Posts tagged fleas

Top 10 Summer Safety Tips for Pets

by Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM

Most of us are out and about much more in the summer, including many of our pets! But summer comes with its own set of potential problems. Common sense and preventive measures can prevent illness and injuries for our pets. Here are our Top 10 tips for a safe and happy summer:

1. Prevent Parasites. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other parasites are a year-round problem where warm weather is the norm, but in summer they’re practically everywhere. Not only are these pests a nuisance to your dog or cat, but they can carry tapeworms, heartworms, and diseases such as Lyme, Bartonella (often called cat-scratch disease, although dogs actually carry more species of this nasty bacteria than cats), West Nile Virus, leptospirosis, and even bubonic plague. Keeping your pet parasite-free requires a broad approach and vigilance on your part, with a little help from effective preventives. (See our comprehensive article on fleas here. Many natural products are available; talk to your vet about what’s needed for your area.

2. Stay Cool! Pets can succumb to heatstroke, so be sure that whenever your pet is outdoors, he always has a shelter from the sun, and plenty of fresh water. Add ice cubes or blocks to the water to keep it cool longer. If it’s extremely hot and humid in your area, consider a cooling vest for your dog. Don’t jog or bike with your dog in hot mid-day temperatures; stick to morning and evening. This is especially important for short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs (Pekes, Pugs, Bulldogs, etc.) or those with double-thick coats or long hair (huskies, shepherds, collies, some terriers and retrievers).

3. Leave Rover at Home. You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: never leave your dog in a car if the weather is warm, and certainly not if it’s hot! Cracking the windows makes no difference in the temperature gain. It doesn’t take high temperatures for it to be dangerous. A car parked in the shade can reach dangerous temperatures on a hot day; and if it’s in the sun, the temperature can rapidly rise up to 160°F. Experiments showed that even at a mild 72°F, the inside of a car reached 116°F in an hour, plenty hot to kill a dog. One dog died after being locked in a parked car on a sunny, 67°F day, even though the car windows were cracked. If you’re out running errands, the safest place for your dog is at home.

Dogs can’t sweat—they control their body temperature by panting. If the air in the car is near or above the dog’s body temperature (about 100°F), the dog will be unable to cool itself, and its body temperature can quickly rise to fatal levels (over 107°F). Heatstroke symptoms in dogs include: heavy panting, salivation, disorientation, agitation, rapid heart beat, lethargy, vomiting, seizures, coma and death.

If you see a dog left alone in a car under dangerous conditions, note the car’s location, color, model, make, and license plate number, and contact local humane authorities or police, who usually have authority to break in to save the animal. If you can make a good guess as to which store the driver might be in, ask the store manager to page them. If the animal shows symptoms of heatstroke, immediately take these steps to lower its body temperature in a controlled manner:

* Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area. * Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck, and chest; or immerse her in cool (but not cold) water. * Allow small amounts of cool water or let the dog lick some ice cubes. * Get to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

4. Avoid Sunburn. Sunscreen may be needed for pets with white fur around their face and ears—even indoors, if they’re sunbathing through windows. Susceptible areas are where the fur is thin and the skin is white or pink. You can use a human sunscreen or sunblock product (but be sure to clean it off when you get home), or get one especially made for pets, such as Solar Rx, which is green, vegan and chemical free.

5. Protect Against Poisons. Toxic mushrooms grow in many areas of the country, so be vigilant about removing them from your yard. Many plants (and all bulbs) are also toxic. Bulbs look a lot like dog toys, so keep them out of reach!

Summer also brings chemical hazards. Antifreeze is particularly deadly, so leaky cars are a hazard; clean up any spills immediately. This is the also the time of year when people are using fertilizers, mulches, and pesticides in yards and on lawns. While professionals will usually put flags up, do-it-yourselfers might not. Don’t let your dog wander in other yards where chemicals or cocoa mulch (toxic if ingested) might be used.

