difficult if they happen to have a very high-pitched bark that’s painful on the ears. Also remember that the very act of barking, for that dog, may be reinforcing so all your ignoring may be for nothing!

The other interesting and very challenging thing about behaviour is that random reinforcement strengthens behaviour. In other words, those few occasions when you just can’t stand it any longer and give in to your dog, or even get angry with him, can and often does, strengthen the behaviour of barking. While getting in trouble may not seem particularly reinforcing to us, it can be to some dogs – at least they’ve gotten your attention. Darn – your dog has just learned that 712 barks equal success!!

So how can you combat this most annoying problem?

The Training

Being proactive is always the best first choice. From the moment you get your dog – whether it as a puppy or an adult – make a pact with yourself not to give in to the barking when it’s a demand for attention. Learn what that looks like in your dog and train yourself and your family to recognize it and ignore it when it begins. If you start early with a young dog who hasn’t practiced much yet, you can be successful just ignoring the behaviour.

If you already have a very barky dog, then the proactive way to deal with this is to begin marking and paying the behaviour of “not barking” or “silence” (which also includes whining) – well before any barking is likely to take place in any given situation.

For example: if your dog tends to bark at you when you sit at your computer doing some work (“I’m bored – play with me now!”), plan in advance and have your Clicker and plenty of yummy, tiny treats with you before sitting down.

As soon as you take your seat, begin Clicking and treating “silence”.

Toss your treat for your dog to run and get and make sure you toss it somewhere easy to see and get. Be prepared to get up and point it out if they miss it – you don’t want to trigger frustration barking!

Use treats that are easy to see like orange cheese bits or that make a slight noise when they hit the floor like crunchy kibble, so they can track them easily. I’ve learned not to use “round” treats that roll under furniture!

Click and treat rapidly – as soon as your dog finishes eating and turns his attention back on you, Click and treat again.

Keep doing this for 5 or 10 minutes, and then give your dog a stuffed kong, bone or captivating chew toy to keep him happily occupied for a short period of time while you take a break from the training.

Be prepared to begin working on “silence” again as soon as he appears to be on the verge of finishing with his kong.

Yes, you are not getting a whole lot of work done during these training sessions! However, if you do lots of proactive training like this for awhile, then you can start pairing back the rapid Clicking and treating and have longer pauses between. How long you need to work will depend on your dog and his level of patience. You can also begin to pair back the frequency of training sessions but give your dog a kong more often. Next is to begin inserting bigger pauses between the time the entertainment toy is finished and the next training session begins. Remember to use your voice to give your dog positive feedback for his patience – especially when you begin inserting longer pauses. Your voice can help fill the pauses and begin the process of reducing the need for Clicks and treats as his skill of being patient increases.

Make a list of all the times your dog tends to begin demand barking so you can plan training sessions around those times of day. My dogs can sometimes get demanding when: they haven’t yet had any exercise; one is busy the other isn’t; making meals or preparing kongs; after dinner time; they’ve had a big hike and come home a bit wired. My goal is to teach my dogs to simply wait patiently and fun things will eventually happen. Yelling at me to “hurry up and do something” will accomplish nothing and, in fact, may ultimately result in some good things temporarily coming to a screeching halt.

Once you’ve had lots of early training sessions and are now beginning to lengthen the pauses and the time between training sessions and entertainment toys, you may experience moments when barking kicks in briefly. If this happens, just temporarily lower your expectations and take a step back in your training. If you’re lengthening pauses, make the pauses random vs. simply making them longer each time. Ensure that your reinforcement and entertainment toy quality is good enough to meet challenge of the situation. Don’t forget to verbally praise and provide positive feedback during the whole process.

The good news is that all the training and entertainment toys are mentally challenging which will make your dog tired, too, as an added bonus.

The ManagementBarking article

Good training involves both training and management. You can’t change behaviour without a good mix of both.

When you are not able to combine a training session with the situation that can trigger demand barking from your dog, keep some stuffed entertainment toys on hand so you can give him something to do as an alternative. We have at least 5 (to 15!) stuffed kongs in the freezer at any given time for just such occasions. We also have lots of chew sticks and various treat-dispensing toys that can quickly be filled and dispensed. If you’re in a hurry to get a project done and simply can’t spend time training, give him something he loves to do instead and keep it coming so barking doesn’t start.

