Q: Now that my baby is crawling, I would like to cut back on the amount of chemicals used around the house. Are there any natural ways to treat my dog for fleas and ticks so I don’t expose my toddler or my dog to those chemicals?

A: Squeezing a topical solution on your dog each month may be the easiest and most effective way to fight fleas. Most of the products contain a synthetic insecticide that attacks a flea’s nervous system. The solution is applied along a dog’s back and usually spreads from follicle to follicle within a day. But this popular method has come under fire recently due to reports of adverse reactions among dogs and cats. The Environmental Protection Agency has called for more stringent testing and evaluation requirements as well as stronger warning labels. In the meantime, I admire you for seeking a chemical-free approach.

Here are a few greener options for you to consider.

Find a flea comb. Regular flea maintenance will require a cache of flea-fighting tools, starting with a good flea comb. These fine-toothed wire tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Choose an ergonomic version and schedule standing appointments with your dog for a thorough combing.

Read the label carefully. Look for products such as Bio-Groom Flea and Tick concentrate, which contains Pyrethrin, a biodegradable insecticide that’s made from chrysanthemums. While you still need to exercise caution when applying the chemical, it’s a better option to topical solutions that contain permethrin.

Try neem oil. This all-natural insect repellent comes from the neem tree in India. Add a few drops to your favorite pet shampoo, dilute it with dishwashing liquid for a do-it-yourself flea spray or simply apply the oil directly to your dog’s coat. The primary ingredient in grooming products by Ark Naturals, neem oil also repels mosquitoes.

Consider an oral treatment. Oral tablets provide another alternative to topical solutions. Products like Capstar and Comfortis go to work quickly, killing any adult fleas a few minutes after being consumed.

Enjoy Christmas in July. A relatively new company on the scene, Vet’s Best uses the power of peppermint and clove oils to fight fleas and ticks. I haven’t tried it yet, but the idea of a sweet-smelling dog appeals to me.

Consult your dog’s vet about the remedy that works best for your pet, and follow label directions carefully. Keep in mind that dust mites can create more havoc than fleas, so it pays to tackle that problem, too. My article about dog allergies provides a few more tips for keeping your dog itch-fee.

— Morieka Johnson

Got a question? Submit a question to Mother Nature and one of our many experts will track down the answer. Plus: Visit our advice archives to see if your question has already been tackled.

Photo: Junko Kimura/Getty Images

Thumbnail photo: Big Grey Mare/Flickr

What natural products control fleas and ticks?
Morieka Johnson can help you and your family combat pet pests without scary chemicals.