P.H., Silver Spring, Md
Tags: cat Silver Spring MD fleas
Mar 25, 2013
I adopted two sweet sister cats nine years ago -- Chase and Chochi. They've not had any major health issues until recently. They are indoor cats, although they are allowed to go out on our deck with us.
More than a year ago, I noticed Chase had lost some fur on her lower abdomen. Shortly after, we embarked on a home renovation that was loud, dusty and forced us to leave our Maryland home for several months and move into a vacation home in West Virginia. In West Virginia, I found a vet who said Chase was overgrooming due to a flea saliva allergy. She recommended Comfortis. She also noticed Chochi was overgrooming the same area, so both cats began the drug. Neither cat improved, so we went back to the vet, who found Chase, in particular, had redness and a possible staph overgrowth. Blood work on Chase was normal. Both cats received antibiotic injections, two doses one week apart. Chochi improved, but Chase began removing more fur. She received a shot of steroids and two laser treatments. The vet also recommended resuming the Comfortis, and the redness went away.
We moved back to Maryland, and Chase continued to overgroom. She now has bare-looking thighs, abdomen and upper chest. I took her to a vet two weeks ago, and this vet observed that Chase had no noticeable irritation and diagnosed her as having "psychogenic alopecia." She recommended continuing the flea treatment and starting with a homeopathic remedy. It seems to have had no effect. The next recommendation was Prozac.
Help! Since the cats are essentially indoor cats, I have wondered about the accuracy of the flea allergy diagnosis and treatment. I have never seen a flea, although at the start of the treatment ordeal, the vet did observe some possible flea casings in Chase's fur. The deck in West Virginia occasionally gets mouse and squirrel visits; the Maryland deck has only birds.
Both cats threw up shortly after the Comfortis after the last two injections. In looking at other options, I was recommended Frontline or Revolution. Both vets felt the symptoms were inconsistent with ringworm.
P.H., Silver Spring, Md Mar 26, 2013
Fleas leave telltale feces, not "casings" in animals' fur. Since you make no mention of your cats being tested for hyperthyroidism -- meaning it was not considered by the veterinarians -- I would seek a third opinion.
Considering your cats' ages and symptoms, hyperthyroidism is the first possible cause to consider and rule out before considering a specific allergy. Excessive grooming in our formally feral cat was quickly resolved when salmon was removed from his diet.
Let me know if thyroid disease is the problem, and inform the veterinarians, who should have considered this possibility from the start.
Tags: dog fleas
Aug 12, 2012
When my husband and I had our first dog, a beagle/boxer mix, we were amused and annoyed that when we let her out, she would always head for a patch of garlic that my husband planted for fun. That was her favorite resting spot. We couldn't figure out why she picked such a smelly place, but it finally dawned on us -- no fleas!
We have had several dogs through the years and always included garlic (fresh or powdered) and brewer's yeast in their food, and we have never had a sign of fleas or ticks.
Dumb dogs? I don't think so.
Aug 13, 2012
Your first dog certainly demonstrated a degree of "wild wisdom" in her choice of lying on a patch of garlic growing on your property.
British biologist Dr. Cindy Engel compiles many fascinating accounts of animal species self-medicating with various herbs and treating wounds and even broken bones in her book, "Wild Health: Lessons in Natural Wellness From the Animal Kingdom" (Houghton-Mifflin).
Freshly chopped garlic and its potent oil extract have many medical benefits. However, it is an irritant to the stomach lining, so it is best taken with food. It can act as a natural antibiotic, anti-viral and anti-fungal agent. It can rid the body of intestinal worms. On the skin, garlic can help heal burns and kill ringworm. It may help diabetics lower their daily insulin dose. Garlic can be helpful with many other conditions, including toothache, heart problems, high cholesterol levels and allergies. It is a potent blood thinner, helping prevent coagulation and clot formation. It may also help lower blood pressure.
These are just a few of the medical benefits of this remarkable herb. It can cause a form of anemia in cats, but is safe for most dogs. You can give one large clove per 30 pounds of body weight with food. Coupled with 1 teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight of brewer's yeast, it works well to keep fleas and other biting insects away from dogs and people alike.
P.C.L., Matawan, NJ
Tags: cat Matawan NJ fleas
Apr 29, 2012
Last year was the worst for fleas for our cats. Frontline has always controlled fleas in the past, but not last summer. We used Frontline as directed, plus flea powder (which we also applied to our rugs), but we still got fleas.
A friend recommended Natural Defense, but is it safe for cats? It contains peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, lemongrass oil, clove oil, thyme and vanilla. If Natural Defense is not safe for cats, what do you recommend? Can you suggest something else?
My cats do go outdoors a little, and we have wild raccoons, opossums and squirrels outside.
