Battling Fleas, Ticks, & Mosquitoes: Pet Health Care or Billion Dollar Pet Industry?
We all look forward to sharing some fun in the sun with our pets during the summer. However, this is also the time of year when many of us grow concerned over how to protect our pets from fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. The big pharmaceutical companies not only know this, but they actually motivate our fears so that we’ll use their products to “protect” our pets from such scary bugs as fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. They have us believing that lurking in every nook and cranny are all these nasty pests, just waiting to consume our pets with their infectious diseases. They would have us believe that unless we use their toxic chemicals in fancy packages – advertised using cute puppies and kittens – that our dogs and cats will be sitting ducks (so to speak) for all the fleas, ticks and mosquitoes in the neighborhood. They tell us this so often and in so many forms of media that many tend to believe this fear-mongering and surrender to the purchase and use of these toxic pesticides on their pets.
Natural health practitioners work diligently to educate and help pet owners understand how to support and nourish the bodies of our pets through nature, so they never attract these pests in the first place. They also educate on the pests themselves and what it really takes for our pets to become infested or infected with the illnesses these pests may carry. The knowledge they share helps to not only alleviate all the unnecessary fears but also empowers pet owners to take back control of the health of their pets so that they may thrive.
In contrast, pet owners most often aren’t told about the adverse effects, the neurotoxins within the pesticide products, the cancer causing ingredients (both active and inert), or how they also affect the environment by their traditional health care practitioners. In fact, pet owners are rarely given Full Disclosure and/or Informed Consent regarding these products. Most blindly trust their veterinarians to prescribe what is best for their pets without ever considering that what they are putting on their beloved pets or into them could very well be far, far more dangerous than the pests they are trying to control. And it is also obvious that the veterinarians themselves are also being kept captive in the dark as well by the pharmaceutical companies who promote and pander these pesticides to them – and for reasons where economics not health plays the major role.
In my 18 years of clinical conventional vet practice in the trenches, I have seen all sorts of reactions from the applications of topical pesticides from digestive upset and seizures to most commonly neurologic hypersensitivity and agitation, which is odd, as most of these products are supposed to only affect the nervous systems of fleas and other pests. Of course there is the more common hair loss/irritation at site of application. Many years ago when these products first came out, I spent quite a bit of time arguing with vets from these drug companies who manned the phones in those of us reporting reactions, and who insisted that no significant chemicals got into the blood stream of treated animals. However, after seeing many pets with neurologic and blood disorders develop shortly after application, it was interesting to see how now these same companies have changed their tune when challenged with the truth. Also these same companies protect themselves from legal liability by including in most of their product inserts that one needs to – use caution in geriatric, debilitated, or sick animals, thus leaving the liability on appropriate usage up to the prescribing veterinarians, who are not really briefed on these side effects by the drug company sales reps who push these products to vets across the land. A tragedy that still goes on and must stop so that well meaning veterinarians can learn of the truth and potential problems with these pesticides. ~Michael Dym, DVM
As if the administration of vaccines without Informed Consent and Full Disclosure is not enough damage to the companion animals of this country, the administration of poisons and chemicals is another way that disease is promoted. I have found many people calling in about the development of lymphoma following administration of Frontline, usually in geriatric patients. I see that the product is known for causing cancer in mammals – specifically thyroid cancer. You have to be very careful with these products as they are anemic with the truth on the product inserts, they are nimble with the facts in writing up MSDS sheets and it usually is the FDA adverse event site and the work of organizations like the Organic Growers and Pesticide Watch groups that are the ones that reveal the truth about the dangers on these products. Companies try to hide the truth out of the Freedom of Information Act which makes we wonder why we even have this legislation. It often takes the savvy of an attorney and litigation to free the facts from the “trade secret” confidentiality agreements that industry makes even the FDA sign. The post release adverse event reporting often the only place the consumer learns the truth, often then it is too late. ~Patricia Jordan, DVM,CVA,CTCVH & Herbology
One of our first warning signs ought to be when we read the label and it says for us to wear gloves so as to not get the product on ourselves when using one of the prescribed or over-the-counter topical flea and tick products. And yet we put on our gloves and then we apply this same toxic soup month after month after month to the pets we love.
