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Canine University 71 Clinton St. Malden, MA


Have a Great Dog!

Natural Health Corner: Flea and Tick Products

There are dozens of different kinds of products that kill fleas and ticks and every dog owner must decide for herself what is best for her dog. There are powders, collars, sprays, mousses, pills and topicals all of which aim to eradicate the little pests from our beloved pets.

Talk to most any homeopathic veterinarian, however, and they will advise you not to use any of them in any version. Most holistic practitioners believe that healthy dogs don't get fleas and ticks, and that being a host to a pest is a sign of weakness in the body's immune system. That weakness can be something obvious that we can see, or something not so obvious like recurrent allergies, ear problems, skin problems, digestive upset, etc.

After 17+ years working with animals I think I'd have to agree. The more chemicals we use on our animals, the more toxins we are introducing to their bodies. If you dare start reading labels you may be surprised to find out that most of the products should be handled and applied only while wearing gloves. This stuff is going on my dog's skin, if it's not safe for me to touch why would it be safe for me to put it on my dog ?! Another warning, "...won't wash off in water" (so there is no need to reapply if your dog swims), scares me....what if my dog has a reaction to it, how would I get it off? You might also consider that a lot of the topical flea products (the kind you apply directly to the skin) tend to stay on the fur for days, meaning every time you or your children pet or brush the dog you risk coming into contact with the chemical.

My two cents on flea and tick products is simple...don't use them unless you've got fleas or ticks on your dog. Fleas especially are not the problem they were years ago . When I first started out in the he 80's we didn't have a lot of choices of flea products and combating them was at least two days work. You had to bathe the animal(s) and then remove them from the house, let off the flea bombs and keep the house closed up for 3-4 hours. When you returned you had to vacuum every inch of carpet, clean all the food surfaces, wash all bedding, etc. And, then a month later do it all over again!!!

Nowadays it's pretty simple, if your dog gets fleas (and I would wait until he got them) the safest and mildest products to use would be Program (the pill which breaks the fleas life cycle) and Advantage (the topical which will kill all the fleas on your dog). You would probably use it for a month, one application and be done with it.

As far as ticks go, Proticol or Defend (same product with an updated label) kills ticks very effectively. I would only use it, however, if I was taking my dog in a heavily infested area and if I had an aversion to pulling some ticks off of him. Of late, some people get scared into using a tick product because of Lyme's disease, but unless you live on the Cape or frequent the Ipswich area the risk is minimal. Lyme's disease in dogs is treatable and fairly rare.

Since trying to go to a more natural approach to taking care of my animals, Paul & I made the decision not to use any flea or tick products on my dogs. The result: in the 3 years since we stopped using anything on our pets they have not had fleas and only the occasional tick on the dogs. With three dogs and four cats at our house we have lived flea free without the use of collars, sprays or powders; instead we feed a quality diet (Innova Canine & Feline), focus our time & energy on our animals' good health, and otherwise do everything possible to limit toxins they might ingest or be exposed to.

Pet owners now have such sophisticated pesticides that they can be used only as needed, effectively, and still save us time and money. Don't be afraid to consider (and research) things you can do to enhance your pet's immune system and health in general to combat fleas and ticks, even if you are in the habit of using a preventative for peace of mind. And think twice before you use pesticides on your dog, his overall health and longevity may depend upon it!