P.C.L., Matawan, NJ Apr 30, 2012
By all accounts, fleas were a major problem last summer. I am not alone in contending that this epidemic is one of the many consequences of climate change.
One major concern with increasing populations of noxious, biting insects is that the bugs can develop resistance to insecticides. Ticks spreading Lyme disease to humans, dogs, cats and other animals is just the tip of this iceberg.
The best medicine is prevention rather than reliance on insecticides that can have adverse health and environmental consequences. One integrative approach to flea and tick control is available on my website. It is especially important to not allow cats to roam freely outdoors, where they will be magnets for fleas. Getting them used to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of brewer's yeast in their food every day, along with a daily flea-combing inspection, can help. Safe insecticides for in-home use include Perma-Guard and Fleabusters.
I do not advise using insect repellant products that contain essential oils such as peppermint and lemongrass on cats, but they are generally safe and effective on dogs.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at www.DrFoxVet.com/info.)
A.K., Cedar Point, Mo
Tags: dog MO fleas Cedar Point
Apr 15, 2012
I read your articles every Sunday. Thank you so much for your valuable information.
A woman at my health food store told me to use bottled garlic juice when I expressed my concerns about flea and tick treatments for my Jack Russell terrier, Sadie. She said she had been giving her dogs garlic juice for years to keep ticks and fleas away. I went to the grocery store and bought a bottle, came home and looked up the correct amount to give Sadie. She gets six squirts from a spritz bottle: three in her morning meal and three in her evening meal.
Since this treatment, there have been no flea or tick problems.
A.K., Cedar Point, Mo Apr 16, 2012
I would like to hear from other readers who have found that including garlic in their dogs' food kept fleas and ticks away.
Garlic should always be given with food since it can irritate the lining of the stomach. It is safe in small amounts for most dogs: one large clove of fresh garlic, finely chopped, per 30 pounds of body weight per day. Remember that onions are not safe for dogs, and onions and garlic are not safe for cats.
Many readers found that adding brewer's yeast to their animals' food (1 teaspoon per 30 pounds) also helps repel fleas, ticks and biting flies. Brewer's yeast is safe for cats and it has the nutritional benefits of a B-complex vitamin.
For additional tips on keeping these annoying insect parasites off your animals, visit my website, www.DrFoxVet.com/info. You will also find a new article about how the wildlife management practices of states such as Minnesota are facilitating the spread of Lyme disease and other serious tick-borne diseases.
J.R., West Palm Beach, FL
Tags: dog West Palm Beach FL fleas ticks
Mar 11, 2012
We go to Maine for five to six months every summer. My golden retriever and Labrador love the outdoors, especially the woods, so I use Frontline on them. They do get a tick or two, but no fleas as far as I can tell.
I worry each time I use the Frontline because I had a 12-year-old golden who died in my arms after I used the stuff. Is there something safer? They both have Lyme disease shots and boosters -- one dog uses Sentinel, the other Heartguard.
J.R., West Palm Beach, FL Mar 12, 2012
There are always health risks in nature, from ticks to bacteria to poisonous mushrooms and snakes.
I am concerned that Lyme disease vaccines are of questionable effectiveness and safety. Furthermore, Lyme disease is, in part, a human-created (anthropogenic) public health issue, which municipal and state governments need to address. As I have documented on my website, Lyme disease is a product of human interference with natural, self-regulating ecosystems.
I would clip or shave longhaired dogs' underbellies, giving them a summer coat. Do a daily tick check once they are in for the night. Spray or rub a lemon juice mixture on your dogs before going outdoors. To make the mixture, slice a whole lemon (including the peel) in two cups of water, let it sit until the lemon is mushy, pulverize and store in the refrigerator. This thick juice contains natural insect repellants and a host of compounds that may help prevent bacterial and fungal infections. TKO Organic Orange Cleaner diluted in water is also excellent (and it's a good cleaner/disinfectant).
Note: Always check between all toes and in earflaps for ticks. The tiny blacklegged tick (formerly called the deer tick), which can transmit Lyme disease from infected rodents and deer, must be on the dog for 24 to 48 hours before there is any risk of disease transmission. So you have a window of opportunity to thoroughly comb and inspect your dogs before they turn in for the night.
W.F.P., Winston-Salem, NC
Tags: cat Winston-Salem NC fleas
Oct 02, 2011
My sweet new kitten has me puzzled. She's been wormed and vaccinated, but sometimes when she's lying down, I've seen some white things. They are about the size of a grain of rice, and they seem to move. Is it my imagination or is my cat infested with maggots or something?
