Archive for News from Dr. Jean

Let Dr. Jean Help You Discover the Powerful Benefits of Homeopathy, Chinese Herbs and Herbal Care!

With so many natural pet products on the market, it’s hard to navigate through all of their terms and definitions. Thankfully, Only Natural Pet Store’s resident veterinarian Dr. Jean is an expert in both alternative and traditional medicine. Let her help you make the right decisions when it comes to finding the Homeopathic, Chinese Herbs and Herbal Remedies your pet needs to continue living a happy, healthful life.

And as an added bonus, you’ll save 15% on top products from our Homeopathic, Chinese Herbs and Herbal Care categories by using the coupon code HOLISTIC. That means not only will you be educating yourself on healthy pet supplements, but you’ll save on the ones you need. From Traditional Chinese Medicine to Folk Remedies, people and pets have been using herbal and homeopathic products for years. Now is your time to re-discover them for your pet.

15% Alternative Remedy Savings

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Stop Your Pet’s Holiday Stress with a Great Deal from Only Natural Pet!

The holidays aren’t just stressful for us; all of the visitors, decorating and hectic days take their toll on our pets as well. But don’t fear…Only Natural Pet Store is here to help! With our “Holiday Stress Reducers and Safety Tips” article, and some advice from Dr. Jean, you’ll have no problems this year. So make sure you check out our November Newsletter and let your pet handle the holidays with grace.

November Newsletter

November Newsletter

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Overview of Allergies – Part 3 of a 3 part series by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM


In the first two installments of our 3-part Allergy Series, we’ve covered food allergies and inhalant allergies (atopy). This time, we’ll go into a little more detail about what allergies are, and how to prevent and deal with them; and we’ll reveal the most common allergy of all!

Allergy = Immune Hypersensitivity

An allergy is an over-reaction of the immune system to an allergen (usually a protein). There are four major types of hypersensitivity reaction:

  • Type I or “immediate” hypersensitivity, also known as anaphylaxis. An example is the potentially life-threatening reaction to vaccines in sensitive animals. The type of reaction usually occurs within 30 minutes, but always within 12 hours. The problem usually occurs in tissue that has direct contact with the outside world, such as the skin, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal system. This is the most common type of reaction seen in pets. Food allergies, atopy (inhalant allergies), and fleabite allergy usually fall into this category.
  • Type II or cytotoxic hypersensitivity is what we think of as an autoimmune reaction, where antibodies attach to the body’s own tissues, causing inflammation and tissue destruction. Transfusion reactions and vaccine-induced autoimmune hemolytic anemia are examples. The reaction begins within 3-10 hours.
  • Type III or immune complex hypersensitivity occurs within 3-10 hours of exposure to the allergen. While relatively rare in animals, systemic lupus erythematosis in dogs is an example.
  • Type IV or delayed hypersensitivity is the reaction we commonly think of as a “contact” allergy, such as a reaction to poison ivy. For instance, a dog may develop an allergy to the stuffing in, or the detergent used to wash, his dog bed, and develop a rash on his belly and paws (which have the least amount of fur and are thus in direct contact with the bed). This type of allergy typically takes days to develop, and is relatively uncommon in pets.

Diagnosing allergies

Diagnosing allergies can be difficult. First, your veterinarian needs to rule out other diseases or problems that cause those symptoms. For skin reactions, other causes include parasites, autoimmune disease, and skin infections. Diagnosis may include skin scrapings to look for mites (several species commonly infect dogs and cats); fungal culture for ringworm; or even biopsy to look for skin and gland abnormalities. In the case of gastrointestinal reactions, there are dozens of other potential causes, such as parasites; viral, bacterial, or fungal infections; toxins; liver or pancreas disorders; neurological problems; and cancer. The pet’s history may also provide clues: atopy and fleabite allergy are more seasonal, while food allergies tend to be constant.

There are two major tests specifically for allergies manifesting as skin problems: intradermal skin testing, and blood tests.

  • Intradermal skin testing involves injecting dozens of allergens into the skin to assess the degree of reactivity. The animal must be anesthetized for this process.
  • Blood tests check for antibodies to a variety of allergens.

These tests are not 100% accurate, but they may help narrow down the list of suspects so that treatment can be targeted more efficiently. These tests are best reserved for dogs who will be getting immunotherapy (hyposensitization), which involves giving frequent injections of a combination of allergens in order to minimize the immune system reaction.

