Spring is here and more little bugs are out and about, unfortunately for our pets, those little bugs can cause big problems. The little bugs I am talking about of course are fleas and ticks. It is very important to protect ourselves and our pets from fleas and ticks.
Why are fleas dangerous?
Beyond the obvious fact that a flea infestation is “gross,” fleas also pose various health risks to you and your pets. The following are reasons why we want to avoid fleas!
- Flea Allergic Dermatitis: Itching due to fleas is the result of a localized allergic reaction. Some animals are more sensitive than others, so flea bites can lead to severe itching, irritation, and major skin infections in some pets.
- Tapeworm infection: Tapeworms can be contracted by animals or humans after accidental ingestion of an infected flea. Flea larvae often ingest the microscopic tapeworm eggs, causing adult fleas to be carriers.
- Anemia: If enough fleas infest the host, it is possible for the host animal to lose enough blood to become anemic. Small puppies and weak or sickly dogs are especially at risk. If not caught soon enough, a dog can easily die or suffer other medical complications as a result of anemia.
Not all dogs are allergic to fleas. Some dogs will ignore the fleas on them and you may not even notice there is a flea problem in your home. However, these dogs can still get tapeworms and even anemia. It’s important to check your dog for fleas periodically and give flea prevention to your dog regularly.
Why are ticks dangerous?
Ticks like to hide out in tall grass and weeds in the city, not just woods as we all grew up thinking. Besides being amazing host finders ticks are known vectors for some potentially dangerous diseases. Not all ticks transmit disease, but the threat of disease is always present. The symptoms of most tick-borne diseases include fever and lethargy, though some can also cause weakness, lameness, joint swelling and/or anemia.
Common tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and more. Ticks may also cause localized redness, infection, and even temporary paralysis.
What we need to know to protect our pets…
According to Dr. Karen Becker, most conventional veterinarians recommend the routine application of topical pest control products as a preventive action. While controlling fleas and ticks is an important part of a proactive wellness plan, chemical pesticides, no matter what form they come in, can have side effects including nerve problems and an increased risk of certain types of cancers. Just because a spot-on product is applied to the outside of your pet doesn’t mean it can’t make its way inside. Any sort of product applied to your dog’s coat and skin can be absorbed into the body.
There are safe and natural pest deterrents to try before being faced with having to use a chemical pesticide. A few include Cedar Oil, one specifically manufactured for pet health. Diatomaceous earth, a topical food grade one. Fresh garlic, work with your vet to determine a safe amount for your pet’s body weight. Probably a holistic or integrative veterinarian would be best to make this determination. Then, of course, feeding a balanced species appropriate diet, the healthier your dog is, the less appealing they will be to parasites, and a biologically appropriate diet supports a strong immune system.
Also, bath and brush your pet regularly as well as performing frequent full-body inspections to check for parasite activity. Make sure your indoor and outdoor environments are unfriendly to pests!
If you have no other choice but to use chemical pesticides take this advice because no matter what form or who makes them, chemical pesticides have many side effects.
- Carefully follow dosing directions on the label. If your dog is at the low end of a dosage range, then step down to the next lowest dosage range.
- Be extremely cautious with small dogs, especially if you own a breed reported to be at high risk for adverse reactions: Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, Miniature Poodle, Pomeranian, Dachshund, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, and BichonFrise.
- Don’t depend exclusively on chemical treatments. Rotate natural preventives with chemical ones. For instance, use natural pest deterrents every other month, in rotation with the chemical options that carry more risks of side effects.
- Use only when your pet is in a high-risk environment (i.e. camping in a Lyme-disease-epidemic area) then discontinue, or switch to all-natural alternatives.
- Closely monitor your pet for symptoms and adverse reactions after you apply a chemical product, especially when using one for the first time.