Yes, these training tools and tips involve using a lot of food. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your dog getting all his meals as training or entertainment toys! However, make sure that you are carefully monitoring your dog’s weight. Cut back on his meal portions to compensate. If you have a small dog or one prone to weight gain, get creative with your treats. Find low calorie treats that your dog loves – dehydrated veggies; low calorie, grated cheese; shreds of chicken breast; bits of tinned, low salt, tuna in water; low calorie cat kibble (cat kibble is usually much smaller than dog kibble). Get creative with your treat dispensing toys and learn how to stuff a kong that lasts as long as possible. My personal record with a food-stuffed toy is 4.5 hours (yes, I timed it)! Of course you also have to work on building your dog’s desire to work that hard for that long….

What’s important about any episodes of demand barking is what you do after it stops. If you reinforce your dog for silence immediately after the barking stops, there are some risks involved! Even though you think you’re marking and paying “silence”, many dogs think you’re paying – “bark, then stop”. Therefore, “barking” becomes tied into the behaviour of “silence”. It’s very similar to dogs who jump up on their humans – in order to get the “Good Girl!” praise from us for putting 4 feet back on the ground, they must jump up first – it becomes a cycle of behaviour and so the jumping continues. Instead, wait for or ask for an additional behaviour before reinforcing “silence” – barking stops, ask for sit or high-five, Click then treat – then continue your training for “silence”. Asking for an additional behaviour interrupts the sequence and focuses your
dog on something else for a moment.

As always, when you are working to change or train behaviour, keep it positive! Demand barking can quickly become fear-based with aggressive behaviours creeping into the equation if you start to employ punitive tools or methods to curb barking. Shock collars, “barking collars” that squirt air or citronella, or other punishment-based barking “fixes” are not appropriate for any barking problem (or any other problem, frankly). Have fun with it – because training should always be fun for you and your dog!

What is HPP and is it really a good thing for your pet?

What is HPP and is it really a good thing for your pet?


By Carly Piatocha


In recent years, feeding a diet of raw meat, bones, organs and fresh vegetables has become quite main stream. Veteran raw feeders will no doubt remember a time in the not so distant past where feeding your animals in this manner meant your only option was making your pets meals at home. Raw food has now become the “old but new” way of feeding pets a wholesome and nutritious diet, and new raw food companies are springing up around the country. With this plethora of choice, it can be difficult for pet parents to know which company or companies to choose in order to ensure they are getting the best nutrition they can afford.

In order to set themselves apart from the crowd, reassure those nervous new-to-raw customers, and ensure the safety of their products, some companies have started offering raw food that is not only ready to thaw and feed, but also “bad bacteria free” through a process known as High Pressure Processing, or HPP for short.

HPP is a method of food processing that was discovered over a century ago when scientists realized that bacteria could not survive the high pressure environment of the ocean floor. HPP’s use in the commercial food industry however did not really begin until the 1990’s and has only become main stream in all areas of food production since 2000.

This process essentially uses high amounts of pressure, up to 90,000 pounds per square inch, in order to crush the outer membrane of prokaryotes (single celled organisms) and thereby kill harmful strains of bacteria such as Listeria, E-coli, and Salmonella. This level of pressure, put in a different way, is the equivalent of being six times deeper than the bottom of the Mariana’s trench – the deepest part of any ocean in the world! Essentially, packaged food enters one end of a completely enclosed chamber which is then filled with water and has equal amounts of pressure applied to all sides with processing times ranging from a few seconds to up to twenty minutes. According to several large and well known pet raw food companies, this process enables consumers to conveniently and safely feed raw food diets to their pets with no worry over bacterial contamination. Sounds too good to be true? In many ways, it is. Let’s explore the potential problems with feeding HPP raw pet food to your furry buddy.

There are several key issues with HPP processed food. First off, if bad bacteria are being crushed out of the food, what happens to the proteins of the meat itself as well as the good bacteria that are also present in raw meats? This is especially of concern given one of the main reasons many people choose to feed a raw food diet in the first place, despite its mess and expense, is for its unparalleled nutrition and absorbability. Although the raw food companies that use this method of processing often claim that foods are unaffected by it, the FDA themselves say otherwise. When raw, high protein foods go through this process, they will not only look visibly different, but the process also can also cause protein denaturation. Why is this a big deal? Well, picture a protein molecule as a curled up spring made of little amino acids. When a protein becomes denatured, usually through the application of heat or in this case high pressure, the string unravels and this renders the protein incapable of functioning.

