DEAR READERS: Once again, communities in several states, including my state of Minnesota, are encouraging people to let their lawns grow. This allows clover and dandelions to bloom and provide food for bees, butterflies and other pollinator insects. These insects, in turn, provide food for birds and other insectivores.
"No Mow May" signs are put up by property owners who register with municipal authorities to engage in this nature-friendly activity -- and avoid action by weed inspectors if neighbors complain. (See the April 24 Minnesota Star Tribune article "'No Mow May' adds inches to yards" by Nancy Ngo.)
This initiative also helps with carbon-sequestration, which combats climate change. It is a good first step that homeowners can take, perhaps leading them to transition to rain gardens and the "rewilding" of their properties. This would eliminate the need for chemical treatments and frequent watering. The health benefits to aquatic life -- including Florida's endangered and starving manatees -- from reduced fertilizer and pesticide runoff, are considerable.
As I wrote in the "Lawns Be Gone" article on my website (drfoxonehealth.com/post/lawns-be-gone), lawn chemicals also harm our dogs and can cause cancer in them and in us. Golf courses continue to be problematic and, along with the "perfect lawn," are an ecological, environmental and public health abomination.
DEAR DR. FOX: Thanks for the valuable information on your website; it's been so helpful. I have three rescue dogs and only use natural flea/tick prevention methods on them. However, we have just moved to Portugal, where there are many tick-borne diseases. Everyone is telling me I need to treat them with topical or oral meds.
Your articles state that toxic chemicals should be avoided unless you're in tropical or subtropical conditions -- Portugal is just above the subtropics, so I worry that it may be necessary here. My dogs also spend most of the day outside: The main reason we moved here from the U.K. was so they could have a large area of fenced land to be free in (they all react badly when around other dogs). We're spraying them with natural remedies, but they sometimes still come back with ticks.
Do you have any further advice on what we should do? Logic tells me I shouldn't be covering them in anything that I wouldn't put on myself, but I also fear they could contract something nasty.
Also, our vet has said we need to give them Milbemax as there is heartworm here, so we started this. Do you recommend a safer alternative? -- M.K., Portugal
DEAR M.K.: It would be wise to follow the advice of the local veterinarians familiar with the insect-borne diseases where you live. Milbemax will be of value in controlling several internal parasites: It delivers broad-spectrum protection for cats and dogs against common intestinal worms, including roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm. When given monthly, it also prevents heartworm infection.
Ticks can be very problematic, since they can transmit diseases soon after they attach and before systemic (oral) and skin-applied insecticides can kill them. Dusting your dogs daily before they go out with human-grade diatomaceous earth will help keep fleas at bay. A spritz of lemon eucalyptus essential oil -- a few drops diluted in water -- should help repel ticks and mosquitoes.
It is reported that ticks are repelled by lemon, orange, cinnamon, lavender, peppermint and rose geranium, so they'll avoid latching on to anything that smells of those essential oils. A cheap emergency measure is to simmer a sliced lemon in boiling water for 5 minutes, cool, crush and put the extract in a spray bottle. Spritz this on the dogs before going out, especially their legs, underbellies and ears. Rake your yard and get rid of all underbrush where sunlight-avoiding ticks will hide, and rake your dogs every evening with a flea comb to check for ticks. Visually inspect the ears and the spots between the toes.
HELPING THE ANIMALS IN UKRAINE
The AVMA's charitable arm, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, is sending more than $500,000 to organizations providing vital on-the-ground help to people and animals affected by the war in Ukraine. Individual donors and contributions from Doris Day Animal Foundation, Ethos Veterinary Health, Merck Animal Health, and People, Pets and Vets are helping buy food, provide veterinary care and protect animals and the people caring for them. (Full story: AVMA@Work blog, April 21)
Two Kharkiv zoo employees, who braved Russian attacks to feed starving animals, were killed by Russian soldiers, according to the zoo. The Feldman Ecopark employees, who were missing since March 7, were shot by Russian soldiers and left in a barricaded room, the zoo said in a statement. (Full story: CNN, April 21)
(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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)