If you suspect that your pet has gotten into something, poison-control hotlines (there may be a charge) include:
• Kansas State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital 785-532-5679
• ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435
• The National Animal Poison Control Center 1-900-680-0000 or 1- 800-548-2423
• Angell Animal Poison Control Hotline at 1-877-2ANGEL

6. Watch Out for Critters. Walking and hiking with your dog summer increases the chances of encountering unpleasant or even dangerous wildlife, such as skunks, porcupines, scorpions, or rattlesnakes. Some toads have poisons on their skin that can be deadly even if your pet merely licks at the toad. Toads come out in wet weather and when it’s dark, so be especially careful when letting your dog out at these times.

7. Don’t Let Burrs Get Buried. Summer grasses often produce sticky or spiky seed cases. Foxtails and burrs can get caught in the paws or fur and work their way into—or even through—the skin. Foxtails have been known to work their way inside the chest or abdomen, where infection can be life-threatening. Check your pet after every outing to ensure its fur isn’t harboring any of these nasty items. Other sharp items also multiply in warm weather…if you live near water or take your dog on fishing trips, be careful with your fishing hooks and lines, and watch out for those that may have been left behind by others.

8. Drive Safely. As much as your dog may love to ride in the bed of a pickup, or hang his head out the window, either can cause your dog a world of hurt. Dust and gravel in the eyes are just the beginning; every year thousands of dogs are injured or killed when they jump or fall from vehicles. Even in an enclosed car, pets can be thrown and injured if you have to brake suddenly.

For car rides of any length, the very safest place for pets is in the back seat, either wearing a safety harness, or in a carrier or confined area. Pets loose in the car can distract and interfere with the driver, which could result in an accident. Harnesses designed as “doggie seat belts” provide safety during the trip, and prevent your dog from getting loose if someone unexpectedly opens the door. If your dog must ride in a truck bed, use a carrier or cross-ties to prevent injuries.

Cats should always be kept in a carrier while the car is in motion; many cats actually prefer it, because the smaller space makes them feel safer. Always make sure the cat is well secured before opening the car door. Some cats can be trained to walk with a harness and leash, but this is not something to try for the first time the day of the trip!

9. Always Carry Identification. Pets should always wear a collar or harness and ID tag, no matter where they are or where they’re going. Cats should be fitted with a breakaway collar for maximum safety. Please consider having your pet microchipped as added “insurance.” Rumors of cancer from microchips are greatly exaggerated, while the sad truth is that lost pets are often gone forever. Thousands of lost pets have been returned home thanks to microchips!

10. Be Prepared. Whether at home or away, keep a first aid kit ready in case of emergencies. There are special kits for both dogs and cats, so you never have to panic! You might also want to keep flower essences on hand, to keep your pet calm while you give first aid or head for the vet. Several products are available:

Bach Rescue Remedy

SpiritEssence Stress Stopper

Pet Essences Emergency Rescue

And there you have it! Once you’re prepared for summer hazards, you’ll be able to relax, have fun, and enjoy the summer season with your pet!

Click here to start a search in the Holistic Healthcare Library…

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Top 10 Flea Myths

Myths about FleasCommon Flea Myths Busted

by our myth-buster Jean Hofve, DVM, Veterinary Advisor to Only Natural Pet.

