Now is the time when ticks are emerging and the flea population starts building. Here is a peek behind the veil of our Sunvet method of deciding which product(s) to use and when.
Dr. Laurel Davis, WNC’s homeopathic veterinarian, offers Stories from a Holistic Veterinarian, the blog of a holistic vet and “animal interpreter.” With a clinic in downtown Asheville, NC. Dr. Laurel also offers animal health, lifestyle and vaccination advice for cats, dogs and their human friends across the country.
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Fleas and Ticks, O My! Dr. Laurel’s Magic Formula for Prevention and Treatment
One of the most common early spring questions I get at my practice in Asheville NC is “What should I give my furry friend for ticks and fleas?” Since my experience tells me that every dog or cat is different and needs to be treated as an individual, this is a loaded question! However, since now is the time when ticks are emerging and the flea population starts building, here is a peek behind the veil of our Sunvet method of, first, prevention, and second (if prevention doesn’t do the trick), deciding which product(s) to use and when.
Healthy and Flea-Free
First, here are some good tips to keep your animal free and clear of the itch and pain of spring and summer pests. Step one: let’s put our four-legged buddies on a diet that helps them to thrive. This cannot be overstated enough! Eating a diet that is low in carbohydrates and has a high quality source of protein can raise their allergy threshold, therefore decreasing the itchy response to flea and tick bites. Read more about my diet philosophy.
The second step toward preventing flea and tick problems might surprise you. The goal of my prevention methods is creating an animal that is intrinsically healthier, so you might consider decreasing and/or eliminating vaccines. Like diet, vaccines can also have an effect on an animal’s resilience and immune system strength. (Click here to read more.) Likewise, timing any vaccinations you do use to be administered during seasons when biting pests are not as prevalent can help your fur buddy’s immune system to process the vaccine before it begins to deal with fending off the fleas and ticks.
Using the above strategies may help your friend to be strong and healthy enough to have less of an allergic reaction to flea and tick saliva, which is loaded with things that can trigger allergies that present differently in different animals.
If your animal companion’s diet is healthy and vaccinations are at a minimum, and they still react, don’t despair. This allergy is common, and it has a name: Flea Allergy Dermatitis or F.A.D. People who share their lives with animal friends that are affected by flea allergies have to be diligent about keeping the fleas off of their dog or cat and out of their houses. Following my directions below can help keep your buddy from flare-ups. Even if your friend doesn’t have a flea allergy, you may still choose to employ some or all of the following methods.
First, if your dog or cat tends not to have problems with fleas and ticks, purchasing a flea or tick preventative that is based in essential oils might be your best option. I carry an essential oil product called Wondercide™ in my clinic that works quite well to quell the itchy beasts.
Go Easy on Your Animal
When it is time to treat for ticks and fleas, I almost never suggest a mix of a heartworm preventative with a flea/tick preventative. It is tough on our fuzzy loved ones when we give them these meds, and it can be tougher when we double up on them. I recommend giving any heartworm preventative and flea preventative one week apart to allow your pal’s body to deal with the medicine separately.
Now, I’ll get more specific about different treatments that target ticks and fleas.
Ticked Off…in Spring and Early Summer
Spring and early summer in western North Carolina bring more ticks, so during this time when fleas usually aren’t yet a big problem, choose to use a product that primarily treats ticks (Frontline Gold®, Nexgard®).
Check your fur friend every 24-48 hours if spending any time outside, after hikes, etc. Remove any ticks. This quick check will significantly decrease the possibility of tick-transmitted diseases like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Flee from the Fleas…in Mid-summer
Mid-summer in WNC is when we start to see those pesky fleas. Around that time, I suggest shifting more towards a preventative that focuses on fleas (Comfortis®, Nexgard®, Frontline Gold®, Advantage®).
If your dog spends a lot of time in the water, internal flea and tick prevention is probably going to work better for them (Nexgard® or Comfortis® offer internal treatments). If you have children, you may decide it’s better to use an internal flea and tick control. That way, you don’t have to worry about your kids touching chemical concoctions when they’re petting your dog or cat.
However, even though it’s a better option for your kids, this type of treatment is a catch-22 for your animal, as giving an internal flea control medication directly introduces chemicals that will need to be eliminated eventually by their liver and kidneys. That means that these organs must be functioning normally in order to handle the extra load.
Dr. Laurel’s Magic Formula
The measures offered in this post, starting with prevention and only applying the most potent medicines if they’re needed, as well as appropriate consultation with your holistic veterinarian, should keep your friend free from the itch from fleas and ticks.
A final reminder: whether natural or chemical, any and all flea or tick prevention comes with a dosing schedule, which is to be used as a guideline and is not set in stone. What I mean is, if, after the suggested timeline (usually a month) has passed, you are not seeing any fleas or ticks on your pal, then, by all means, wait another two weeks to assess whether or not you should dole out another dose.
As I always say, “Each being is individual,” so carefully consider your dog’s or cat’s prevention and treatment plan by weighing several factors: your lifestyle, the general health of your animal friend, the area where you live (be it in the woods or in the city), and what they are exposed to. The best piece of advice is to BE AWARE. Today, this pertains to watching out for evidence of external parasites like fleas and ticks and internal parasites, but our awareness can be expanded to every moment we spend with our fur friends.
The more aware we are of our surroundings and how the environment is affecting our dog’s or cat’s well-being, the sooner we can be clued in to, not just the presence of biting pests, but also earlier signs of other dis-ease and subtle clues communicating their overall state of health.
Now, with great awareness, get out there together and enjoy the beautiful Spring!
Dr. Laurel Davis is WNC’s homeopathic veterinarian, offering phone and Skype consultations for animal lovers everywhere. Call 828-254-2221 or order an Ask Dr. Laurel™ phone or Skype session or bring your dog or cat to her downtown Asheville, NC clinic. Read more patient stories.
Get to know Dr. Laurel by reading her blog.
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