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Protect Your Dog from Fleas
5 Dangerous Myths

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1. Cheap brands are as good as the more expensive name brands

A number of brands have been sued by the makers of Frontline Plus (the classic standard for flea prevention) for patent infringement. The companies responded by manufacturing their products in China and India.

Do I really need to tell you not to give your dog any food, treat or medication made in China? See on the package where the product was made before you buy it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offered these tips to tell if your product is genuine Frontline Plus or other American brand or a counterfeit:

  • Lack of directions in English
  • Measurements given in metric system (kilograms rather than pounds)
  • Products not packaged in child-resistant packaging
  • Missing directions for use
  • Product in the container is not appropriate for the animal or size of animal pictured on the outside
  • Stickers on the box to hide the foreign labeling
  • EPA registration number is missing
  • Foreign labeled product with stickers containing some U.S. information
    foreign-labeled products

Ask your vet or vet tech how many cases of adverse reactions they treat in dogs given the cheap flea medications sold at discount stores. Problems arise from the additional ingredients in these medications and the concentration of the active ingredient (often fipronil) used in them.

Don't always assume that your veterinarian will be the most expensive source. Manufacturers often offer special discounts to vets to keep them happy and enable them to pass on savings to their clients.

For instance, I bought a six month supply of one preventive from my vet and got two additional months treatments free. That made it cheaper than what I could get a big box store.

2. You only need to use flea preventives in the Spring and Summer

A veterinarian will tell you that Fall is the real flea season, but don't stop using flea controls in any season. Maybe it's global warming or something else, but I don't know of any portion of the United States that has consistent cold, hard freezes that kill everything.

Remember, even if it's cold outdoors, it's warm inside. That also assume you never take your best friend with you to other climates. One flea is all it takes to infest your house and pets. Almost all modern preventives also protect against ticks.

Why would you risk a flea infestation? Make it a habit to treat your dog every month and you'll never forget.

3. Natural or holistic treatments are effective

No natural method has been found to be effective according to Dr. Michael Stone, veterinarian and professor at Tufts University. That's my experience as well.

Some people will tell you to use garlic or yeast. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says both garlic and yeast in quantity are poisonous to dogs. See http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/people-foods.aspx.

Yet I see many postings on Internet forums from people recommending a garlic based product that you put in your dog's food. Note that this product's website contains NO scientific studies. You get anecdotes as proof.

Does the protect really 'shield' against fleas? In fine print at the bottom of the website, you find: "This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

20 Mule Team Borax may be fine to clean your carpet, but it also may poison your dog if put it on him or feed it to him straight from the box. There is no evidence that salt, electronic collars, citrus extracts or essential oils kill or prevent fleas.

If you find any scientific study on any of these that refutes my statement, please send it to me and I'll be happy to retract my comments.

In the meantime, use your head and use products that have been proven to work.

4. Fleas are no big deal. I'll treat my dog if he gets one.

Regularly bathing your dog and his bedding is great. Regularly vacuuming all the carpets and furniture in your home is great. Using a flea comb on your dog is great.

These things, however, do not prevent a flea infestation. Only people who've never coped with fleas in their home think it is no big deal. You almost always require professional cleaners/exterminators to rid your homes of fleas. They spread like wildfire and aren't easy to see.

Worse, fleas can lead to skin infections, tapeworms, and anemia which, in worst case, may be life-threatening. One single flea can cause Flea Allergic Dermatitis and leave your poor dog scratching to the point of hair loss and potential infection.

5. The chemicals in flea products are dangerous to dogs

Here's the ugly truth: Any one dog may have an allergic reaction to any one product. Yes, the reaction could be serious.

That's why you always need a responsible person present for several hours after you first give your dog a new medicine - flea preventive or anything else - as well as dog food, dog shampoo, dog cologne and any other foreign substance you place on or in your dog.

Flea preventives are regulated by either the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Rumors about the safety of these products stem from a 2009 EPA advisory warning people about the use of these products: not to stop using them but to use and apply them correctly.

There were about 500 deaths in 2009 associated with these products. An EPA review found that the most frequent problems were caused by using dog-only topical products on cats and using treatments meant for large dogs on small dogs.

"No product is entirely risk free," says FDA spokeswoman Laura Alvey. "When used according to the labeling, these products are safe and effective."

Please review our discussion of flea preventives at
http://www.toybreeds.com/fleaticks.htm and a video and guide on how to recognize fleas at http://www.toybreeds.com/fleacomb.htm.

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