Earlier this spring, I treated my dog Alice with a new chewable, monthly flea and heartworm preventative called Trifexis. less than 24 hours after giving her the first tablet, she broke out in red, itchy hives and her hair started falling out in clumps. I immediately called my vet and the medication’s manufacturer, Elanco, for advice. They both agreed that it sounded like a possible allergic reaction.
Under my close watch, Alice’s symptoms eventually subsided, but it took a good month for her hair to grow back. she was never formally diagnosed, however, I don’t feel comfortable giving her Trifexis again in the future. (One of Elanco’s on-staff vets kindly arranged a refund for the rather spendy —$130 — six-month supply).
Wags ‘n Wellness founder Heather Sanders takes a hands-on, holistic approach with her canine clients.
Ironically, it was only after reading reviews and talking with a few vets that I had settled on an oral anti-flea medication because I thought it would be less toxic that a topical solution like Advantage, Frontline or Revolution. (Plus, since Trifexis also prevents hearworm, it sounded convenient and efficient, although it does not combat ticks.) Alice’s adverse reaction was a clear indication that I needed to head back to the drawing board.
That’s when I called up Heather Sanders, a Bay Area canine holistic health specialist and founder of Wags ‘n Wellness to get her advice on some non-toxic alternatives to help protect pets from fleas and ticks.
TOTC: Q. when is high flea and tick season in the Bay Area?
HS: a. Fleas like the heat, so August through October tends to be the worst. Mature ticks abound after a rain, usually October to March. the nymphs (immature ticks) which are the size of a pinhead — and hence very elusive — can be seen this time of year. but overall, due to our mild weather there is no one “season” for flea and tick management in the Bay Area.
TOTC: Q. is there any reason not to use over the counter or prescription medications?
HS: a. I simply don’t believe in putting chemical pesticides on my pets or myself. All of the conventional flea and tick treatments on the market have proven in testing to have serious side effects that range from local skin reactions to neurological deficits and organ failure. be clear, these are not drugs that have been tested by the FDA. Instead, they are pesticides regulated by the EPA. There is a huge disparity between these agencies with respect to the amount and rigor of testing done before approval is granted to market the product. There is no way of knowing whether your dog will have a reaction after one treatment of a particular agent or if compound damage is taking place internally through continued use. Personally, it’s not a risk that I am willing to take given that other safer methods of pest control.
TOTC: Q. What are some alternatives and how effective are they?
HS: a. For flea management, I advocate a three-pronged approach: 1. Feed a healthy, natural diet and keep your dog’s immune system strong. I supplement with liquid vitamin B complex during flea system for added immune support. Parasites feed on the weaker animals and fleas are no exception. 2. Keep your house and your pet clean. 3. if you have a yard, treat it with beneficial nematodes. this natural form of pest management will control fleas that might be brought in by roaming or feral kitties, raccoons or rodents.
TOTC: Q. do you have any specific grooming and housekeeping advice for keeping fleas at bay?
HS: a. Vacuum and sweep regularly. the cleaner your house is, the fewer bugs of any kind will take up residence there. Brush your dog at least twice a week. Brushing stimulates the skin and hair follicles, removes loose hair and prevents excessive shedding. It’s good for the health of the skin and coat and also enables you to check for evidence of fleas or ticks. Fleas leave behind eggs and “flea dirt,” which is their feces and is composed predominantly of dried blood. Flea eggs look like little grains of sand and “flea dirt” looks like dirt, but if you moisten it, you’ll see that it has a reddish hue to it.
TOTC: Q. What do I do if I find fleas in my house or on my pets?
HS: a. the presence of flea dirt or eggs on your dog, his bedding or your furniture is indicative of an infestation. Similarly, if you or your dog has flea bites, you have a flea population in residence. In this case, you will need to set aside a day for a major cleaning. Bathe your dog with a shampoo that contains neem oil to kill any fleas. Clean all surfaces in your home, wash all bedding, vacuum upholstery and steam clean any carpeting. be sure to empty the vacuum cleaner bag as the reproductive cycle can still perpetuate in this environment. Once everything is clean, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on carpets and bedding using a sifter. Leave it on for 24 hours and then vacuum again. it can be used directly on your pets as well. this fine, fossil powder kills fleas naturally by absorbing lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate.
TOTC: Q. What do you recommend for tick prevention?
HS: a. when it comes to ticks, avoidance and vigilance go a long way. the good news is you can usually remove the tick before it has attached itself to your dog. Ticks prefer long grasses and wooded areas and are more numerous after rain or damp weather. if you will be in one of these areas, I recommend spraying your dog with Rara Avis Tick Spritz, an herbal spray that is safe and effective for repeated use on both yourself and your pet. be observant during and after your hike and check your dog carefully. Ticks will seeks out warm areas of your dog’s body, so carefully inspect the head, neck, armpits, groin and lower abdominal areas, and don’t forget between the toes! I keep an eye out during a hike and then check immediately afterward and twice more in the next 12 hours. the thicker your dog’s coat, the more time you will have to find them still crawling around.
TOTC: Q. Won’t my dog be at risk if I’m not treating him with something to prevent tick-borne diseases?
HS: a. Tick-borne diseases are only transmitted if a dog is bitten by the tick and the tick remains embedded for a minimum of 24 hrs. Again, check your dog after exposure to tick habitats. if the tick has embedded its head, grab it as close to the skin as possible with your fingernail, taking care not to squeeze the body. Twist and pull to remove. if the head remains behind, do not dig it out as this will likely lead to infection. the body will push it out naturally in time. never use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish or other products to remove a tick! Flush the tick down the toilet — they are good swimmers and can crawl up drains! Crushing the tick releases the bacteria and pathogens it carries as well as the blood of any animal it has fed on. if you believe that the tick was embedded for more than 24 hrs, monitor your dog for a rash in the area of the bite and any abnormal behavior. Keep in mind that topical agents do not prevent ticks from biting. They simply ensure that the tick dies once it has bitten the animal after being exposed exposed to the pesticide in its skin.
Share your own experiences and advice in the comments, or continue the conversation on the Bay Area Pets Facebook page.
Posted by: Amelia Glynn (Email, Facebook) | June 09 2011 at 04:01 PM
<a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/pets/detail?entry_id=90690tag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/pets/detail?entry_id=90690Thu, 09 Jun 2011 23:02:13 GMT 00:00″>Safe and savvy tips for protecting pets from fleas and ticks : Tails Of The City
- Oxyhives Review
- What Are Hives And How Can You Deal With Them?
- Superfoods for Hives Relief - ahealthything.com
- Moving With Your Children