June 22, 2011

Welcome to Flea Season

Summertime and the living is easy. Fleas are jumpin' and the cotton is high. Heh.

Flea season is no joke to dog owners. And when your furry friend is subject to flea-bite dermatitis, it's a double whammy. Scratching. Biting at skin. Hotspots. It makes a dog's life miserable. And by extension, you're miserable too.

So what can you do?

1. First, discard all over-the-counter flea products like Frontline. Likewise flea and tick collars. They don't stop fleas from biting and they may be harmful to your furry friends. Think about it. If the neurotoxin used in these products is so powerful that humans cannot touch it for 24 hours, what will it do to your dog or cat who absorbs it through their pores?

Will Falconer, DVM and homeopathic veterinarian examines the mounting evidence against flea-control products:

Unfortunately, most of the flea control products are directed at the bothersome adults, and most of these are toxic chemicals that are poisonous to the pet and its person. The end result of bombs, sprays, dips, "spot-ons," and the like, is resistant fleas and sick people and pets. Why? It's the same story that happens with any antibiotic, pesticide, or herbicide: a certain percentage of every population of "pest" is resistant to any given chemical. When the chemical is used, these resistant microbes, parasites, or weeds breed and begin a new strain that simply ignores the chemical. New chemicals are sought that are increasingly less safe to the humans and animals they contact, and resistance develops at each new turn.

In case you’ve had only good experiences putting these topical pesticides on your animal, your neighbors have not, and the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating:

This from the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association’s newsletter:
In response to more than 44,000 potential adverse reactions to spot-on flea and tick products reported in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency is intensifying its evaluation of these products. No recalls have been issued at this time. The AVMA will continue to maintain contact with the EPA and monitor the situation, and updates will be posted as they come to our attention. To see the EPA’s statement, including a chart of products, go towww.epa.gov/pesticides/health/flea-tick-control.html. For information about reporting adverse events, go to www.avma.org/animal_health/reporting_adverse_events.asp.

2. Keep dogs and cats squeaky clean. Theraneem Original Formula repels fleas and soothes hot spots on dogs. A pet formula is available for dogs and cats; however, once my dog was free of fleas, my cat did a fine job of keeping herself flea-free and needed no extra attention..

TheraNeem Organix, Shampoo, Gentle Therapé, 12 fl oz (360 ml)

3. Eradicate fleas in the environment. Vacuum every surface in your home. Then spread boric acid on floors, in pet bedding or under sofa cushions - anywhere your animals hang out. This extremely fine powder kills fleas by abrading the exoskeleton and drying them from the inside. It is effective at all stages of the flea life cycle (which chemical flea bombs are not,) yet it is harmless to pets and children. Borate powder is available in 20 Mule Team Borax (cheap), FleaGo Natural Flea Control and Flea Busters Rx (moderately priced.) Sprinkle these products into your carpet, spread with a broom, then vacuum every few days until you no longer see fleas on your animals. One application of Flea Busters Rx permanently resolved the problem in my home, but results may vary depending on the severity of the problem. Do not apply directly to your dog or cat.

Fleabusters Rx for Fleas Plus (3 lb)

4. Drown 'em. Regular grooming with a flea comb prevents a new infestation. After dog walks or play dates, comb through your dog's hair, paying particular attention to head, ears and tail. Flick fleas into a cup of soapy water.

5. Natural flea repellent. Some dog owners swear by natural flea repellents containing essential oils. I was never happy with the results from these. Plus cats are extremely over-sensitive to essential oils, so I stuck with mechanical means to protect my cat.

Eradicating fleas from your home is definitely a bit of work to begin, but once you effectively interrupt the flea life cycle and have your pets on a regular grooming schedule, summertime living is definitely easy.

Will Falconer offers more information on natural flea and tick control. 

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