Here is more information for people dealing with Fleas & Ticks on their pets. There is more information on the PWC Blog under the categories of Fleas and Ticks to help you get relief for your pets from these pesky creatures.
By Dr. Karen Becker
As temperatures rise and your pet spends her days happily sniffing out a new trail on your morning walk or rolling around in your backyard grass, she’s a prime target for hungry fleas and ticks.
It’s a subject many pet owners would rather not think about, but it’s far better to be proactive in preventing such pest exposures than it is to find yourself with an infestation of fleas or a pet with a tick-borne illness.
This does not mean you need to douse your pet in chemical flea and tick preventatives. In fact, I typically discourage pet owners from applying harsh chemicals to their pets for this purpose.
Spot-on and similar pest-repellent products may lead to problems ranging from skin irritation to seizures and paralysis.
If you apply too much to a small dog — or apply a product meant for dogs to cats — the result can even be deadly. The other issue is that many pests are becoming resistant to these widely used chemicals, which means applying one is not a guarantee of safety.
One happy medium is to use natural methods to repel fleas and ticks from your dog, including the options, compiled by PetMD, below.1
Natural Ways to Repel Fleas and Ticks
Citrus Juice: fleas dislike citrus, so try sprinkling some fresh-squeezed lemon, orange or grapefruit juice on your dog’s fur (being careful to avoid her eyes) — and remember lemon juice can lighten dark hair.
Take a Bath: fleas do not hold on to your pet’s hair, so a dip in warm tub of water will cause many fleas to fall off into the water.
After the bath, use a flea comb to remove any remaining fleas.
Place your pet on a light-colored towel to catch any fleas that fall off and dip the comb into a bowl of soapy water after each swipe.
Bathing your dog regularly is also important, as fleas are less attracted to clean animals.
Consider peppermint or neem shampoo for an added anti-parasite kick.
Essential Oils: geranium, lemongrass and other essential oils (neem and catnip oil) may help deter mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and other pests from attacking your dog or cat.
Clean Your Home Thoroughly and Regularly: one of the key strategies to controlling fleas and ticks involves making your home less hospitable to such pests.
To do so, vacuum your home often (carpets, floors, furniture, etc.) and empty the vacuum canister immediately if fleas are present.
Wash bed linens, pet bedding and throw rugs frequently.
Add Natural Predators: nematodes are a type of beneficial microscopic roundworm that eats flea larvae.
You can find them at garden centers and pet stores.
Add them to your backyard and you’ll likely notice a reduction in flea populations within two days.
Ladybugs are another natural predator of fleas and can also be found at garden stores.
It’s More Than Just the ‘Ick’ Factor
If pests attach to your dog or cat, they can easily be carried indoors and infiltrate your home. A flea infestation or a tick on your wall is more than simply unpleasant, however, as such pests are capable of transmitting disease.
The biggest risk of ticks is not that they will take over your home, but their propensity for feeding on many different animals, from mice and deer to opossums.
They also like to take their time when they eat, feeding for long periods of time that makes them perfectly suited for acquiring and transmitting disease. It takes only one bite from a tick to transmit multiple tick-borne diseases, including:
Fleas, on the other hand, breed quickly and can be difficult to get under control once they find their way into your home. However, even one or two fleas can lead to uncomfortable itching if your dog has flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is sensitivity (allergy) to flea saliva (and is very common in dogs).
Aside from FAD, fleas can also transmit tapeworms, cause cat scratch disease and may even cause severe cases of anemia, especially in young animals. So taking steps to prevent both flea and tick bites is about more than just removing the “ick” factor; it’s a health issue.
Don’t Give Your Pet Antibiotics After a Tick Bite Before Doing This
If you find a tick on your pet, she may have been exposed to tick-borne pathogens, but exposure is not the same thing as infection. This is an important distinction, because many veterinarians unnecessarily prescribe antibiotics when a dog’s blood shows exposure has occurred.
Up to 90 percent of dogs may have exposure to these tick-borne pathogens, but most dogs' immune systems fight off these infections all on their own. If your pet tests positive for exposure, it's important to follow up with the Quantitative C6 (QC6) test, which differentiates exposure from infection.
I see dozens of dogs each year unnecessarily treated with extensive antibiotic therapy because their veterinarian panicked after seeing a positive exposure. Please don't let your vet do this!
Another important point is that most tick-borne diseases take many hours to be transmitted to your pets, so removing ticks soon after they attach may help prevent illness. This is why it’s so important to inspect your dog for ticks regularly, especially after you’ve been to a high-risk area like a forest preserve.
If You Live in an Area With Ticks, Test Your Pet for Tick-Borne Pathogens Every 6 Months
In the case of tick-borne disease, early treatment is critical to prevent chronic disease. If you live in a tick-endemic area or know your pet tends to get bit by multiple ticks each year, I recommended testing for infection every six months. The simplest way to do this is to ask your vet to replace the standard heartworm test with a more comprehensive annual blood test that identifies several tick-borne potential pathogens long before dogs show symptoms.
I recommend the SNAP 4Dx Plus and the Accuplex4 tests, which screen for heartworm, Lyme disease, and two strains each of ehrlichia and anaplasma, for dogs in tick-endemic areas.
Completing this simple blood test every six to 12 months is the best way to avoid unnecessary chemical application, identify infections before chronic disease occurs and prevent overlooking cases of dogs infected because of pesticide resistance (a growing problem in veterinary medicine).