Food trials are also a way of diagnosing allergies, since symptoms of food allergy may involve either the skin or the gastrointestinal tract. It is worth keeping in mind that food allergies are far less common than other allergies, but food can still contribute to symptoms. The trial food should contain ingredients the pet has not been exposed to before, and should be fed exclusively for 8-12 weeks! Digestive symptoms typically resolve sooner than skin symptoms.

This “FAD” is the Top Allergy

FAD, or Flea Allergy Dermatitis, is the most common allergy of dogs and cats. The usual suspect is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, which is just as likely to infest dogs as their namesake cats. Fleas inject their saliva as they feed on the pet’s blood; and that saliva contains histamine-like compounds and other proteins. These components make fleabites extremely itchy on their own; but in some animals, they cause an allergy that is itchy to the extreme.

The most typical sites for FAD to show up are the lower back, base of the tail, inner thighs, and lower belly; although a severely allergic pet may be itchy all over.. The fur in affected areas may be stained brown from the pet’s licking, and the skin can become hairless, crusty, thickened, or even blackened from chronic irritation. Hot spots (areas of moist, reddened skin) can also be the result of FAD. Secondary infections of the skin with yeast or bacteria are common.

Most people, confronted with a potentially flea-allergic pet, will adamantly deny that there is a flea problem in their homes—and most of them are probably correct. But you don’t have to see fleas to have a flea problem. Fleas may be lurking in the yard, on the beach, or in the dog park. If your pet has a flea allergy, it only takes a single fleabite to produce a severe and long-lasting reaction.

In addition to causing itching and allergies, fleas can transmit tapeworms, roundworms, and the bacteria that cause bubonic plague, cat scratch disease, typhus, and Lyme disease. Many of these diseases can also be transmitted to humans. It is important to stay vigilant if you are in a flea-prone area.

For more information on fleas and how to combat them naturally, please see these articles:

Common Flea Myths

Click here to read the second article in our allergy series on Inhalant Allergies (Atopy)

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Prevent the ‘Oops!’ From Your Pet

Our latest monthly newsletter is hot off the pixel press! This month we have great information about how you can help your dog and/or cat with incontinence, bladder control, and related conditions. Dr. Jean Hofve contributes her usual tips and there are great deals to be had (to the tune of 15% off!) all bladder control and incontinence products through September 1st. Plus view some great pictures from our community on our Flickr feed!

Pet Got The Leaks?!

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Check Out Our New Monthly Newsletter Packed with Articles, Links, New Products, and More!

We hope you enjoy this new approach to our already awesome email newsletters! The last Friday of each month we’ll send out a special monthly newsletter jam-packed with articles, interesting news and tips from Dr. Jean Hofve, great photos of dogs and cats submitted by our customers, detailed new product announcements, and much more!

We appreciate your support and hope you will share this with your friends, family, and pet loving friends!

http://ebm.onlynaturalpet.info/c/tag/BN39iWB7gMUhB8baaXAAAAAF-M/doc.html?t_params=CLICK_CODE%3D74046%26FNAME%3DValued%2520Customer%26i_buyergroup%3D0%26i_header%3D0

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Spring May Bring Danger to Your Pets!

Don’t you just love Spring, with its mild weather, green grass, and flowers everywhere?

But some of the things we associate with this happy season can be harmful to pets and wildlife.

Bulb plants are a particular problem, and nearly all of them are toxic. To your dog, a bulb may resemble a well-worn ball that is irresistible to pick up in his mouth.

In some plants, only the bulb is a problem, and mainly causes irritation in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Typical signs are drooling, vomiting, abdominal pain, or in severe cases, respiratory or cardiac abnormalities.

But, with lilies including Easter Lilies, every part of the plant is toxic, especially to cats. A cat can be fatally poisoned simply by licking lily pollen off its fur, or taking a tiny nibble of a leaf or flower.

Toxic bulbs include:

  • Lilies, including Tiger lilies, Day lilies, Easter lilies, and Stargazer lilies (any plant of the Lilium and Hermerocallis genera. Calla lilies and Peace lilies are not true lilies, though they can still cause significant irritation.)
  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Tulips (Tulipa)
  • Hyacinth (Hyacinthus)
  • Daffodils (Narcissus)
  • Crocuses (including fall-blooming Colchicum autumnale and more common spring crocuses, which are in the Iris [Iridaceae] group)
  • Irises (Iridaceae)
  • Amaryllis (Amaryllis belladonna)
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
  • Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)
  • Trillium (Trillium)

If you have bulbs planted in your garden, or if you bring a plant or bouquet indoors, be extremely cautious. For garden plants, you may want to consider fencing to keep dogs (and other critters) out. Indoor plants need to be secured well away from pets. Many cats have been poisoned by chewing on plants that a guardian was absolutely sure they couldn’t get to! (For a more complete list of poisonous and dangerous plants, click here.)