There has also been a study done in 1999 proving that high pressure processing can alter the PH balance of foods by lowering it overall. This is actually part of the way more resilient strains of harmful bacteria are killed. Real raw meat is naturally highly acidic, and dogs are meant to have naturally acidic body systems. Overall, nutritionally speaking this is all bad news for your pet!

Even if we assume that the food produced under HPP is nutritionally equal to that of non-HPP raw food, we are still left with the inescapable fact that when a product is rendered completely sterile, it becomes an unbridled breeding ground for reinfection of the same dangerous pathogens that HPP killed off. It is a fact that few strains of bacteria can survive HPP, so even the neutral and helpful forms will be wiped out, meaning that if a product were to be re-infected with dangerous bacteria that cause illness, such as E-coli, there would be no competition for resources or space, allowing this invader to multiple at an unchecked rate. Of course, if eaten, this food would then pose a significantly greater risk for bacteria borne illness to both your pet and your family than if you had of just given Fido a piece of raw, high quality chicken as you cooked dinner. In fact, ironically, there is also evidence to suggest that the presence of high amounts of calcium in foods can offer protection to harmful bacteria when placed under pressure. Essentially, this means that any raw food that contains ground bone, can actually provide protection to E.coli bacteria making them much more resistant and able to survive a high pressure environment!

To bring home this point, it is important to note that one well known company, who will remain unnamed here, began using HPP processing in late 2009 and then proceeded to
voluntarily recall several batches of their raw frozen chicken patties on February 11th 2010 due to contamination by Salmonella bacteria. Yes, you read those dates correctly, this recall occurred AFTER the inception of HPP processing. This means of course, that even in sanitized factory conditions, it is a fallacy to believe that HPP processing can completely eradicate all harmful bacterium from your pet’s raw food meal.

The above case aside, admittedly most reinfection of HPP raw would occur in the conditions of the average home kitchen, not the manufactures. We do not live in a sterile world and bacteria are on and in everything, millions of them. I know its gross, but its true and it’s over all a good thing – we need them around to break up waste produced by larger creatures like us and hey, they were the first forms of life on our planet. In fact, in a study done on sixteen dogs intentionally fed Salmonella contaminated commercial raw food diets, none died or even became ill at all.

As long as common sense food safety protocols are followed such as defrosting and storing meat properly and thoroughly washing everything that has touched raw meat, there is little need for concern. Given the superior nutritional value of real raw and the fact that bacterial contamination is actually less likely given the reasons above – it is actually safer!

Even putting safety aside, the final issue with HPP is that it leaves companies who utilize the method with a difficult to solve conundrum. HPP is an expensive process. Therefore companies are faced with a choice; on one hand they can use high quality ingredients as well as HPP in order to ensure what they feel is a superior raw food product, however this product, while decent quality, will be very expensive for the average consumer to purchase due to the high cost of both ingredients and processing. On the other hand, some companies use HPP as an excuse to use subpar ingredients and an inappropriate amount of bone/muscle meat/organ ratios and assume that HPP will “clean” the food regardless so it will at least be “safe”. This results in a much more economical, and nutritionally poor and unbalanced, product.

Raw food companies that do not use HPP are forced to use overall higher quality ingredients to ensure nutritional balance and prevent illness. Most also employ a “test and hold” procedure where foods are kept frozen at the facility until such a time as they can be tested for low levels of bacteria and other food safety measures. Besides it is important to note that 36% of healthy dogs and 17% of healthy cats carry live Salmonella bacteria in their intestines and never become ill. As mentioned before, bacteria are a fact of life!

Overall, there are many choices out there nowadays in the world of raw pet food companies and every owner needs to make an educated choice for their pet while weighing the pro’s and con’s of the quality, safety and price of each option. If you are curious whether your pets food is made with HPP, a simple phone call to the company can help you uncover this information. The purpose of this article is to assist owners in making those difficult choices and to assure you that your hard earned pet food dollars are better put towards high quality, non-HPP raw diets, which are often cheaper as well as more nutritious and balanced.

Getting Rid of Fleas Naturally

Getting Rid of Fleas Naturally


By Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM


FleaFleas are one of the most common reasons that dog and cat owners seek out a Veterinary clinic, yet unfortunately all that the Veterinarian can offer is a variety of potentially toxic insecticides. Dog and Cat owners are becoming increasingly concerned about the high number of side effects from conventional flea medication, and many are seeking some of the safer, holistic options of natural flea control.

In this article I will cover basic information on fleas, How to tell if your pet has fleas, medical problems of fleas, the Flea life cycle, and conclude with my top natural ways of getting rid of fleas.

