Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Mosquitos, Fleas and Ticks...oh my

by User Not Found | Mar 30, 2012

This time of year brings out the best in the world of bugs.  And since my dogs and I have just returned from a weekend of hiking in the mountains, what better time to talk about them.  I’ve already touched on one of my favorite, mosquitos, and now it’s time to talk about these other menacing creatures.  This year will be fun-filled thanks to our mild winter.  Longer seasons of warm weather do not create more ticks and fleas, it just increases our risk of exposure to them.  In other words, at this time of year, we might be still sitting on our couches watching television, but with frequent 60, 70 and 80 degree days, we’re going outside instead.  But you don’t have to be in the woods to come into contact with these little critters.


There are many, many, many flea and tick products on the market.  Generics are becoming available and more appealing due to their lower cost.  Depending on which veterinary office you walk into, they may steer you in one direction or another, so how do you know what to use?  How do you know which are safe?  Most importantly, if you are purchasing a product online, how do you know which is right for your dog and what to do with it once it gets to your door? 


Let’s start with safety, because I’m a safety girl. 


Did you know the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulate veterinary flea and tick products?  Typically the chewable or injectable versions of these products fall under the FDA and the topicals fall under the EPA.  This is good news for us because that means that the manufacturer has to show that the drug meets current safety standards to protect the animal, people that come into contact with the animal and the environment.  They do all the hard work for us!  Then once it’s on the market, the manufacturer is required to report any side effects or adverse reactions to the FDA/EPA.  In fact the EPA recently investigated these products because of the increase in reactions that were reported.  After their investigation, they met with manufacturers and in some cases even cancelled registrations of some of the products. 


In most cases, adverse reactions including skin burns, seizures, etc., from these products occurred because they were not used properly.  Dog products were used on cats and vice versa and products for dogs that weighed 55# or more were used on dogs that weighed significantly less.  The EPA is now requiring the manufacturers to use clearer labels.  For example, do not use the product with the giant picture of the dog on your cat, which is good because I’m much more of a fan of pictures than actual reading.


Despite the appeal of ordering a product from an online source for a great bargin, there are some things you should consider.  I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying, it’s worth the extra effort to educate yourself.  No matter where you get your products from, you should include your vet in the conversation.  Many times they are willing to match your online price, you just have to ask.  They can talk to you about all the options available to you and help you choose what is best for the lifestyle of your pet.  If you’re hiking in the woods every weekend vs. laying on the couch with an occasional trip outside for a bathroom break, makes a difference.


There’s no better way to roll the dice and put your dog at risk than using a product that you aren’t familiar with.  Always read the label, even if it’s something you’ve used a million times before, because warnings or directions may have changed.  Make sure it hasn’t expired and make sure it’s the right product if you are having it shipped to your house.  Don’t use it weekly, if it says monthly.  These may seem like common sense, but more often than not, we take even that for granted.  If you are trying a new product, make sure it’s registered with the EPA or approved by the FDA.  Many times it has their registration or approval number right on the box!  Be wary of new products that are sold outside of veterinary practices.  They may label their product with things like “contains the same “active” ingredients as…” This is a true statement, however in some cases, it is the “inactive” ingredients that can cause problems.  And trust me, those problems aren’t worth the smaller price tag.  Remember, once products are approved, side effects and adverse events are still reported.  Newly approved products have been recalled after 6 months or even a year due to these reports.  This is another great reason to stay in touch with your vet while using these products.  They will be the first to be notified of recalls or problems.  In some cases, old products are released as new products.  For example, Oreo Cookies wrapped in green and red at Christmas are still Oreos and still delicious.  Honestly who can keep up with all that?  I just want an Oreo!  Ask your vet, that’s what we pay them for, right?

An invaluable resource for purchasing from online pharmacies is called VIPPS.  In addition to following Federal and State licensing and inspection requirements, in 2009, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) created a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites).  Vet-VIPPS accredited online pharmacies:

• are appropriately licensed in the states from which they ship drugs

• have successfully completed a 19-point review and online survey

• undergo yearly VIPPS review and re-accreditation

• undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years

Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacies must also meet other strict criteria, including protecting client confidentiality, strict quality assurance, and making sure prescription orders are valid.  If your pharmacy is listed on VIPPS, you’re in safe hands. 

That’s great and all, but how do I know which one to use!  My personal opinion, use what works and what fits your dog’s life style.  Super soaker vs. water pistol, use the least invasive, least potent product that will still get the job done for your dog.  Seems obvious right?  You’d be surprised.  I’ve tried everything from natural remedies to popular products to a combination of both.  When my dogs come in from a hike or the backyard and they are flea and tick free, that’s a success and that’s what I use.  If it stops working, then I switch to something else, but not before reading up and talking to my vet about all my options.  I know there are opportunities to switch to more “natural” solutions and that’s great.  If it works, go with it, but remember that “working” means keeping the fleas and ticks off your dog because they can carry disease….more on that later.   I think the products on the market from drug companies get a bad rap.  Remember all the safety testing they have to go thru?  They aren’t “pesticides”, they are insect growth regulators.  Some natural remedies may not cover all stages of fleas and ticks, so be careful and make sure you educate yourself on what exactly you are applying.  Someone once told me garlic was a great remedy for fleas and to just sprinkle a little on my dog’s food every day.  Thankfully I stopped doing that after a couple months, because Gus stunk like a bad Italian restaurant, only to find out later that garlic in large quantities is actually toxic to dogs!

The most important thing to know is what to do should your dog have a reaction to a product.  Perhaps you have seen cute fuzzy animals in commercials and on the bottles of Dawn dish soap.  This stuff is great and really does do wonderful things like remove nasty black oil from little penguins.  A skin problem can be quickly remedied by immediately bathing your furry friend in Dawn or other mild soap.  More serious reactions like seizures will need medical attention, but getting that stuff off your pet immediately is very important.

I'm sure you are to the bottom of your cup of coffee by now so stay tuned for more on fleas and ticks, coming soon!

Cheers and Happy Heartworm, Flea and Tick Free 2012




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