  1. Myth# 1: A healthy pet won’t get fleas – While not a guarantee, it is true that a healthy animal is a much less attractive host for fleas. That’s one of many good reasons to feed a high quality diet of natural food. However, even a healthy pet can get fleas in heavily infested regions, so keep a watchful eye out and use a natural flea repellent on all at-risk pets.
  2. Myth #2: Fleas live on pets, not in the houses – Fleas usually enter the house on pets, as stated above, but they can quickly find refuge in the house. Carpets, bedding, pet beds, and upholstered furniture make cozy homes for fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae. If you find fleas in the house, you must take quick action to eliminate them there (as well as on your pet, and even in your yard).
  3. Myth #3: Keeping the house clean will prevent fleas – Unfortunately, fleas can infest even the most spotless home. Fleas usually enter the house on your pets, but they can also hitch a ride on clothing, and have even been seen to jump right into the house on their own. Hard-surfaced floors are no protection, either; fleas can live in the cracks and around the edges of wood, laminate, or tile floors. They can also take refuge in furniture, bedding, and area rugs. If you live in an area with fleas, it is important to protect your pets at all times. It’s also important to get rid of fleas in your yard. Creating a flea-free buffer all around the house a great way to prevent infestation.
  4. Myth #4: If I only see a couple of fleas on my pet, then it’s not a big problem – More than 90% of a flea population is in the egg, larval, or pupal (cocoon) stage, all of which take place off the pet, usually in carpet, bedding, or furniture, or shady areas in the yard where your pet (or other critters) hang out. If you see a few fleas, it’s certain that there are hundreds of eggs and immature stages in the environment. The process of producing an adult flea can take weeks or even months. There’s no quick fix, but vigilance and persistence can get rid of even stubborn infestations.
  5. Myth #5: Once the fleas are gone from my pet, the problem is solved – Fleas do not surrender easily. If you have seen fleas on your pet or in house, you need to treat the house with a safe product, and stay vigilant for months. Fully solving the flea problem requires a 3-pronged approach of treating the pet, the house, and the yard. Use an outdoor treatment in shady areas under decks, bushes and trees, where fleas like to hang out. The best approach is prevention, so always protect your pets with a natural flea repellent, especially if they spend time outdoors, or at a dog park or doggie day care.
  6. Myth #6: I don’t have to worry about fleas during winter – Although you may not see them in the winter in cold climates, fleas can live quite comfortably in your house, as well as on wildlife. If your pet or your house had fleas during the warm months, you’re likely to have fleas during the winter months as well. If your pet goes outdoors and may have contact with squirrels, birds, or other wildlife, they can still get fleas. And, of course, fleas live happily in warm climates all year long, so flea control is a year-round battle.
  7. Myth #7: My veterinarian can most effectively treat fleas – It is fine to consult your veterinarian about flea control, but be wary of the chemical flea control products she may recommend (see Myth #8). In addition, veterinarians may not know the best ways to get rid of fleas in the environment. We recommend trying to find a holistic veterinarian who can guide you on natural flea control products. One resource for finding a holistic veterinarian is the directory of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.
  8. Myth #8: Chemical spot-on flea products are an easy and safe way to prevent fleas – They are easy, yes, but they are not necessarily safe. The US Environmental Protection Agency recently (2010) completed an in-depth investigation due to the hundreds of reports of illness and death in pets. Serious adverse effects were reported for every product EPA assessed. EPA is in the process of increasing restrictions on their use. You can read more on the EPA website here.
  9. Myth #9: Chemical flea collars are an easy and safe way to prevent fleas – Flea collars are the least effective control method. Fleas spend most of their time off the animal. Their effects tend not to last very long. Conventional flea collars which use chemicals may contain potentially harmful residues that are transferred to pets’ fur and can be transferred to humans who handle them. The Natural Resource Defense Council is involved in a lawsuit in California to block the sale of these products, some of which contain cancer-causing agents and poisons that linger on fur for weeks. Children are most at risk for neurological damage. A great alternative is natural flea tags, which are effective for most pets and can work for up to two years.
  10. Myth #10: Natural flea control products don’t work – Although many natural flea control products don’t have to go through EPA-mandated tests because they aren’t classified as pesticides, this doesn’t mean that they don’t work. People all over the country use the natural approach to flea control effectively, and although it is not always as easy as using chemicals, you can rest assured that the products are safe for your pet and your family.

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Article Highlight : “The Natural Approach to Flea Control” [continued : Killing Fleas in the Home]

This week we have highlighted some of the great flea information from our Holistic Health Care Library, today we’ll share highlights from the article on how to protect your home and environment.