Side Effects of Conventional Flea Medication

Conventional Flea medications are increasingly causing medical problems for dogs and cats. In fact while I was in Veterinary practice, I commonly saw small dogs and cats with side effects of the medication. Signs ranged from skin irritation, to hair loss, to vomiting and diarrhea, seizures and in a few cases cats died.

Here is a report from the EPA:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is warning dog and cat owners about potential health risks to their animals from a variety of spot-on flea and tick medications.

Spot-on products generally are sold in tubes or vials and are applied to one or more areas on the body of the animal, such as in between the shoulders or in a stripe along the back.

More than 44,000 pet health-related incidents from spot-on treatments were reported last year to the EPA, ranging from mild skin irritations to death. As a result, the EPA recently announced it was intensifying its evaluation of these products.

The EPA investigation will center on incidents with spot-on treatments, sprays, collars and shampoos.

“However, the majority of the potential incidents reported to EPA are related to flea and tick treatments with EPA-registered spot-on products,” the EPA announced.

Pesticide registrants are required by law to submit information to the EPA on adverse effects resulting from the use of any registered pesticide. EPA said seven products represent about 80 percent of all adverse incidents.

These medications are potentially very toxic, with serious consequences.

This does not even take into account the diseases that are more difficult to link to topical insecticides. By applying a topical flea medication such as Advantage to your dog or cat means that every time your pet grooms themselves, they are ingesting some of that insecticide.

Every time you touch your pet, you are then being exposed to some of that insecticide.

I suspect that this chronic exposure to insecticides wears on your pet’s immune system, leading to increasing incidences of diseases, such as allergies and cancer.

Cancer has risen to epidemic proportions in the dog population with nearly 50% of the dogs dying of cancer.

The Veterinary community, along with large pharmaceutical companies are minimizing these risks, yet many pet owners are becoming alarmed, and rightfully so.

This article will give you some of the more effective natural flea control methods.

How to tell if your pet has fleas

Itch, Itch, Itch!!! Your pet will not stop scratching. If you look more closely you will probably see flecks of black dirt; this is flea feces. A sure way to test for fleas
is by placing your pet over a white piece of paper and vigorously rubbing her fur. If black ‘dirt’ (flea feces) falls off, then she has fleas. You may also be able to see the little guys jumping; using a small fine-toothed comb you may be able to find them.

Flea combs are fine teethed combs that are able to pick up flea dirt (flea poop), flea eggs and adult fleas.

  1. Start from the head, and comb backwards.
  2. If you find black specs (flea poop) place it on a white piece of paper and add water. If it turns red, your pet has fleas.
  3. Place the eggs, fleas and flea dirt in soapy water (this will kill the fleas)
  4. If your pet has fleas or lice, repeat this twice a day.
  5. Preventively check your pet for fleas/lice once a week.

Flea DirtFleaDirt




Flea Information

Fleas are the most common dog and cat external parasite, living off your pet’s blood.

Some flea species include:

  • Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)
  • Dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis)

Over 2,000 species have been described worldwide

  • Fleas are small wingless insects with mouth-parts that allow them to feed on the blood of your pet. They have long legs adapted for jumping, then can jump up to 200 times their own body length.

Medical Problems of Fleas

Fleas can cause a whole host of medical concerns for dogs and cats.

Skin conditions are most common, and this includes flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), hair loss, hot spots, excoriations showing up as irritated red skin.

More serious medical conditions of fleas include tapeworms (very common in cats), and in serious infestation, anemia. In young puppies and kittens this could result in death.

Fleas have been implicated in transmitting the bubonic plague. They transmit the bacteria Yersina between rodents and humans.

They are other lesser know and unusual diseases that are transmitted by fleas, but these are very uncommon in North America.

Flea Life Cycle

Flea graphicUnderstanding the Flea Life Cycle is important to be able to control fleas naturally.

Fleas have a life cycle of four parts: egg, larva, pupae and adult.

Common percentages of flea populations include: 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae and 5% adults.

The life cycle from egg to adult can be rapid or slow, varying from two weeks to eight months. This is dependent on a variety of factors: humidity, temperature, and availability of food (the blood of your pet!!).

After feeding on blood, the female flea can lay 50 eggs per day with a maximum of 600 eggs on your dog or cat.

Flea eggs are not firmly attached, and they fall out where your pet lays down or sleeps. In contrast lice lay eggs that are firmly attached, and most of their life cycle is on your dog.