To be quite frank, these pesticides are not true preventives as they are called. They are pesticides that kill the pests once they are already on your pet and looking for a good spot to bite in the case of topical applications. In the case of internal applications via a pill or injection, your pet does get bitten and sometimes infested/infected and it is the poison now coursing through their veins that kill off the infestation. But what then happens to the pesticides once they are on and in your pets, besides killing off these pesky pests?
These toxic chemicals can, over time result in renal failure (kidney failure) and/or liver damage to the point of the liver becoming unable to filter the blood and in many cases, complete liver failure. Contaminated blood circulating throughout the body day after day will most definitely contribute to other more complicated health issues, such as diabetes and arthritis to name just two of the most common long term side effects.
The side effects from these toxic chemicals are so bad that in many cases, pets can actually die within days of receiving these lethal doses of chemicals prescribed to kill a little bitty parasite.
I have never recommended any of these products due to the dangers of using neurotoxic chemicals on animals. My concern is that these chemicals cause acute and chronic disease to my friends the animals. My other concern is that the caregivers and their children are being exposed to these chemicals by touching and hugging them 24/7. There are no safety studies on the long term effect of any of these chemicals on children! Any product that tells you to wear gloves, do not get it on your skin and then put on your pet once a month should be warning enough that it is dangerous to be around. These chemicals can cause seizures, liver, kidney, thyroid, spleen and adrenal disease weakness of muscles, labored breathing, incoordination, increased miscarriages, birth defects, heart and brain disease as well. There are no studies on long term use or the levels of these chemicals in the body. My advice is to make sure your pets do not have this on them and if they do, wash it off immediately and never use it again. Make sure your children’s doctors are aware of their exposure to these chemicals if they are having any acute or chronic conditions that relate to these chemicals. Please pay this forward and save a life. ~Stephen Blake, DVM
Here’s an interesting fact to note: fleas, ticks and mosquitoes aren’t attracted to a healthy host. They are attracted to a weakened host because that weakened host’s immune system will not be able to annihilate the offspring of these pests. Most pet owners these days use one form of flea, tick, and mosquito pesticide on their pets and yet the problem with these pests is that they are growing ever stronger, more resistant and our pets are growing weaker and sicker, living lives filled with some variety of illness throughout their short lives. To top that off, our veterinarian will often say that is “normal“. This means we are now accepting illness as normal. Illness we have wrought about by our use of these methods of so-called “preventives” and we pacify ourselves by calling it “healthcare” for our beloved pets.
Have you ever wondered why some dogs and cats have severe flea problems, while others are hardly bothered by the little pests? Fleas can be viewed as an indicator of an animal’s general health. Parasites in general, and fleas in particular, are most attracted to the weak, unhealthy, or very young animal whose immune system is not functioning well. The long-term solution to a flea problem is to reduce your pet’s susceptibility to fleas by improving his/her health. ~Jeffrey Levy, DVM
Is it any wonder that nearly ALL of our pets these days are now weakened specimens? They are all being fed processed foods that are contrary to their carnivore nature which begins the weakening process. And then we add into the mixture vaccines that work in a very abnormal way; contrary to how our pets would encounter any virus or bacteria in nature. And then we add the toxic topping of all these pesticides both internal and external, depending on our delivery method of choice: topical, pill, or vaccine for pest control. Do this for generation after generation and what we have in the way of domestic pets would be considered extreme anomalies in nature – because in the wild they would not survive natural selection. This is what we have done to them calling it health and preventive care.
Maybe many of you are nodding your heads in agreement about the flea and tick products because you’ve been hearing about the adverse events with these products in the news lately. Maybe since the largest pet food recall in history in 2007 you are much more aware now and have your radar up about packaged pet food and flea and tick products.
But heartworm medicine is a different story right? You MUST use that “preventative” to protect your pets from that deadly infestation, right?