“The Natural Approach to Flea Control” [continued : Killing Fleas in the Home]

Stage 2 – The Household Environment

You cannot rid your companion of fleas by treating him or her alone, unless you are willing to resort to toxic pesticides. Most of the 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.

Carpets, Flooring & Furniture
Vacuuming and washing the hard 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 remove the bag and discard it in a sealed plastic bag after use.

Some infestations, however, are just too much to be controlled by vacuuming alone, 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 substances available for this are diatomaceous earth and boric acid products. [Read more about treating your home for fleas]

Bedding

Don’t forget the sleeping quarters! Wash your pet’s bedding in hot, soapy water at least weekly. You can even add some essential oils or Bite This! 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.

Stage 3 – Securing the Perimeter (Your Yard)
Last, but certainly not least, treat the yard. This can include simple strategies like raking, using Only Natural Pet All-in-One Flea Remedy or the more interesting possibility of using Beneficial Nematodes. [Read More about protecting your yard from fleas]

The Pre-emptive Strike
One last point to make: 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 it starts. If you live in the Southern US where flea season is every season, start now and plan to treat your home regularly. Using natural methods takes a bit more work than dropping a spot of pesticides on your cat’s or dog’s back, but in the long run your companion and your environment will be healthier for your efforts.

[Read the whole article]

Also, remember that all of our flea products are on sale through April 30th, 2010!

Day 1 – About Fleas
Day 2 – Killing Fleas on your pets
Day 3 – Controlling Fleas in your environment
Coming up later this month! – Top 10 Common Myths about Fleas

View our Flea Care Kits for dogs and cats.

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Article Highlight : “The Natural Approach to Flea Control”

Every once in a while we like to highlight some of the great information in our Holistic Healthcare Library and this is the perfect time to talk about one of our most popular articles.

“The Natural Approach to Flea Control”

As flea season is in full swing in many areas around the country, we are realizing that some of you may need a bit of guidance with the war you are waging in your households. There are so many products available for fighting the battle against fleas that a trip to the pet store or a little research online can leave you a bit overwhelmed and bewildered. At Only Natural Pet Store we carry only what works and only what is safe for your companions and everyone else in your household. We also do not carry anything damaging to the environment. [Read more about flea control]

The (Almost) Invincible Flea

First let’s talk about the population statistics of our foe.  In this section you will learn about the life cycle, habits and issues with fleas, as well as the diseases and parasites they can spread, like tapeworms!  [Read more about flea control]

Also, remember that all of our flea products are on sale through April 30th, 2010!

Day 1 – About Fleas
Day 2 – Killing Fleas on your pets
Day 3 – Controlling Fleas in your environment
Coming up later this month! – Top 10 Common Myths about Fleas

View our Flea Care Kits for dogs and cats.

Comments (3) »

The monthly dog and cat news round-up

News from around the web in the world of dogs and cats!

Ellen & Halo Pets to promote a stamp campaign for shelter pets.

Ellen DeGeneres is working with the U.S. Postal Service and Halo, Purely for Pets, her holistic pet care company, to promote a stamp campaign for shelter pets.

“This is a subject that I am extremely passionate about. By working together, we can find good homes for millions of adoptable, homeless and abandoned pets,” said DeGeneres.

Stamps Halo Pets & Ellen

New stamps being offered thanks to Ellen & Halo Pets

Comments : Which is your favorite?

EPA to Increase Restrictions on Spot-On Flea and Tick Products; Cautions consumers to use extra care

“The EPA is committed to better protecting the health and safety of pets and families in all communities across our nation,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “New restrictions will be placed on these products, and pet owners need to carefully read and follow all labeling before exposing your pet to a pesticide.”

From the ASPCA on this issue;
“The ASPCA supports the EPA’s focus on clear labeling to distinguish dog products from cat products,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA veterinary toxicologist and Senior Vice President Animal Health Services. “This alone could save cats’ lives. Improving the precision of the amount applied will also increase the margin of safety for very small pets.”