There are other spring dangers that we need to be aware of, such as fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and other chemicals commonly used in gardens. Even blood meal and bone meal can cause problems if the dog eats too much–as dogs often do! Cocoa mulch is another culprit, although it is unusual for a dog to consume enough to be poisonous (the toxin, theobromine, is the same chemical that’s in chocolate). So keep your yard safe: be sure to lock up all garden products and tools when you’re through using them!

Between knowledge and common sense, we can prevent many tragedies, and keep Spring a happy season!

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Wellness Canned Cat Food Recall

Wellness has announced a recall of its canned cat food:

Wellness Canned Cat (all flavors and sizes) with best by dates from 14APR 13 through 30SEP13;
Wellness Canned Cat Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with 10NOV13 or 17NOV13 best buy dates. [Update: Canned kitten food should have been included in this recall]

The manufacturer, WellPet, deserves credit for going out of its way to personally contact bloggers (including myself and Susan Thixton of the awesome blog, TruthAboutPetFood.com) to help get the word out to consumers as quickly as possible.

Only one case of illness in a cat is known to have been reported, and WellPet’s rapid and complete response is impressive. [Update 4/4/11 - WellPet did make a few mistakes...they originally did not include their kitten food in the recall, which was affected; and they did not notify all their retailers in a timely manner.]

The following letter is from WellPet’s CEO:

Dear Pet Parents,

My name is Tim Callahan, and I’m the CEO of WellPet, makers of Wellness® natural pet food. Over the years, we at WellPet have worked hard to earn the reputation of being a company that does everything possible for the pets that depend on us.

WellPet is committed to delivering the very best in pet food nutrition, as nothing is more important than the well-being of our dogs and cats. So when we found through product quality testing that specific product runs of our Wellness canned cat food might contain less than adequate levels of thiamine (also known as Vitamin B1), we decided to voluntarily recall them.

Please know, the vast majority of products tested had the appropriate levels of thiamine; however, with the number of recipes we offer, we did not want to make this more confusing. Therefore to avoid confusion and in an abundance of caution, we have decided to recall all canned cat products with the specific date codes noted below. Cats fed only product with inadequate levels of thiamine for several weeks may be at risk for developing a thiamine deficiency. If treated promptly, thiamine deficiency is typically reversible.

Though the chance of developing this deficiency is remote, withdrawing these products is the right thing to do and we are removing it from retailers’ shelves.

The lots involved in this voluntary recall are:

Wellness Canned Cat (all flavors and sizes) with best by dates from 14APR 13 through 30SEP13;
Wellness Canned Cat Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with best by date of 10NOV13 and 17NOV13.

If you have cat food from these lots, you should stop feeding it to your cats. You may call WellPet at 1-877-227-9587 to arrange for return of the product and reimbursement. For further information, please visit our website at http://www.wellnesspetfood.com.

No other Wellness products that your pets currently enjoy are impacted, so you can continue to feed your pets Wellness with full confidence. This is an isolated situation, as we have had only one reported issue. We are taking all the necessary steps to ensure it does not happen again.

Speaking on behalf of our entire Company, I apologize for any concerns this may have caused you. As a parent of a yellow lab named Hope, I understand the sense of responsibility we all share for our dogs and cats. Rest assured, product quality and safety will always be our top priority.

Sincerely,

Tim Callahan

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Preventing Cancer in Pets: A Holistic Perspective by Dr. Jean Hofve

This year, cancer will kill half of dogs over 10 years old. This devastating disease is increasingly seen in cats, and in younger pets as well. 

Because cancer is so mysterious and seemingly powerful in its ability to destroy health and deplete us emotionally (and financially), it is easy to become overwhelmed, and to take a fatalistic attitude. We know so little, and cancer seems to strike our pets and us almost randomly; we may think, “What’s the point of trying to do anything about it?” However, there are simple, practical steps you can take that will greatly reduce your pet’s risk of cancer.

What causes cancer?

