DEAR DR. FOX: This summer, we had a bad time with fleas on our two cats. I know I should not be letting them outdoors, as you say, and we will be doing our best to get rid of the fleas and keep the cats indoors from now on.
My neighbor has a dog who wore a flea collar and got sick (vomiting), so she took it off. What do you advise to keep fleas and ticks off our pets? -- L.P., St. Louis, Missouri
DEAR L.P.: Check my website (drfoxvet.net) for my article on preventing fleas and other biting insects without resorting to potentially harmful insecticides, and the new article “Companion Animal Risks of Flea and Tick Insecticides.”
Most of the current products on the market being sold to kill fleas, ticks and other insects on dogs and cats should be avoided -- for long-term and preventive use -- for animal and public health and environmental reasons. I’ve done an assessment of their documented insecticidal action and incidence of harmful side-effects. Their short-term use in emergency situations of confirmed insect presence may be justified, with caution, when all other control measures have failed.
The public has been brainwashed, in my opinion, into accepting various oral, locally applied and collar-impregnated insecticides as safe and effective ways to control fleas and ticks. But cats in particular, and small dogs, old dogs and those with various health issues, are at risk from developing acute and chronic adverse reactions to these products.
Over 44,000 reports of adverse reactions to topical anti-flea and tick products were compiled by the U.S. government’s Environmental Protection Agency in 2008. The division of regulatory and approval authority between the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA facilitates the divisiveness and irresponsibility evident in the continued marketing of many of these products -- even after the sellers and manufacturers have been informed of thousands of adverse reactions and many fatalies in dogs and cats.
The fundamental question of the health consequences of long-term/lifetime use of these insecticides on companion animals has not been addressed by the manufacturers, but may be a significant factor in the rising incidence of cancer and other chronic, degenerative and systemic diseases in dogs and cats. It should be noted that fleas and ticks carrying disease could infect dogs and cats on whom they feed before they are killed by these chemicals, and that flea bites trigger allergic reactions in many animals.
I would like details from readers whose animals have had adverse reactions to these products.
DEAR DR. FOX: The recent announcement of a $5 million lawsuit against Ainsworth’s Rachael Ray pet food got my attention. When we first adopted our rescued Jack Russell, he was on a grain-free salmon diet, which I initially continued. However, on a trip out of the country, we found ourselves without enough food to last, so a friend gave us a bag of Rachael Ray Nutrish.
I mixed his salmon food for a few days until our guy was totally on Nutrish. I immediately noticed his previously soft, loose, light-colored poop was harder and a darker normal color. (I had discussed his poop with the vet previously, and she had already suggested a change in diet.) I was very delighted at this change. He did well on this food, and his coat, eyes and skin are very healthy. Ainsworth has a very good history of finding a healthy, natural balance in dog food, so I had no problem switching.
But the announcement of traces amount of glyphosate has me concerned. I know it’s difficult for humans to avoid this toxin as it’s in so much food, but our diet still consists of non-GMO and organic foods. I am searching for a totally organic brand I can use. In the meantime, I switched to Rachael Ray’s Salmon and Sweet Potato Grain-free in the hopes there is less or no glyphosate. I cannot find any outside lab reports on the grain-free food.
Am I over-reacting about this situation? A recent checkup shows our guy has swollen lymph nodes, and he is currently on a round of antibiotics due to a tooth extraction. His blood work shows no high levels of white blood cells. We’ll be looking further into this if it persists after this round of antibiotics. But it scares me that glyphosate can cause lymphoma in humans if consistently exposed, and although it’s a small amount in his food, that food is 99 percent of his diet. -- D.G., Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
DEAR D.G.: The problem is not simply the possibility that glyphosate may cause cancer, but also that it is a chelating agent that interferes with plants’ uptake of some minerals, thus lowering their nutritional value. Also, as one of many herbicides that can get into our food and drinking water, there is the high probability of causing dysbiosis and irritable/inflammatory bowel problems when health-promoting intestinal bacteria are destroyed by such chemicals.
Don’t forget that there are GMO potatoes, beets and rice to be concerned about, so buying organically certified foods is a prudent decision. I am concerned also about the “grain-free” fad and the inclusion of possibly GMO potatoes and sweet potatoes, which would not be good for diabetic and pre-diabetic animals.
For your dog, I would suggest you try some of The Honest Kitchen’s GMO-free freeze-dried dog foods, and also Organix and Dr. Broderick’s Cornucopia canned dog food, which my dog relishes. Go online for more details, and consider trying my home-prepared dog food recipe with all human-grade ingredients and no by-products.
UPDATE ON DILATED HEART DISEASE IN DOGS
Susan Thixton (truthaboutpetfood.com) writes:
“The dog foods linked to nutritionally based DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) were labeled as ‘Complete and Balanced’ pet foods. But those Complete and Balanced foods failed thousands of dogs. Who should be held responsible for the nutritional failure of these Complete and Balanced dog foods?
“Right now (August 2018), multiple Complete and Balanced dog food brands are linked to diet-related taurine-deficient DCM in possibly thousands of dogs. There are more than 8,000 pet-owner members of the two Taurine Deficiency Dilated Cardiomyopathy groups on Facebook. Thousands of pet owners are questioning why the ‘Complete and Balanced’ claim on their pet food label failed their dog.”
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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 DrFoxVet.net.)