Eggs turn into larvae, and that takes anywhere from two days to two weeks. Inside the larvae are found in cracks and crevices, your pet’s bed, kennel or edges of your house.

The larvae also develop outside – they are especially adapted to sand and gravel.

Adult fleas need blood to survive and lay eggs, but may live for one year without feeding.

When you leave your house for a period of time, flea eggs hatch and larvae pupate.

The fleas fully develop in the pupae, and can survive for up to a year so long as they do not emerge- waiting for your pets to return and hatch ‘en masse’.

In 30 days, ten female fleas can increase to over 250,000.

Optimum temperatures for the fleas are 70°F to 85°F and optimum humidity is 70%.

Natural Ways to get Rid of Fleas

So where do you start?

According to ‘conventional’ veterinary wisdom, most pet owners are given only one option, some sort of potentially toxic insecticide.

My advice is to incorporate a number of natural flea control methods, using the conventional options in severe infestations, or when the natural remedies are not working.

In treating fleas naturally, you need to focus on three areas of flea control: Flea control on your pet, Flea control in your house, and Flea control in your yard.

1. Natural Flea Control on Your Pet

A Healthy Pet. A healthy pet will have less of a problem with fleas than an unhealthy one. If your pet has a skin problem such as an allergy caused by food, fleas will make the irritation worse, and may reproduce that much quicker because they have an easier time feeding on weakened skin. Do all that you can to boost your pet’s immune system – you may find that just by improving your pet’s overall health, you will gain control of your flea problems. To help boost your pet’s immune system, use a natural health supplement such as my own:

  • Ultimate Canine Health Formula
  • Ultimate Feline Health Formula

Flea Comb your pet regularly. Flea combs are fine teethed combs that are able to pick up flea dirt (flea poop), flea eggs and adult fleas.

  1. Start from the head, and comb backwards.
  2. If you find black specs (flea poop) place it on a white piece of paper and add water. If it turns red, your pet has fleas.
  3. Place the eggs, fleas and flea dirt in soapy water (this will kill the fleas).
  4. If your pet has fleas or lice, repeat this twice a day.
  5. Preventively check your pet for fleas/lice once a week.

Shampoo. Bathing is effective at soothing irritated skin and eliminating some of the adult fleas. There are a number of flea shampoos combined with oatmeal. Use cool water and leave the shampoo on for ten minutes. Your pet can be safely shampooed twice a week. There are a number of effective holistic flea shampoos that are reasonably effective. Some of ingredients that work for dogs and cats include Neem oil, Eucalyptus and Cedarwood oil.

Avoid Tea Tree oil – it is very toxic to cats, and small dogs, although found in some of the ‘natural’ flea control products.

Conventional Flea shampoos that contain pyrethrins are the safest type of conventional flea and lice treatment- I advise using these shampoos for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens.

Make Your Pet Taste Bad. Garlic and Brewer’s Yeast have been advocated as a way of repelling fleas. In my experience it only seems to help a small number of dogs, but it is worth a try. Garlic is not safe to give to cats long term. For a 10 lb dog, give 1/4 tsp of garlic and 1/4 tbsp of brewer’s yeast daily.

Mullein. Make as a decoction/tea and rinse on your pet. Get a handful of the herb, steep in hot water, cool and pour over your dog or cat. This will temporarily paralyze the fleas.

Cedarwood Oil Spray. A relatively non-toxic natural substance, has been proven effective in the eradication of infestations in pets. Be cautious in spraying any type of essential oil on cats or small dogs, only lightly mist them, then use a flea comb to spread the spay around. Here is a recognized safe cedarwood oil flea spray for dogs and cats: Triple Sure Natural Flea and Tick Spray made by Natural Wonder Products.

BORAX. This is another home treatment for flea infestations. Borax kills fleas by dehydrating them.

2. Flea Control in Your House

Suck Them up and Wash Away. Thoroughly vacuum the areas where your pet spends time. Concentrate on bedding, carpet, cracks and crevices. Regularly wash your pet’s bedding. Do not forget about the car. Steam cleaning your carpets is an even more effective method of killing fleas, larvae, and eggs.

Chinchilla Dust. This is correctly called ‘diatomaceous earth,’ which consists of the skeletons of microscopic algae. It can be purchased in pet supply stores, but be sure it is the kind meant for pets, not the glassified type which is used in swimming pool filters. It can be used on your pet and in the house. Apply it weekly during flea season, vacuuming three days after applying. Make a point of putting it in the cracks and crevices. This can also be safely applied to your dog or cat.