In most cases, cancer is not caused by any single factor (the exceptions are cancers directly caused by vaccination, such as vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats and, to a lesser extent, dogs and ferrets). Factors such as age, genetics, exposure to toxic carcinogens, lifestyle, infections, and stress may all play a role in the development of cancer in pets. Cancer develops when abnormal (mutated) cells begin to reproduce in the body at alarming rates, and begin to interfere with the normal functioning of healthy cells, organs, or body tissues. Our pets’ bodies produce so many cells every day that large numbers of abnormal cells are created all the time. In a healthy body, the immune system scavenges and destroys these abnormal cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, tumors develop when this immune surveillance breaks down or is overwhelmed. It is overly simplistic to state that cancer is always and only due to immune system failure, but the immune system is certainly always involved.

The immune system plays many roles in both cancer prevention and cancer development. Surveillance for and destruction of abnormal and damaged cells is one such role. Another—and perhaps the most important—is inflammation. While acute inflammation is one of the body’s major defense mechanisms, chronic inflammation is now thought to be at the root of many diseases of aging, and other conditions that are associated with cancer.

The bottom line is this: the best defense against cancer is a balanced, healthy immune system—one that responds appropriately (not too little, not too much) and cleans up after itself (once the problem/inflammation is resolved). Therefore, supporting a properly functioning immune is the single most important thing you can do to minimize your pet’s cancer risk.

How the immune system becomes unbalanced:

The immune system is negatively affected by many factors:

  • Genetics: The genetic make-up of the animal greatly influences the stability and power of the immune system. Purebred pets from sources where the bloodlines are not well controlled (such as puppy mills, backyard breeders, pet stores, and auctions), are typically more susceptible to disease and immune dysfunction,
  • Age: immune function naturally declines as our animals get older
  • Poor nutrition: most commercial pet foods contain many additives and preservatives
  • Toxic exposure: our pets are constantly exposed to multiple toxins in food, air, and water
  • Infection: some bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases directly impact how the immune system functions
  • Medications: many drugs, such as steroids and certain antibiotics, suppress the immune system
  • Vaccination (for more information, see our article on vaccination)
  • Extreme weather: expect this to worsen from both natural and man-made factors
  • Electromagnetic fields: these emanate from the sun as well as man-made sources (cell phone towers, power lines, electric lights, microwaves, and even the wiring in our homes
  • Sedentary lifestyle: exercise is a natural stress reducer and immune booster
  • Inadequate rest: 24/7 exposure to light and noise can disrupt sleep patterns
  • Stress of all kinds: including emotional, social, mental, and territorial stress. Pets can not only be subject to their own stress, but they readily absorb stress from human family members.

Some of these factors are within our control; but many are not. We can’t slow down the passage of time, alter the weather, or escape from solar and man-made radiation, but we can make many important changes to improve our pets’ (and our own) immune systems and reduce cancer risk.

Supporting the immune system:

Here are some positive, proactive steps you can take to support your pet’s immune system, decrease stress, and reduce chronic inflammation:

  • Provide a natural diet with as many fresh, raw, whole foods as possible.
  • Give your pet antioxidants, Omega-3 (EPA an DHA), and other supplements to support immune function, decrease inflammation, and promote cellular health.
  • Offer only purified, filtered water – tap water always contains chemicals, and bottled water commonly contains leached toxic plastic compounds.
  • Eliminate chemical toxins used in and around your home; choose non-toxic, green cleaning products, and avoid artificial scents such as candles, carpet powders, and air fresheners.
  • Do not smoke – especially around pets (and children!). If you must smoke, go outside!
  • Don’t over-vaccinate, and never vaccinate a sick animal.
  • Keep pets off and away from televisions and computers.
  • Reduce your pet’s exposure to toxins like fertilizers & pesticides
  • Avoid chemical flea & tick products and use natural insect control products instead.
  • Reduce emotional stress for your pet and yourself with flower essences, massage, homeopathy, and other energy therapies.
  • Exercise and play with your cat or dog every day.

If you already know a little bit about holistic pet care, these steps will be familiar to you, but really understanding that they can help reduce the risk of cancer will help reinforce their benefits in your mind and—we hope—motivate and encourage you to implement them for your pet’s health.

If you are interested in more information on cancer and immune support, click here for related articles in our Holistic Healthcare Library.