I also recommend that pets living in tick-infested areas who test positive on the SNAP 4Dx Plus or the Accuplex4 also be screened for Babesia exposure. The best way to detect exposure to this parasite is with a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test that checks for the presence of Babesia DNA.
A Healthy Pet Is the Best Pest Preventive There Is
It’s extremely important to feed your pet a balanced, species-appropriate fresh-food diet that will help keep her immune system functioning optimally. Fleas are not likely to be attracted to a healthy pet, and in the case of ticks, a robust immune response will help fight off any tick-borne pathogens your pet is exposed to.
You can further bolster your pet’s immune system by providing pure drinking water and limiting her exposure to unnecessary vaccines and medications, environmental chemicals (including lawn chemicals) and electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Finally, the following tips will further help to protect your pet from pests naturally:
Tiny amounts of fresh garlic may be given to dogs and cats to help prevent internal as well as external parasites
Apply a light dusting of food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) on your carpets, bare floors, and pet bedding, as well as down your pet’s spine (avoid her head), to kill fleas
Keep your lawn mowed and clear brush, leaves, tall grass and weeds from your yard and areas your pet frequents
Keep stacked wood off the ground and away from your house
After the growing season, clear perennial plants and other brush from your garden
This is great information on ticks and how to prevent your pet's from Lime disease and other Tick related issues. If you want information on essential oils for tick prevention contact PWC.
Do You Make This Tick-Inviting Mistake?
By Dr. Becker
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has updated its Parasite Prevalence Maps for 2014, and is warning of “expanding tick territories and a higher risk of vector-borne diseases to previously less-susceptible pet populations,” according to dvm360.
2014 Parasite Forecast Summary
Some of the trends the CAPC is forecasting for the U.S. this year include:
· Ticks carrying Lyme disease are expanding westward into areas of the Midwest, and southward into the Mid-Atlantic states; Lyme disease will continue to threaten New England and the Pacific Northwest.
· Risk of ehrlichiosis will be very high from Virginia to Texas.
· Heartworm disease will be a higher than normal threat in Texas, the southeast, and the Pacific Coast from Northern California to Washington state.
For information about the risk of tick-borne diseases in your area, take a look at the CAPC’s Parasite Prevalence Maps. The maps are broken down by disease, by dog or cat, by state, and by county. To the right of each map, you can find the prevalence of a given disease for the entire U.S. (for example, 1 out of 80 dogs tested positive for heartworm nationwide, which is 29,146 positive dogs out of 2,321,623 dogs tested), and if you click on a state, you’ll get the same information, but for that state only. You can also drill down to the county level if you like.
Beware Recommendations to Give Your Pet Year-Round Chemical Pest Preventives
Unfortunately, as useful as the CAPC’s maps are, the Council (whose sponsors are veterinary drug manufacturers) insists on recommending year-round chemical preventives for both dogs and cats. This is the case regardless of where an animal lives, when tick season starts and ends, whether a given disease is prevalent in a given species (cats and heartworm, for example), and in apparent ignorance of the fact that ticks have developed resistance to pesticides thanks to decades of overuse.
I routinely see dog patients that have been receiving monthly doses of pesticides for years, yet they still test positive for tick-borne illness. Clearly, these preventives aren’t as foolproof as their manufacturers would lead us to believe. They may reduce the number of ticks that attach to your dog, but those that do latch on can still transmit disease.
Another reason tick-borne diseases are on the rise is that insects other than ticks – specifically mosquitoes -- have been found to transmit some of these potentially lethal infections.
My Recommendations for Preventing a Tick-borne Infection
· When flea and tick season arrives, check for ticks daily, and don’t overlook areas of your pet’s body where ticks can hide, like between the toes, the underside of the toes, in the earflaps and around the tail base. If you’re ever unsure whether you’re looking at a tick or some other bump on your dog, get out a magnifying glass and look for the telltale sign of a tick – legs.
· Remember that ticks must be attached to your dog for at least 24 hours in order for disease-causing bacteria to be transmitted from the tick to your pet. That’s why daily tick checks and removing ticks immediately is a huge part of reducing your dog’s risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease. This is hands-down the safest and entirely non-toxic method of tick prevention.
· If you find a tick on your dog, be sure to remove it correctly. Don’t use your bare hands. People can become infected by handling or crushing an infected tick. Wear gloves, or even better, use a tick-removing tool.
· Grasp the tick very close to your pet’s skin with a tick removal tool or a pair of tweezers. Carefully pull the tick’s body away from the skin. Once it’s off, flush it down the toilet. Then disinfect your dog’s skin with soapy water or diluted povidone iodine (Betadine). Disinfect the area really well and monitor it for the next few days. If you notice any irritation or inflammation of the skin, you should contact your veterinarian.
· Have your dog tested for tick-borne diseases about three to four weeks after removing a tick. The type of test to ask your vet for is the SNAP 4Dx or Accuplex test, which is a screening blood test. If you don’t have the 4Dx or Accuplex test done, you’ll want to watch your dog closely for several months for any signs of loss of appetite, lethargy, changes in gait, fever, intermittent limping – all the symptoms of potential tick-borne disease. And keep in mind that waiting until a dog exhibits symptoms isn’t the most proactive approach.
Checking your dog externally for ticks and having his blood checked regularly (I recommend every 6 months) for internal, silent infections is the very best approach to keeping your pet safe from potentially devastating tick-borne diseases.