The next flea and tick season is coming upon us soon. If you are anything like me, you struggle with this topic. You want to protect your dogs from tick-borne diseases (which can wreak havoc on dogs and worse) but you are also very worried about putting chemicals on them.
Me too. I understand. So, what do we do?
I am lucky enough to have a great veterinarian who has also become a great friend, Eric Hurwit, DVM. I put a lot of weight in what he says for many reasons, including the fact that he doesn't sell these products. In other words, he tells me what he really thinks without the conflict of interests (he's not just trying to sell something). I appreciate that greatly.
I have had conversations, at length, with Dr Hurwit about the topic for Tuckerman and Oats, so I thought I'd share them with you.
Note: I think everyone knows me by now, but just want to mention that this post is not meant to push any product in any way. I only include brand names in the spirit of capturing the conversation as it went, so that you can use the information as you see fit. When making important decisions for your dog or cat you should always consult your vet first.
Here are questions I've asked, and some responses. This is a huge topic that is far too big to cover in one post, but I thought this was a nice overview.
(BRYAN) WHEN DO FLEAS AND TICKS BECOME ACTIVE AGAIN?
It's important to understand that ticks do survive the winter even in CT. Some survive by going dormant until warmer temperatures arrive. Others latch onto hosts and remain active all winter (birds, deer, etc). While the concentrations are definitely lower, pet owners can still find ticks on their dogs and cats in the winter. For fleas, it's similar. While they cannot live through days of freezing temperatures, they can survive year round by attaching to a warm blooded animal (Cats, dogs) and/or by living indoors.
(BRYAN) ARE THE CHEMICALS IN THESE PRODUCTS SAFE FOR TUCKERMAN? IF IT KILLS FLEAS AND TICKS, HOW DOES IT NOT HURT MY DOG?
The chemical are relatively safe if used with the proper dose. They are much safer than the diseases/issue that can come from ticks, like Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis, which can cause fatal brain infections, liver infections, etc. The chemicals are specific, targeting insect growth regulators for example. So, just because it kills a tick does not automatically mean it's dangerous to other living things. On the other hand, it's important to know that, just like anything, they could be very dangerous if used in the wrong dose or for the wrong animal. For example, K9 Advantix could be deadly if used on a cat even though thousands of dogs safely use it each year.
(BRYAN) I'M THINKING ABOUT NOT USING THEM AT ALL. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I think you would be crazy. The chemicals aren't perfect. To say they are perfectly safe would just not be valid. But we have to understand that in the wrong dose or for the wrong purpose...almost anything is dangerous. For example, most people would say that H2O, water, is safe to drink. It is...unless you drink too much and cause a condition called hyponatremia, which is fatal. The conditions and issues that the chemicals are being used to help prevent (Lyme disease, etc) are absolutely more risky then the chemicals.
(BRYAN) WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NATURAL PRODUCTS LIKE NATURAL DEFENSE?
Natural is a dangerous, misleading word when used to mean "good" all the time. For example, snake venom is natural, but as a human you don't want it in your bloodstream. So, first, just because something is natural doesn't automatically make it good. It depends on the context. In the case of natural flea and tick repellents, they just are not effective relative to the chemicals. So, to me, they are dangerous in the sense that they do not provide any sort of real protection.
To go further, I highly recommend the Lyme Vaccination in addition to a product like K9 Advantix. The success rate for them is not perfect, about 80-85%. But when used in combination they go a long way to helping protect against the very destructive/deadly tick born diseases.
In summary, my vet tells me it's not an option NOT to use a flea and tick product (along with the vaccination). Of course, it's my choice ultimately, but he is very strongly opinionated on the topic.
So, am I totally comfortable? No. I'd be lying if I said that. But I had Tuck get the Lyme vaccination and I put K9 Advantix on him monthly at my vets urging. I have been for his whole life.
This post shouldn't be confused with a medical recommendation. I just wanted to share my personal experience in hopes to help others and foster conversations about this important topic.
What do you do for flea & ticks?
What are your thoughts?
I'd love to see your comments below.
Written by Bryan, Owner & Founder of Appalachian Tails. Please comment below or if you'd like to speak directly with Bryan feel free to contact him here.