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The Natural Approach to Flea Control [full article]

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

Fleas! Everyone hates these blood-sucking parasites. Our war against fleas is epic and ongoing, but each of us must fight our own individual battles. At Only Natural Pet Store, we want to give you the best weapons: only what works, and only what is safe for you, your pets, and the environment.

There are three fronts in every battle against fleas: the pet(s), the home, and the outdoor environment. But before we sound the battle cry, we need to know our enemy.

Why the Flea is Such a Fierce Enemy

Fleas have a number of strategic advantages in this war:

1. Masters of Maneuvers – Fleas are tiny, hard-shelled insects with incredible muscle power in their hind legs; they can jump 4-5 feet horizontally (or nearly a foot straight up). They’re fast. They’re adaptable. And they’re hard to kill.

2. Stormtrooper Mentality – Fleas come with three basic marching orders, or biological imperatives: to survive, to eat, and to reproduce. They are entirely devoted to these orders. And they are very, very good at all of them. They are especially good at reproducing; an adult female lays about 20 eggs at a time. In her lifetime (depending on conditions, up to 1-1/2 years), she may produce hundreds, even thousands of eggs.

3. Effective Recruitment – The female flea typically lays her tiny white eggs in dark, damp places. If she lays any eggs on your pet, they will fall off…but they could travel all around the house or yard first. Within their hiding places, the eggs will hatch in about a week (although they can delay hatching until conditions are ideal) into larvae. The larvae then pupate by spinning cocoons, in which they can finish their development in a week, but they can survive in their cocoons for up to 6 months.

4. Subterfuge Specialists – For every single adult flea you see, there are about 10 cocoons, 35 larvae and 50 eggs hiding in carpets, pet beds, cracks, corners, and furniture.

5. Weapons of Mass Annoyance – Flea bites are itchy because, when fleas bite to feed, they inject blood thinning compounds to prevent clotting during dinner. Not only do these anti-clotting proteins cause itching, but they can also cause the immune system to mount an allergic reaction. Flea-allergic dermatitis is one of the most common skin complaints in pets. For an allergic animal, just one flea bite can cause a massive and prolonged reaction. Fleas can also transmit diseases such as bubonic plague, typhus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, as well as tapeworms.

6. Efficient Defenses – Most chemicals, including bombs and sprays, kill only adult fleas or adults and larvae. That leaves thousands of tough little eggs and cocoons just waiting for the proper conditions, when they’ll renew their assault once more. Fleas are also well defended against famine conditions—one blood meal can keep an adult flea alive up to two months.

Natural Defensive Strategies for Pets

Inner Defenses

Like other parasites, fleas target less healthy hosts, as well as puppies and kittens with undeveloped immune systems. Therefore, the first defense for our pets is to optimize their health and immunity.

If you’ve read any of the other articles on our site, you’ve heard this before: Diet is the foundation of health. After years of experience and research, we have come to believe that the best diet for most dogs and cats is a biologically appropriate raw food (“BARF”) diet. However, not everyone is comfortable with or can manage to feed a raw diet; but it is important to feed the very best diet you can. This means top quality commercial pet foods that contain NO by-products, meat and bone meal, chemical preservatives, or other artificial additives. Meat should be the primary protein. Dogs can be fed a mix of canned and dry foods, but cats need moisture in their diets, and should be fed mostly or only canned foods, or reconstituted dehydrated or freeze-dried foods. Avoid carbohydrates, especially corn and wheat, as much as possible for cats. For more information, see our article, “What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food.”

Garlic and B-vitamins seem to make blood less attractive to fleas, so many guardians supplement with garlic & brewers yeast during flea season. Sensitive animals can develop an allergy to brewer’s yeast, so monitor your pet to guard against worsening itchiness (pruritis).

Outer Defenses

The ultimate weapon in the battle with fleas is the Flea Comb. It is the best method to discover whether fleas are present. Comb through your pet’s fur and gather a bit of hair and dirt. Then put this between two damp white paper towels and press them together – if the “dirt” creates rusty reddish spots on the paper towel, then a flea has been there (the dirt is actually flea feces). If you keep combing (especially around the tummy and tail), you will likely trap some of them in the comb. Drown them in SOAPY water – fleas have been known to jump out of plain water. Daily flea combing may sound tedious, but it is very helpful while you are working on your companion’s health and taking environmental action.

Many topical sprays and shampoos claim to repel or kill fleas. However, many of them contain chemicals and pesticides with serious toxic potential. Cats are particularly susceptible to such products, because they are constantly grooming themselves and ingesting whatever is on their fur. Even sprays or chemicals from the dog can transfer to furniture or rugs, and from there to the cat. So, be extremely cautious with chemicals.