Weekly Wash. Wash your pet’s bedding in hot water at least once a week. Carefully roll up the bedding so as to not lose the eggs which could drop off. Washing will kill the fleas, removing the eggs, larvae and pupae.

Dehumidify. Humidity is vital for flea survival. Flea eggs need humidity of  75% to hatch, flea larvae need 50% humidity to survive. For example in places with adequate humidity, 20% of the eggs survive. In dry areas with low humidity, less than 5% of the eggs survive. Using a dehumidifier in your home will go a long way in stopping the flea cycle.

3. Flea Control in Your Yard

Natural Control in Your Yard. Nematodes are microscopic worms that prey on the larvae and pupae of fleas. They can be purchased at most garden stores; a small canister contains 100 million little worms. Follow the label directions, spraying them on the damp bushy areas in your yard.

Short Lawn. Keeping the grass short allows the sun to shine on the larvae killing them. The goal here is to make it uncomfortable for the fleas to reproduce.

Ants are Good. They will eat flea eggs and larvae – so longs as they are not eating your house, then keep them alive to interrupt the flea life cycle.

Natural Topicals Outside. Diatomaceous earth, which consists of the skeletons of microscopic algae. It can be purchased in pet supply stores, but be sure it is the kind meant for pets, not the glassified type which is used in swimming pool filters. It can be used on your pet and in the house and on areas where your pet sleeps outside.

Blue Juice

Blue Juice


By  Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM


Blue juice in a veterinary clinic can kill you; it is food colouring added to a barbiturate anesthetic called sodium pentobarbital. In the veterinary world, it is called euthanyl, and if you have ever had a pet “put to sleep,” it was likely with this blue-colored anesthetic being injected into the veins. Veterinarians are fortunate to be able to humanely end an animal’s life. With the more than two thousand euthanasias that I performed, I often heard clients express their gratitude for ending their pet’s suffering. But I can never legally perform another humane euthanasia.

My name is Dr. Andrew Jones, and I was a practicing veterinarian for over seventeen years. I came to question conventional veterinary medicine, I began openly educating pet owners about the benefits of alternative, holistic veterinary care, yet my public writings led to my expulsion from the British Columbia Veterinary College, which banned me from practicing veterinary medicine.

My recently published book, Veterinary Secrets, serves as a tale of what is wrong with conventional health care for our animals, in particular for our dogs and cats. It’s a warning call about how large drug companies, food companies, and corporate veterinary medicine are harming your pet. It’s also a wake-up call to illustrate to pet owners how veterinary associations are persecuting holistic practices and practitioners.

I resigned from the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia effective December 1, 2010, following a five-year investigation into my online holistic pet health book and newsletter. The college found me guilty of professional misconduct on April 20, 2010, claiming that I had committed various offences under its Bylaws and Code of Ethics.[1] For these offences I was fined $30,000 and required to pay an additional $9,500 for the Inquiry Committee costs.

During my years of practice at my clinic, The Nelson Animal Hospital, I had zero client complaints recorded by my governing body, the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia. My alleged professional misconduct was based on what I wrote in an online newsletter, not based on any client complaint or harm done to an animal.

I came to believe that natural, holistic veterinary care is not only undervalued, it is being strongly discouraged- even if your local veterinarian is open to holistic care, they may face reprisals from their veterinary governing body if they choose to publicly advocate for it. I really believe that many of our dogs and cats are over vaccinated, over medicated, poorly fed and exposed to far too many harmful chemical toxins.

In spite of the dramatic advances in veterinary medicine, we have dogs and cats getting serious diseases at younger and younger ages. Illnesses such as allergies, kidney failure, diabetes, auto-immune disease, urinary tract disease, and cancer. In my opinion many of these can be linked to these outdated, conventional, veterinary practices.

Fortunately you can change this, by becoming an empowered pet parent who takes charge of your own dog or cat’s care. I encourage you to learn about natural veterinary care, to question your vet, to feed your dog or cat better, and avoid as many chemical toxins as possible.

Blue juice comes in many forms: for Superman it is kryptonite, for holistic veterinarians it is the conservative governing bodies, and for your pet it can be conventional health care. I never quite imagined that my career as a practicing veterinarian would end this way, but it did. I have moved on, and I can now show you how alternative veterinary care can, and will, help your dogs and cats.

[1] College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, “Inquiry Committee Report re: Dr. Andrew Jones,” May 5, 2010.