We all love our pets, until they show up smelling like a skunk, or mess all over our new carpeting, or come home covered in fleas. Oh, let's face it. We love them then, too. But dealing with animals poses a unique set of problems, since they can't answer questions and they don't respond well to commands like "Go clean yourself up until you stop stinking!"
Never fear, Joey Green, author of is here to help. The author of dozens of home remedy books like Wash Your Hair with Whipped Cream and Joey Green's Encyclopedia of Offbeat Uses for Brand Name Products, Green has written a book for pet owners too: Joey Green's Amazing Pet Cures. And this book is filled with ways to solve all manner of pet problems. Now that summer is nigh upon us, we asked Green for his favorite solutions to common summertime pet issues. (And remember that with heat comes heat stroke, follow these first aid tips for pets to help your pets cope with the heat.)
Nothing could be more irritating to pet and owner alike than fleas. But should an infestation hit your pets, the last thing you want is to resort to the toxic chemicals in flea collars and flea shampoos (so try natural solutions for fleas instead). Green's solution: Dawn dishwashing liquid. Ordinarily, we wouldn't recommend a cleaning product that's made from petroleum and could contain harsh cleaning agents, but Green says there's something unique in the ingredients of Dawn that make it highly effective at killing fleas on your pets. "It's gentle enough to use on animals that have been affected by oil spills," he says, so it's unlikely to irritate your dog's or cat's skin.
"The other thing you have to do is kill fleas in your house," he adds, and the best tool for that is regular table salt (he likes Morton's brand). "Salt dehydrates the fleas and kills them," he says, "but you have to let it sit overnight, then vacuum it up the next day." Sprinkle salt wherever your pet spends time—in its bed, on the sofa, or on your carpeting.
2. Summer travel
Since this is prime travel season, you may be taking your cat or dog with you on at least one trip. So plan for extra stops. "If an animal is cooped up in a car, it's moving, and that's going to be disorienting for a pet," Green says. Stops are not only required for those occasions when nature calls, but also to give the animal a chance to get out, run around, and become less disoriented from the car ride.
Another must is cold water (throw a lot of ice cubes into a cooler or even individual food containers so they melt and your pet has ice-cold water) and toys. "One way to keep your pet really entertained is to put some peanut butter in a play toy," he says. "Pets will spend hours trying to get that out."
3. "Presents" on your lawn from neighboring animals
"I had problems with some of the dogs in my neighborhood, and I gave up trying to train the neighbors," Green says about pet owners who don't pick up after their dogs on long walks. If you're a pet owner, remember to bring plastic baggies with you so as not to offend homeowners along your walk. But if you're said homeowner, Green suggests sprinkling cayenne pepper on the spot that dogs favor. "Dogs generally stick to the same spot [on a lawn] for doing their business," he says. "They're looking for that scent, so when they smell cayenne pepper, they don't like it, and they'll go somewhere else." This deterrent takes a few weeks to be effective, he says—you need to sprinkle the spot with pepper every day—but once it starts to work, you won't have any more problems.
The same trick works for keeping pets out of your flower and vegetable gardens: Mix two ounces of cayenne pepper with three ounces of mustard powder and five ounces of flour, and sprinkle the mixture around areas where pets are prone to dig.
They smell awful, and any pet owner who's tried to de-skunk a pet that's been sprayed knows how difficult that process can be. There's the tried-and-true trick of washing your animal with tomato juice, which Green says works well. If you feel like more power is needed, use ordinary canned, diced tomatoes, pouring the entire can over your pet, tomatoes, juice and all. If you're looking for something a little cheaper and much, much less messy, buy a few boxes of baking soda, which absorbs the smell. Make a thick paste with baking soda and warm water, apply it to your pet's fur and let it dry. Then shampoo as usual.
Another trick is to pull out that bottle of Dawn. Because skunk spray is an oil and Dawn removes oil from animals so well, Dawn is a good tool in your arsenal of pet de-skunking.
5. Bad bath habits
Along with all those skunks, summer comes with a lot of mud and crud that pets dig into and get themselves dirty. If your pooch has the propensity to snap at you in the bathtub, Green suggests making a humane muzzle with a pair of old pantyhose. Cut off a leg of the hose, and wrap it snugly around the animal's mouth, but not so tight that he can't open his mouth a little. Because pantyhose stretch, the animal can breathe but not open his mouth wide enough to bite.
To make bathing a little easier on your pet in general, apply a drop or two of olive oil to both eyes to keep them from getting irritated by shampoo, and put cotton balls in both ears to keep water and shampoo out. If your pet just puts up too much of a fight to make bath time worthwhile, try a dry shampoo. Flour, baking soda, oats, and corn starch all absorb grease, dirt, and odors. Just sprinkle whichever you have onto your pet's coat, rub it in, and brush the coat clean.
Even the best-trained pets have accidents now and then, and not just during summer! The key to keeping accidents from ruining your carpet is attending to them before they dry, Green says. To clean up liquid messes, Green's two favorite tools are disposable diapers and club soda. "Put the diaper facedown over the spot and press it down with a book or something heavy," he says. "The super-absorbent polymer in the diaper will suck out the liquid from the carpet before it soaks into the carpet padding."
After that, douse the spot with club soda. "The effervescent action in club soda will get the rest of the liquid to bubble to the surface, and then you keep blotting it with the diaper." Once you've removed the liquid, spray the spot with white vinegar to deodorize it.
Just like the rest of us, pets can get sunburned, and as with humans, intermittent sun exposure can lead to skin cancer. Rather than trying to cover up their noses, ears, and bellies (the areas most prone to sunburn) with questionable sunscreen chemicals, just keep them inside during the hottest part of the day, and draw shades and curtains if they like to sit in sunny windows. If your pets are just too miserable without an afternoon romp in the yard, make sure you have plenty of shaded areas, suggests Green, and if your dog will allow it, put him in an old T-shirt to protect his belly.
This article first appeared on Rodale Wellness.