Safe flea-repellents for dogs – We recommend essential oil-based, non-chemical products to help keep fleas away from your dog. Spray and shampoo which contain essential oils not only help repel fleas, they can also help soothe and heal irritated skin. Herbal Defense Oil Blend is another good repellent for use on dogs. You can put a drop on the collar, and dilute it into a spray to mist your dog. Combining a little essential oil repellent spray with your flea combing is a great way to both spread the essential oils throughout the coat and give you extra help with catching the fleas. Pay particular attention to the base of the tail, and under the legs and belly on dogs. When using any strong-smelling product, keep in mind that your dog or cat has a much stronger sense of smell than you do, so don’t overdo it.

Safe flea repellent for cats - Neem products are also good for cats; comb in especially around the neck, chest, and belly. Or, spray a small amount of Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Spray onto a cloth and wipe it on lightly. Follow all directions carefully for best results. Never use full-strength essential oils directly on cats (spray products are already diluted to safe levels).

For killing fleas once they are on your pet, we recommend natural flea powders. Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy is a powder made from diatomaceous earth that is safe for use on dogs and cats as well as around the home. It kills fleas in all life stages by dehydrating them, a method that is not only non-toxic to pets, humans and the environment, also a method that fleas cannot develop an immunity to, as they do with all other pesticides over time. There are many varieties of diatomaceous earth available. Some have impurities or contaminants that make them less safe than the type in the All-in-One Flea Remedy. The All-in-One Flea Remedy is safe if ingested, so your cat can groom herself all she wants and it will not hurt her. It is a very fine powder and a little goes a long way. Suggested use is approximately 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs. of body weight. Work it in well with your fingers, or use a flea comb to distribute it. It needs to be on the skin for it to affect the fleas.

Bathing your companion is an excellent way to kill fleas. Use an essential-oil based repellent shampoo like Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Shampoo or a soothing shampoo such as oatmeal-based varieties. You can add a drop or two of flea repelling essential oils to oatmeal shampoo to make it more “flea unfriendly.” Lather the neck first, so fleas can’t run up onto the head. Leave the lather on your pet for a few minutes to help smother any persistent fleas, and then RINSE WELL. Soap residue can dry the skin and make the itchiness worse. You can follow with Only Natural Herbal Defense Conditioner or Grooming Conditioner to help prevent dry skin.

Why not use flea collars?

Most flea collars are treated with chemical pesticides that you do NOT want your pet wearing around their neck all the time! There are some natural flea collars available that will help in environments where fleas are not severe, or perhaps on an indoor cat, but you generally don’t want to rely on them as your sole line of defense if you live an area with a large flea population.

Flea Tags – Definitely worth a try!

There are some amazing new products that use tags that hang from your pet’s collar and that repel fleas based on energy fields. It sounds very “out there”, but they work really well for many animals and are far and away the easiest way to keep fleas off your pet. It is definitely worth trying a flea tag, because they work for most pets, and some for as long as two years!

What about “spot-on” flea products?

Chemical spot-on flea products contain powerful and potentially dangerous pesticides, and should be considered a last resort for animals with severe flea allergies. An excellent review of these products was featured in the Whole Dog Journal, “Are ‘Spot-On’ Flea Killers Safe?” in the February 2002 issue (click here to read the article); despite its age, the article remains relevant. “All pesticides pose some degree of health risk to humans and animals. Despite advertising claims to the contrary, both over-the-counter and veterinarian-prescribed flea-killing topical treatments are pesticides that enter our companions’ internal organs (livers, kidneys), move into their intestinal tracts, and are eventually eliminated in their feces and urine.”

Even worse, these chemicals will readily transfer to human skin when the animal is handled. This can be particularly dangerous to children.

Chemical spot-ons can induce severe adverse reactions, including excessive salivation, skin rashes, tremors, hyperactivity, stiffened limbs, seizures, and death. Consider that to be deemed safe for use on our companions, these products only need be tested for 3-, 13- or 52-week intervals. Higher doses are used to compensate for the shorter testing periods. NO STUDIES have been done on the LONG TERM effects of applying these pesticides to animals repeatedly over long periods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received so many adverse event reports (more than 44,000 in 2008 alone) that they have opened an investigation into the safety of all registered spot-on products. Illness and death in dogs and cats were reported for every one of them. The EPA is currently reviewing labels and other data and will be issuing restrictions and requirements shortly.

