The biting, blood-sucking little monsters that ruin family gatherings and make your pets’ summers miserable have begun to invade. Ticks, fleas and mosquitoes are a nuisance, may cause significant skin irritation and can transmit serious blood-borne disease.
How should you best retaliate?
Ask your veterinarian or quality pet retailer for a NATURAL defense. Many of the commonly used chemical spot-on preventatives are suspected of significant skin irritation themselves and worse yet are being investigated by the EPA for carcinogenicity. In particular, avoid any products which contain permethrin. This will be on the ingredient label.
You should choose to do something, because these external parasites can cause your dog or cat major discomfort and illnesses which often go undiagnosed. Lyme disease is a good example of a tick-borne illness caused by the organism borellia which is transmitted when a deer tick takes it’s blood meal from you or your dog. It can cause flu-like symptoms and an insidious lameness. The cause is often misdiagnosed unless a blood test is performed.
Every spring your veterinarian can perform a 4-way heartworm test on your dog which also checks for exposure to three tick-borne diseases: Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma.
The latter two are transmitted by the more common wood ticks and the incidence of these seem to be on the rise in southern Wisconsin. In my practice I am seeing more of these than Lyme disease. And remember the touted “Lyme vaccine” is only intended to prevent Lyme disease, not these other tick-borne diseases.
Therefore, it is important to protect your pet with a strong immune system on the inside and an effective natural shield on the outside. Natural approaches to parasite protection are often ”weaker” than their chemical counterparts, but they come with much less chance of side effects. Remember when the Hartz flea repellants were pulled from the market because they were causing death in pets? The Pro-heart injectable for heartworm disease was causing large patches of necrotic skin to slough from the injection site and was also discontinued.
So, we need to weigh benefit vs. risk.
When cancer due to chemical exposure has apparently become more prevalent than parasite-related problems, we need to use common sense and decrease chemical exposure. Essential oils from plants allow us to do just that. One must be knowledgable about the use of these products on and around our pets as well, especially cats. But their use can be very effective and even healthy. As with anything, individual sensitivities exist and some products are more reputable and thereby safer than others.
Essential oils such as cedarwood, can repel insects and oils such as lavender can soothe irritated skin. Oils can be blended properly to be useful or they can be adulterated or chemically perfumed which removes their medicinal value and may even make them unsafe. Oils are extremely potent for pets as they have thousands more nociceptors in their nose than we do and a cat’s liver detoxification system is not the same as ours or a dog’s. These facts make them more sensitive to particular oils such as melaleuca(tea tree).
Yet, in the hands of a qualified practitioner or knowledgeable pet retailer, certain essential oil blends and brands can be safe, effective and even life-saving.