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Animal Doctor Articles Weekly on April 30, 2012

Question

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

Answer

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 animaldocfox@gmail.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.

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