No doubt, your veterinarian recommends giving a daily or monthly pill to prevent heartworms in your pet, but in actuality you’re not preventing them at all; you are administering the “cure” or the insecticide that kills the adult worms, on a regular basis. It is important for you to know that this cure/treatment for heartworm is toxic. It contains a chemical insecticide. The chemicals are capable of causing disease. The dosage, even though much smaller than the actual treatment, when administered month after month, has toxic side-effects that become a serious health risk with time.
Side effects listed for heartworm preventative drugs include: liver problems, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, depression, lethargy, skin eruptions, seizures, tremors, paralysis, auto-immune disorders, thyroid problems, fever, weakness, dizziness, coughing, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, irritability, sudden aggressive behavior, nerve damage, fertility problems, and sudden death. The drug poses a particular risk to Collies, Whippets, Irish Water Spaniels, Bull Mastiffs and related breeds. Other chemical heartworm preventatives have many of the same side effects.
These chemicals weaken your pet’s immune system, which recognizes the chemicals as poison. The body then has to work over-time to eliminate the toxins. The major organs, such as the liver and kidneys, are taxed. For this reason, your pet’s body is not able to handle contact with the normal bacterial or viral substances in our world and it gets sick more easily.
There is a very simple and safe way to prevent fleas, ticks and mosquitoes naturally. A healthy pet – one that has been properly supported through a species appropriate diet, pure water, and exercise, among other things – will not attract pests.
We in natural health continue our due diligence in educating pet owners on the dangers of these pest control products sold under the guise of healthcare for our animals. Companies with a whole lot of economic power are ever lurking in the shadows to gain their portion of the huge billion dollar pet care industry. And when they find an “in” they do so full throttle, usurping completely our steady, consistent, patient educating and empowering of pet owners. And they do so often, using well known celebrities to gain the confidence of pet owners. And this time and this 2009 summer season is no exception.
This latest onslaught vying for our pet’s health masquerading as protection for them comes from another big pharmaceutical company as a CONTEST for veterinarians to participate in. The celebrity they are USING is none other than the Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Milan. The veterinarians are being encouraged to participate in this SALES promotion targeting over 3 MILLION pet owners calling it a DISPENSING promotion. There is nothing about this DISPENSING Promotion that has to do with health or prevention or protection of our pets. No, it has to do with SALES of the product so that they and the veterinarians can make a whole lot of good, old-fashioned dollars.
After reading this article and digging – as our dogs are so great at doing – beneath the surface of the superficial sales ploy aimed at profiting from your trusting and loyal companions, we hope you will learn the truth and not subject your pets to the onslaught of advertising campaigns of fear in order to grab your hard-earned income while causing grave harm to your beloved pets.
In conclusion remember this: a healthy animal is NOT an attractive host to either parasites or disease. A great species appropriate diet, nutritional support and regular cleansing of the liver and kidneys are the natural means of prevention as well as a basis for sound, good, long term health. If you live in an area with high risk for heartworms, fleas and/or ticks, and want to take additional measures to keep your animals safe, consider using an aromatherapy, herbal or nosode protocol. These not only assist the body to repel pests, but improve the overall health of your pets instead of weakening it with chemical poisons. See your vet regularly to check for heartworms if you wish and then while there, take time to educate him or her on using a wellness approach toward health!
Information regarding the ingredients and side effects of flea/tick control is provided in the link below. There is also much more information on this site that tells you how the companies have tried to hide these side effects from the consumer: http://www.apnm.org/publications/resources/fleachemfin.pdf
About the Authors
Copyright ©2009. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Authors. This article is for educational purposes only. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader.
Dr. Kim Bloomer & Dr. Jeannie Thomason, certified animal naturopaths, are the Founders of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy. The two also host the internet radio showAnimal Talk Naturally Radio. Both are proficient bloggers and writers on natural pet health.
Dr. Kim is the co-author of the book Whole Health for Happy Dogs and author of the book Animals Taught Me That. Dr. Kim & Dr. Jeannie’s articles have been featured in various publications such as Animal Wellness, Dogs Naturally, and Natural Horse magazines and have co-authored the book, with Dr. Sarah Reagan, Essential Oils in Animal Care: A Naturopathic Approach.