Comments : We at Only Natural Pet Store believe there are better ways to handle fleas and ticks (as well as flies, mosquitoes and other pests) without using dangerous pesticides. See our Holistic Health Care Library articles on fleas for extensive information on these hardy insects.

Dogs can tell the difference between growls

Not all growls are alike to dogs, especially “My Bone” growls, according to a new study published in the journal Animal Behavior.

Comments :No surprise to dog lovers; we’ve always known our dogs had an extensive vocabulary. One thing though, the article makes reference to a “freshly cooked, meaty and juicy large calf bone in a bowl.” We would not suggest using cooked bones with your dogs, as they can splinter. Raw meaty bones are a great treat because they do not splinter and they are great for cleaning the teeth and providing extra nutrients, but they should not be cooked.

AT&T sees big cash in small gizmos like dog collars

A wireless dog collar set to hit the market this year is just one of a plethora of new devices the telephone company hopes will catch on with U.S. consumers.
The collar could send text messages or emails to the owner of a pet when it strays outside a certain area, or the device could allow continuous tracking of the pet.

Comments : What do you think? Are you ready to get text messages from your wayward pup?

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Fur Loss – What’s the Problem?

Is your pet “going bald?” There are many reasons why a pet might lose fur, but in most cases, it’s because the of overgrooming: chewing the hair and breaking it off, or pulling it out completely. Those 12 tiny incisor teeth between the canines (fangs) are designed for grooming, and under normal circumstances, they’re used to “comb” through the hair to remove debris, mats, and parasites.

Hair loss from any cause is called “alopecia” (“aloe-pee’-sha”).  Sometimes you’ll actually catch your pet in the act of chewing, or notice that he’s scratching or grooming more than usual, but more often you’ll glance down and suddenly notice a bare patch where the fur used to be. Areas where alopecia can develop without you noticing are the tummy, tail base, and front legs. Dogs are especially prone to work intensively at an itchy area and develop raw, open sores called “hot spots.” When cats do this, they cause even worse damage because of their rough, barbed tongues.

Parasites

The first essential step is a trip to the veterinarian’s to diagnose the cause of the problem. Far and away the most common reason for both dogs and cats to pull out their hair, especially around the base of the tail, is flea-bite allergy. It only takes a single flea bite to produce an intense and prolonged reaction. Your vet can prescribe an effective and safe flea preventive and help you get rid of fleas and eggs in and around the house, or you can use more natural methods. Once the fleas are gone, the skin will heal up on its own, or you can use homeopathy to hasten the process.

Another parasite that may be far more common than many vets suspect is mites. There are several species of mites that produce a condition called “mange.” Sarcoptes mites (scabies) cause unrelenting, severe itching. They are most often found on the belly, but can wander anywhere. Scabies mites prefer warm, moist areas. Cheyletiella (“walking dandruff mite”) and Demodex may or may not be itchy, but if the infestation grows out of control, they can cause scratching and hair loss. Demodex is a normal parasite of humans and animals (we have them in the hair follicles of our eyebrows–eew!), but if the immune system is weak, it can explode into a nasty infestation. Sometimes cat ear mites will get into the skin, particularly around the head and neck. All of these can cause animals to lick, scratch, rub, and chew to try to relieve the itching. Strengthening the immune system is the most basic support for a parasitized pet.

Most mites have one thing in common—they are easily transmitted, and they are not picky about where they set up housekeeping. In a household with scabies, multiple animals and people are likely to be infected. Your vet will do a skin scraping and put it under the microscope to check for mites, which are very tiny and hardly visible to the eye. However, scabies mites are very hard to find. It’s been estimated that only 20-30% of pets with scabies are ever definitively diagnosed, even by multiple skin scrapings. If there are two or more itchy individuals (of any species!) in the household, treatment for mites may be indicated.

