The Flea War

 

We have fleas in Mississippi almost year round.  I have tried several products which althoughthey worked, they were causing problems for Kirby.  First we used Promeris, a monthly spot onapplication.  Not only did it have a verystrong odor for several hours, Kirby acted as if I were forcing him to undergoa painful ritual each month.  He wouldcome to me very slowly with his head down and once I had applied the magicalliquid he would frantically do the "face rub" on the rugs or grassafterwards.  His reaction reallybothered me.  Then I read of a dog thatmay have died from this very same product. True or not, I wasn’t willing to take the risk.
We then tried Advantage followed by Frontline with nearlythe same reactions from Kirbs.  I finallybegan using a flea collar until a local veterinarian said it was like puttingpoison around his neck.  Damn fleas!  My search intensified as I scoured the webfor information on flea preventatives, both good and bad.
First, I’ll share the bad news I discovered.   TheEPA (pesticides fall under their jurisdiction) has issued an advisory about“spot-on” chemical products used on dogs and cats due to a significant increasein reported adverse reactions -- everything from mild skin irritation toseizures and death.  In 2008 there wereover 44,000 reactions, including 600 deaths, presumed to be tied to spot-onproducts reported by pet owners, veterinarians and other animalcaretakers.   The following facts were cited:
Most adverse reactions were seen in dogs weighing between 10and 20 pounds; Reactions in mixed breed dogs were most commonly reported,however, the Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, Miniature Poodle, Pomeranian, Dachshund,Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier and Bichon Frise seem particularly at risk; Productscontaining cyphenothrin and permethrin were especially problematic for smallbreed dogs; Most incidents occurred in dogs under three years old, likely attheir first exposure to a spot-on product; Adverse reactions for both dogs andcats were primarily skin, GI tract and nervous system related; Skin reactionsincluded redness, itching, hair loss, sores and ulcers; Gastrointestinalsymptoms included vomiting, diarrhea and salivation; reported nervous systemsymptoms included lethargy, nervousness, ataxia (movement problems), tremorsand seizure;  A number of adversereactions in cats were the result of the cat either being treated with a productintended for dogs, or through exposure to a treated dog.  Cats treated with products intended for dogshad an especially rate of serious reactions and fatalities; Inert ingredientsin spot-on products were generally assumed to contribute to toxicity; dosageranges were considered to be too wide in some cases; Product labeling wasidentified as needing a revamp in many cases, and; The EPA’s Companion AnimalStudies guidelines are insufficient to predict the toxicity of spot-onproducts. 
Do I have your attention now?
The flea collars contain Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) and/orPropoxur, both which have the potential to cause cancer in humans.  These collars release chemicals onto the furaround the neck area which is eventually absorbed through the skin.  The chemicals are further spread whenever thedogs groom, scratch or lick their bodies thus ingesting the chemicals as well.
So every day I can feed Kirby a healthy, natural dog food such as Honest Kitchen and top it off with a serving of dangerous chemicals?  No thanks!  
And don’t even get me started on the new Comfortis, amonthly pill that works by circulating within the dog's bloodstream targetingthe biting adult flea's nervous system to cause paralysis and death.  It is not supposed to have the same effect onthe dog's nervous system but it could be years before we know the adverseeffects.  Not a risk I’m willing to take.
The good news is there are safe, effective productsavailable.  My research has led toseveral safe options, the most promising being neem oil, which I will focus ontoday.  A seemingly miraculous substancethat comes from the bark, leaves and oil of the neem tree which has been usedin India for centuries as a natural remedy for a multitude of ailments andpreventatives.  Neem oil promotes ashiny, healthy coat, a strong immune system and healthy skin.   In fact quite a few cosmetic skin and hairproducts contain neem oil.
Using neem oil as a rub for flea control on dogs iseasy.  Just place a few drops of neem oilon palms and simply rub hands through your pet's fur for effective flea andtick control.  Please note that neem oilis best used this way for dogs only, not for cats.  For sensitive dogs, dilute the neem oil 1:10in a light oil like almond or jojoba and rub palms first. Then run handsthoroughly through the dog's coat for natural, effective flea and tick control.
Organic neem oil makes an excellent flea and tickspray.  To prepare mix a ½ ounce oforganic neem oil with ¼ to ½ ounce of mild soap or detergent and 2 cupswater.  Use warm, not hot, water todissolve the oil.  Mix water and soapfirst and then slowly add the neem oil. Add to sprayer and use immediately. Discard after use since neem oil isunstable and breaks down after 8 hours so mix a new batch each time.
You can also add neem oil to your favorite pet shampoo at arate of roughly ½ ounce for every 8 ounces of shampoo.  Use the lesser amount for a preventativemaintenance shampoo adding more neem oil to the mix if the dog has an existingor severe infestation.  Blend shampoowell into the coat.  It will leave anodor that will continue to repel unwanted pests.  Treat weekly or more often for effective fleaand tick control for dogs and to catch all insects in their various stages ofdevelopment.
Kirby’s regular shampoo is Papaya 2 in 1 by Tropiclean which is allnatural, soap free and smells yummy.  Theynow carry Opti Neem Flea & Tick Shampoo.  This shampoo doesn't claim to repel fleas but relieves itching and irritation due to fleas and ticks.  It has astrong pine like smell which disappears after a few hours.  He does have to wait in the tub for fifteenminutes before rinsing per the instructions.  We have been using this shampoo for several months now with goodresults.  As for his coat, it’s stillshiny and soft.   
I also use premixed Neem Protect Natural Flea Spray once or twice a week.  It contains neem oil and citronella oil which gives it a lemony smell.  This spray claims to not only repel fleas but also repels lice, mites, flies mosquitoes, and ticks.  I spray it on his coat and then rub it inbeing careful not to get it in his eyes.  It is water soluable so it does have to be reapplied if your dog gets wet.  You can purchase an 8 oz. bottle for $9.25 online at Herbal Remedies.Com
Keep in mind that some dogs may experience an allergicreaction to neem oil.  Most commonly, youmay see a rash or red spot appear where neem oil was applied.  If so, simply wash the area.  You may want to conduct a small spot test tomake sure your dog is not sensitive to neem oil before applying it over hisentire body.  If your dog experiences astronger adverse reaction to neem oil application, consult a veterinarianimmediately.
Remember,
-Use only pure, 100% organic neem oil.
-Caution is advised when using on animals that are breedersor about to be bred.   Use neem oil athalf strength for flea and tick control.
-Do not treat cats with concentrated neem oil.  Using neem leaf tea is far safer for felines.
I would love to know if you use these products or have discovered another all naturalremedy in the war against fleas!