Defending the Home Environment

Remember that most of the flea population lives and develops in your house and yard, not on your pet. Treating the environment is essential if you want to win this war. However, flea “bombs” and other products do not kill all life stages of the flea, and are generally made with chemical pesticides, which are NOT something you want to spread over every nook and cranny of your house.

Carpets, Flooring, Bedding, and Furniture

Vacuuming and washing hard-surfaced floors often – daily during the height of flea season – is the least toxic way to control fleas. This will remove most of the adults, and some eggs and larvae. Keep in mind the larvae don’t like light, so vacuum under furniture and around baseboards, anywhere near your pet’s favorite places to hang out. Remember to either vacuum some Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy or an herbal flea powder into the vacuum bag to kill any fleas in the bag, or immediately remove the bag and discard it in a sealed plastic bag after use. Otherwise, they will just jump out of the bag and back into your home.

Vacuuming alone can’t control severe infestations, and not everyone has the time to clean all the floors daily. That’s when we recommend using one or more of the natural “powders” available for ridding your home of fleas. The least toxic products are diatomaceous earth and boric acid products, which both work by dessicating (drying out) the fleas, larvae, pupae, and eggs, which kills them.

Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy can be used on carpeting, on pet bedding, on furniture and on hard floors (and on your pets – see above). It is a very fine powder, so it gets into cracks and crevices on hardwood, tile, and linoleum floors easily. You can work it in with a broom or carpet rake so it creates less dust when walked on. It acts more quickly than boric acid products, and a difference in the flea population can be noticeable in 24–48 hours. Diatomaceous earth, however, does not last as long as the boric acid products, and is ineffective when wet. Monthly applications are recommended in areas with heavy flea populations, especially during the height of flea season.

Boric acid products, such as Fleabusters and Fleago, work in a similar fashion. When applied correctly, they offer protection for up to a year or more, as they remain deep in the carpet and furniture fibers. Fleabusters may also be used on hard floors, as the powder is fine enough to reach into cracks and crevices well. All visible powder must be worked into the carpet, floor or furniture well with a broom or carpet rake, and any remaining visible powder should be vacuumed up. Boric acid kills flea larvae, but is not as effective at killing the adults, so visible results may take 2-6 weeks, as the adult population dies off. During the initial weeks after application, it is helpful to vacuum frequently to remove adult fleas. Boric acid products are more toxic than diatomaceous earth products as well, so you should not use them directly on dogs or cats, or in areas where small children play.

With all flea powder products, follow package directions carefully. Natural flea control powders are drying agents, and their dust can irritate nasal passages and lungs if inhaled directly. Avoid overzealous shaking of the container while spreading the powder onto the floor so you don’t create clouds of dust. If you have any questions about the application process with any of our products, please call or email and we will be happy to help.

Bedding

Pet beds are a favorite flea hang-out. Wash your pet’s bedding in hot, soapy water at least weekly. You can even add some flea repellent essential oils to the water for extra flea-zapping power. Sprinkle a little Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy onto DRY bedding and work it in to help kill the little pests while your companion sleeps.

Securing the Perimeter (Your Yard)

Last, but certainly not least, treat the yard, the major source of fleas. Larvae avoid light – so rake up leaves and thatch, and keep the grass cut. A majority of fleas and larvae will be within 50 feet of your companion’s favorite resting spots, so focus on those areas, especially shady areas under trees, bushes, and decks. Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy or diatomaceous earth can safely be applied to grass.

Beneficial nematodes (worms) are another way to control fleas in the yard, especially during wet weather. Beneficial nematodes are a flea parasite. They are tiny little critters that prey on both adult fleas and larvae. They can be applied with a hose sprayer or, on a smaller yard, with a watering can. Some garden centers and nurseries carry them (or can order them for you), as well as some of the “natural” pet stores. An Internet search will provide many sources as well.

The Pre-emptive Strike

If you live in a high-flea area, don’t wait until you see fleas on your companion to treat your environment! If you live in an area with a predictable flea season, begin the treatment a month before they appear. If you live where flea season is every season, start now and treat your home regularly. Using natural methods takes more effort than dropping a blob of pesticide on your cat’s or dog’s back, but in the long run your pets, your family, and your environment will be healthier!

For convenient starter kits for natural flea control, view our Flea Care Kits for dogs and cats.

