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Monday, May 24, 2010

Fleas On Dogs | 'Tis The Season

Flea season usually starts in early spring and lasts through December depending on how warm the weather is. Fleas hatch more successfully in warm weather. If you're going to treat your yard, start as early as February. Most dog owners opt for treating their dog directly because it's easier and less costly, are they doing the right thing though? Lately flea control has been getting a bad rep and is considered a carcinogen, so dog owners are caught between a rock and a hard place, to medicate or not to medicate and what are the alternatives to commercial dog flea repellants? Fleas on dogs is an issue every dog owner has to face. 

Dogs love to roll on grass but so do fleas


1.Toxic Flea control
Insecticidal powders or shampoos
Spot on medication
Aerosol flea bombs
Impregnated flea collars
2. Flea Control Tablets
Those work by sterilizing the female fleas so that the eggs she lays are sterile and don't hatch. This method breaks the cycle of the flea right from the start. It is safer than toxic pesticide.
3. Natural Dog Flea Treatment Alternatives
The environmental choice that is the safest for all involved (discussed in detail below)


Nowadays with all new kinds of dog allergies present, flea control adds an extra burden often causing a reaction from mild irritation to full blown allergies, and it can even cause cancer and death. 
There is a plethora of dog flea prevention products on the market that make it hard to chose one that will not have an adverse effect on your dog. Until recently, it was believed that products available through your dog vet are safer than the ones sold "over the counter",  often sold in bulk, and of course cheaper.  This has all changed. We are now aware that toxic flea control can have devastating effects. Just a couple of days ago, a dog rescue owner was complaining about a midnight bath. He was explaining how he administered a spot-on flea product and two of his rescue dogs were making circles, rubbing themselves on the furniture, wheezing, and reverse coughing. He gave them a "midnight bath" so they could get rid of the poison and get a good night's rest. 
Spot-On Pesticides such as Zodiac, Bio Spot, and Frontline are presently considered to trigger adverse reactions in your pet. They can shorten life span and cause terminal illness and premature death. Studies have shown a correlation between Spot-On Pesticides and thyroid cancer (also believed to be a possible human carcinogen), loss of appetite, reduced fertility and heightened fetus mortality, liver, kidney, heart, lung, spleen, adrenal, and brain damage. The neurotoxins in those products can also cause headaches, eye and throat irritation, convulsions, barking, salivation, incoordination, tremors, increased dog aggression, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting… and the list goes on. It is long and scary. Itching, also known as pruitus, is the most commonly reported side effect. The message is clear: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that products intended to treat cats and dogs for fleas and ticks kill hundreds of pets each year and injure tens of thousands. They also stated their commitment to better protect the health and safety of pets and families. Are we poisoning the dog fleas or our dogs? 

Pruitus, the lesser of all evils


Get rid of your old flea meds if they contain chemicals classified as "organophosphate insecticides," also known as OPs. They are considered to be harmful not only to your dog, but to your children and yourself. 
Alternatives to OP based meds are often available only through your dog vet. Some of these products are: Comfortis (oral), Capstar flea control (oral), Program (oral), Sentinel (oral), Promeris (oral), and Fronline (topical, applied to skin).  These products seem to cause fewer side effects but they do not guarantee that a dog suffering from allergies won't react badly to them. For example, the Capstar flea control remedy claims to start working within 30 minutes and a great safety profile as far as safety is concerned, yet, a quick search on the internet proves that this flea medication too can have it's share of allergic reactions. Speaking of the Capstar flea control remedy, it's main ingredient, Nitenpyram is a prescription drug and can only be obtained by prescription. 


Herbal shampoos that contain bergamot, rosemary, citronella, juniper, geranium, eucalyptus, and lavender. Make sure you lather your dog's head too, so if there are fleas present, they don't simply migrate on his head to wait it out. Leave the suds on your dog for a few minutes so they work better. You can also rub your dog with basil, fennel, rosemary, or bicarbonate of soda and then simply brush out the residue. 
You can try adding a small amount of apple cider vinegar to your dog's water and sprinkle some garlic powder or Brewer's Yeast on his food.
For carpets, sprinkle Borax or Diatomaceous Earth for a minimum of half an hour (more effective if left overnight), and then vacuum. Keep the dog out of the room until you're done vacuuming. 
For your yard, I recommend you plant catnip and marigold (natural pesticides) in places your dog frequents. 
Use a flea comb, keep your pet clean, use flea repellants, like herbal flea powders and the natural flea reppelants mentioned above, in between baths. Maintain your dog's sleeping quarters clean and add some cedar chips to his bedding. Keep your dog as healthy as possible because healthier dogs do not draw fleas to them like ones with compromised immune systems. 

Bonus Dog Flea Management Light Trap

This isn't really a solution to a flea infested home, but it's a good indicator of whether or not you have fleas present. Take a shallow pan and fill it up to the rim with water and a bit of dish soap. Dawn is the dish soap of choice since it is considered safer for animals and lots of rescue organizations prefer it. Place the pan on top of a white cloth and shine a light on it while the rest of the house remains dark (feel free to leave it out overnight underneath a night light). Silly fleas are attracted to the light and dive like kamikazes into the concoction. The only problem is, fleas can't swim, and that's a good thing, in our case. 

What to do? Just the fact that you're reading this means you're a responsible dog owner who's getting educated. Now that you've done your research you are ready to make an educated decision based on your dog's and family's needs and limitations. Best of luck to all of us, especially our dogs who rely on us. 


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