W.F.P., Winston-Salem, NC Oct 03, 2011
You are probably seeing segments of a tapeworm, which look like grains of rice and can actually wriggle out of an animal's rear end. These segments contain eggs that are eaten by flea larvae on the ground. When the infected larvae mature into adult fleas that hop onto your cat, the tapeworm cysts inside the fleas complete their life cycle. The cat catches and swallows the fleas, and once inside, the parasites attach themselves with hooks and suckers to the inner lining of the cat's intestines.
Getting rid of the tapeworms will take two things:
- Worming medication to rid the cat of the parasite;
- Thorough flea eradication, which means using safe chemicals and other treatments on your cats and in your home. For details, check my website.
R.S., Houston, TX
Tags: cat Houston TX fleas
Sep 04, 2011
A very basic question: How do I know when my cat has fleas if I do not actually see one crawling on her?
R.S., Houston, TX Sep 05, 2011
The best test is to check for flea droppings on your cat using a fine flea comb. Fleas make poop that is like tiny flecks of shiny, black-brown coal dust in the fur of cats infested with fleas. The flecks turn brownish-red when you flea-comb or brush them off the cat onto a piece of white paper and add a drop of water. It's dried, flea-digested cat blood.
The simplest controls are to flea-comb your cat every day, especially if the cat gets outdoors. (One reason to make cats enjoy life indoors and never want or need to go outside, like my two formerly feral cats, is so they won't keep picking up fleas, and worse, outdoors.) If you trap a flea in the comb, dunk it in a bowl of sudsy water.
Vacuum carpets, all floor surfaces and all furniture where the cat sits and lies every three to five days to gather up flea larvae and hatchling fleas. Sprinkle these areas with Fleabusters borate powder. Put down clean sheets on the furniture for the cats to lie on.
Trap fleas with a low-wattage light suspended over a pan of sudsy water placed on the floor where there is the most cat traffic. Fleas are attracted to the warmth. This flea trap is very good when folks are away on vacation or getting ready to move into a new home.
N.P., Festus, Mo
Jun 13, 2011
My husband and I have a bichon frise. He is 2 years old.
I wanted to ask you about brewer's yeast tablets (500 mg) for fleas. We were using Frontline, but became concerned after reading your article about Frontline possibly causing seizures, and we no longer use it.
We are using the brewer's yeast, two tablets daily. Is this an OK amount? If not, please print the correct amount.
Our dog eats the tablets with no problem and started taking them four days ago.
N.P., Festus, Mo Jun 13, 2011
Brewer's Yeast (as distinct from baker's yeast) does seem to help make cats and dogs less attractive to fleas.
Buying the brewer's yeast in bulk (in powder or flake form) and mixing about 1 teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight in the animal's food every day may be cheaper than purchasing tablets, but the tablets do make good treats for rewarding good behavior. Two tablets a day plus a 1/2 teaspoon of fish oil or 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil (which may soften his stool) will be good for his skin and coat. A clove of chopped raw garlic in his food daily during flea season may also keep him clear (but this is not safe for cats).
S.O.V., via e-mail
Tags: dog fleas
Mar 14, 2011
I enjoyed your column on safe flea-control products and have controlled our flea problems with the borax products. I have also discovered an inexpensive, safe method for controlling the occasional flea.
I keep a small jar of petroleum jelly next to my favorite chair. I dip my finger into the jar and touch the flea, and it's immediately immobilized. A quick wipe off my finger with a tissue, and the problem is solved.
I used this method for 25 years while overseas in the diplomatic corps and since retirement. Almost everyone has this product or can get it at a local dollar store, and it works perfectly.
Mar 14, 2011
Safe methods for dealing with fleas, especially in flea-infested, warm and winter-free states like Florida (where insecticide use is over the top), are indeed welcome.
The petroleum-jelly-on-finger flea trap is a novel approach but not appealing to the squeamish. I prefer using a good flea comb that traps fleas in the fur you may not see. Then I dunk the comb in soap-sudsy water to dislodge and drown the fleas.
L.W., Stuart, FL
Tags: dog Stuart FL fleas
Mar 14, 2011
Do you have any recommendations for natural flea and tick protection for dogs that live in Florida? I don't like the news about Frontline, etc. My dog is not out a lot, but does like to roll in the grass and go for walks. He's a 35-pound mixed terrier.
L.W., Stuart, FL Mar 14, 2011
Controlling fleas naturally is a challenge, especially in states like Florida and Texas. It calls for an integral approach too long to detail in this column but available at my website and in my book "Dog Body, Dog Mind."
These measures should help: daily flea-combing, vacuuming the house everywhere the dog goes three to four days per week, and dusting floors and other likely flea larva-hiding areas with borax powder. Give your dog brewer's yeast (1 teaspoon per 50 pounds of body weight) and flaxseed oil in his food, which should not be junk manufactured pet food but, ideally, organic and containing whole-food ingredients. Spritzing the dog with lemon oil in warm water may also help, or diluted TKO organic orange cleaner.