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Raw Meat Pet Diet Risks and Benefits by Dr. Jean Hofve

by Jean Hofve, DVM, Veterinary Adviser to Only Natural Pet

One of the leading vendors of raw food recently recalled a number of its frozen raw chicken products because they may have been contaminated with Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness.

When considering the risks and benefits of raw diets, we should remember that the recalled brand’s raw foods are vastly outnumbered by the hundreds of canned and dry foods that sickened or killed tens of thousands of dogs and cats in the 2007 recall fiasco and others since then. How many animals got sick from the raw foods? Zero. On the other hand, the benefits of a raw meat diet are many. Skin, ear, digestive, weight, allergic, and immune-related diseases usually improve on a good quality, balanced raw diet.

However, raw food has potential drawbacks as well as benefits. The bacteria Salmonella is the most commonly cited danger from feeding raw meat. However, even though this bacterium is a common contaminant of meat, eggs, and soil, it is not a significant threat to dogs and cats, due to the carnivore’s shorter gastrointestinal tract and faster transit time (compared to humans). Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings typically emphasize the risks to frail people like young infants, the elderly, and immune-compromised people (e.g., those with immune system diseases such as Lupus or AIDS, or those on immune-suppressing drugs like steroids or chemotherapy).

According to experts—including the FDA—Salmonella does not pose any real threat to healthy animals. In fact, it’s estimated that 30% of normal healthy dogs and 18% of healthy cats (nearly all of whom eat processed commercial pet food) are already carriers, simply from environmental exposure. One study on raw diets showed that, even when 80% of meat samples were positive for Salmonella, 70% of dogs eating that meat tested negative, and none got sick. The vast majority of human cases are completely unrelated to dogs and cats. It is prudent, however, to avoid feeding pets non-organic raw ground beef, due to severe contamination problems in the meat packing industry.

Listeria is another common environmental bacteria. The vast majority of Listeria cases in people come from processed foods, like hot dogs, cold cuts, cheese, and raw vegetables. Healthy people (and pets) are resistant and don’t usually become ill from this bug.

Common sense says that handling raw meat diets for pets is no different from buying raw meat at the grocery store to make hamburgers for your family. By always following normal safe meat-handling procedures with all raw animal products, you’ll virtually eliminate the risk of illness for your pet and your family.

So why feed raw? Raw meat diets are credited with restoring the health of thousands of dogs and cats. Guardians universally report big improvements in skin, coat, energy, and overall well-being. Raw diets have helped innumerable pets heal from a wide variety of health problems, including allergies, asthma, urinary tract problems, digestive issues, dental disease, immune disorders, degenerative diseases, and epilepsy.

However, raw diets aren’t for every pet. Animals with inflammatory conditions of the gut, and those taking immune-suppressing drugs, should not be fed raw meat until their systems have time to heal. You can lightly cook raw meat or even raw complete diets without losing essential nutrients. As your pet’s health improves, cook the meat less and less until your pet is ready to transition to raw. It’s usually best to make any diet changes gradually.

If you haven’t fed your pet raw meat or “people” food before (or it’s been a long time since you did), be sure to make all dietary changes slowly and cautiously. The whole digestive system has to restructure itself to digest the new food properly.

To ease the transition, extra digestive enzymes and probiotics are helpful. Omega 3 fatty acids are deficient in all commercial pet diets, and even in homemade raw diets, so it’s a good idea to add a good quality Omega 3 oil to your pet’s diet. Of course, these supplements are beneficial for all pets, no matter what they eat!

Only Natural Pet Store carries a wide variety of probiotics, enzymes, and combination products for you to choose from. To name just a few:

Only Natural Pet Vital Digest, Prozyme, and Biozyme provide important enzymes to help your pet’s digestive system break down the food properly.

Ark Naturals Gentle Digest, NF Spectra Probiotic, and Only Natural Pet Probiotic Blend supply friendly bacteria and nutrients to support proper absorption and elimination of toxins and bad bacteria.

Pet Naturals Digestive Support for Cats and Dogs and Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics contain both enzymes and friendly bacteria.

Only Natural Pet Sockeye Salmon Oil and Nordic Naturals Pet Cod Liver Oil are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Even if you don’t want to feed a raw diet full-time, adding a little fresh meat to your pet’s regular diet a few times a week, or feeding part raw and part regular commercial food, will go a long way toward better health for your pet.

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