Flea & Tick
It’s no secret that we dislike pesticidal oral flea/tick/heartworm treatments. We’re not alone in our fears and observations; many proactive/holistic veterinarians are also worried about the impact these chemicals are having on the health of our dogs. Two such vets, Dr. Jean Dodds and Dr. Judy Morgan, along with a few other colleagues, decided to dig deeper after witnessing too much devastation.
Their peer reviewed study* revealed that 2 out of 3 dog owners witnessed negative side effects after feeding / applying pesticides. These included but weren’t limited to:
- Behaviour changes
- Hair loss
We hear about these too. In fact there’s a noticeable spike each spring/summer: pet parents reporting their dog’s are suddenly “off” their food, or experiencing GI issues. We’ve had owners come in with dogs who never suffered with allergies but now can’t stop scratching; one dog was losing fur at an alarming rate. Wish we could say these are the worst of our customers' stories.
This isn’t surprising when you understand how these meds work. Depending on whether they're topical or oral (via the skin or the digestive tract) they deliver a pesticide/neurotoxin into the bloodstream. The flea or tick needs to bite the dog and ingest their blood in order to die. Would you eat that?
Further to the negative health effects, scientists are discovering the detrimental impact on the environment. One large dog dose of imidacloprid contains enough pesticide to kill 25 million bees**. In the UK, water testing revealed these chemicals were in ponds and waterways, leading researchers to suggest a rethink of how these chemicals are prescribed and used.
So what can you do?
First, learn your risks. You’re the captain of your dog’s health team, so take the time to assess the risk/benefit involved. For example, don’t assume that because you have a cottage you’re at risk. Online you can find maps*** of areas that outline where ticks/lyme and heartworm are prevalent. (Side note: if you’re at risk for one and not the other, there are slightly safer drugs that work on individual pests)
Another key component is testing. You MUST test for heartworm and tick borne diseases on a regular basis. The truth is that even a dog taking pharmaceutical pesticides can still acquire these illnesses. This is because the drugs are not repellants! So regardless of your protocol, you must test. The beauty of regular testing is that when caught early, tick borne diseases are easily treatable. There are many reasons to have your dog’s blood work checked yearly, and this is just one of them.
Are there safer alternatives? If you decide to use a natural approach it’ll require a little more diligence. But in our opinion, it’s worth it!
- Shampoo your dog with a natural shampoo containing essential oils like neem and lemongrass, and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing
- There are powders you can add to your dog’s food that help many dogs repel pests
- A high quality spray is important. It might take a few options to find the right one for your dog.
- Regular tick checks (use tick key to remove)
- Test yearly or sooner if there’s cause for concern (for example, if you found a blacklegged tick on your dog)
- Use an EM Collar.
Many proactive vets will also tell you that a dog with a healthy immune system is a less desirable host. So feed real food, titre-test before boosting, and feed lots of functional foods and antioxidants.
If you’re going ahead with pharmaceuticals, we recommend using milk thistle for a few days leading up to the treatment. For a week after treatment, you should be in full detox mode with Dr. Karen Becker’s detox protocol specific to these meds once a day:
Milk thistle 100 mg/10 lb
Gaba 100 mg / 20
NAC 100mg/10 lb
SOD (Superoxide Dismutase) 50mg/10 lb
Glutathione mg/10 lb
If you’re interested in what our favourite local integrative vet has to say on the subject, you can watch her webinar.