Ringworm (which is actually a fungus) is also frequently implicated in cases of hair loss, especially around the face, feet and ears. It is more common in cats than dogs, and even more so in kittens–but all animals, including humans, can get them. The hair disappears in small patches, and the skin turns dry, gray (or red, especially in people), and flaky. The time between initial contact and the appearance of lesions varies from one to three weeks. Ringworm is extremely contagious! While it doesn’t seem to bother the animals much, in people it can be extremely itchy! Treating ringworm can be difficult and time-consuming.There are a number of effective topical creams that can be used if the lesions are small and localized, but a pet with a major infection may need to be shaved and bathed in a special shampoo for a month or more. Alternatively, there are oral medications or herbs that must be given consistently, usually for several weeks. They have serious side effects, so be sure to discuss the options thoroughly with your vet. Homeopathic treatment can be very helpful.

Internal Disease

Along with parasites, the veterinarian will also consider other potential causes of hair loss. Certain patterns, such as symmetrical hair loss along the sides, may point to an endocrine disorder; i.e., a problem with one of the hormone-secreting glands, such as the thyroid or adrenals.

Localized pain may also cause the excessive licking. A brewing abscess is painful, and will inspire a lot of licking before it opens and drains. Hair loss over joints may indicate arthritis pain. I once examined a cat who had suddenly started licking at one particular spot on her right side. As I mulled over which organs were in that part of the abdomen, I became suspicious, and ransome tests. It turned out she had acute pancreatitis, which we successfully treated before it became a full-blown, life-threatening problem.

Allergies

Contact allergies, while rare, are possible. A new carpet, cedar bed, or different detergent used to launder the pet’s bedding can cause a local allergic reaction that causes the pet to lick at the itchy area. Hair loss and rash will occur in the areas where the pet most frequently comes into contact with the material, such as feet and tummy.

Once parasites and medical problems have been ruled out, there are still two major players to consider. The first is diet. Food intolerances or allergies may show up first in the skin, causing tiny red crusty sores that spread or coalesce as the pet rubs or scratches at them. Secondary bacterial infections are common once the skin becomes irritated. Food allergies are much more common in cats than in dogs. Lesions around the face, feet, and ears are typically seen with food allergies. Allergies to inhaled substances, such as dust mites or pollen, may produce identical signs. A diet trial with low-allergen food, skin or blood test (good diagnostics for dogs but notoriously inaccurate in cats), or trial treatment may be used to assess allergies. Treatment consists of improved diet including added essential fatty acids and other natural products.

“Fat Deficiency”

The skin and coat are also the first to suffer when the diet is inadequate in certain nutrients. Pets on all-dry, “light,” or “low-fat” diets may develop dry, flaky skin, and the coat may be dull or greasy feeling. The skin may be irritated and the coat may become thin because hair is falling out. Or there may be plenty of fat in the diet, but not the right kind of fat.

Supplementation with essential fatty acids and/or Vitamin E may provide a great deal of relief. Omega 3 fatty acids, in particular, found in fish oil and cod liver oil will help calm underlying inflammation, and condition the skin and fur. There are a number of good products for animals, such as Nordic Naturals Pet Omega 3 or Cod Liver Oil.

Many cat lovers have also found that homemade and raw diets, which eliminate the colorings, preservatives and other additives found in commercial cat foods, has done the trick. Simply getting rid of the dry food in favor of any wet food, such as canned, is the ticket in many cases.

It’s All in the Head?

Some herbs have mild sedating or calming effects. There are combinations made especially for animals. These would be appropriate to use if you know what the stressor is, and can dose appropriately whenever the stress will occur. For instance, if your pet gets upset when he’s left alone, you would give him the herbs right before you leave for work or school.

Other Treatments

Hherbs can help soothe and heal the skin.

Homeopathy can also be very beneficial in treating alopecia related to itching.

One of the best and simplest modalities for treating stress on the pyschological level is flower essence therapy.

Alopecia is a  sign that something’s wrong, and it’s often uncomfortable for the pet. While it’s not always easy to find out why your pet is pulling out her hair, it’s very important to get to the bottom of it, and to treat it appropriately.

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