Spring reminders!

Although here in Iowa we are still fluctuating between summer and winter temperatures, spring will get here soon! It is time to be sure heartworm preventative medications are on hand along with any flea and tick preventatives as needed for your animals' exposures.

If you need reminders about how nasty Heartworm Disease is, go here:

www.veterinarypartner.com - Heartworm Information Center

And Lyme Disease seems to be becoming more prevalent as well. The best preventative is keeping the ticks that spread it away. It is surprising how tiny these ticks are—the size of a poppy seed, so really hard to find in dog fur!

Info on Lyme (Not Lyme's!) Disease here:

www.veterinarypartner.com - Lyme Disease

I am often asked if there are more "natural," non-chemical or non-toxic products that can be used to keep these parasites away. Unfortunately, and this is a consensus among most of the herbal veterinarians I know, nothing works as well and as quickly as the pharmaceutical products for flea, tick and heart worm prevention. Many of these pharmaceutical products are very low dose and I do have some favorites for that reason. Herbs and essential oils that are anti-parasitic can quickly move into the more toxic realm depending on dosage and use. Herbs are not chemical-free, they are made up of plant chemicals (phytochemicals) which are the sources of many pharmaceutical medicines. Many phytochemicals are extremely helpful, some can be toxic. It is important to learn the difference, which is why I have spent so much time studying them!

Some essential oils can be used safely in dogs for flea and tick prevention—they need to be applied multiple times a day, but in a very dilute form and long term use in animals with a such sensitive noses may cause their own problems. Many of my clients, including myself, do not have the time and/or memory to spray their dog multiple times a day. Cats, with their different liver metabolism, are especially sensitive to essential oils and I am cautious about dogs with any liver problems as well. I'm glad there are options.

Learning the natural cycles of the insects throughout the day can help with avoidance, but is not foolproof. Those insects do not always follow the rules. For example, mosquitoes which spread heart worm disease are generally more active during dawn and dusk, but can also be quite active in cool moist areas any time of the day. Heart worm is such an awful disease, I really don't recommend risking it. Ticks tend to hang out in tall grass waiting for their victims to walk by. They are also much more prevalent in the spring, but again they can really be around any time the weather is above freezing. I hear having chickens in the yard is a great way to keep tick populations down!

I do my best to help people minimize toxic chemical exposures and reduce the amount needed by only treating during the active seasons. Feel free to
contact me if you'd like a longer discussion on these important issues.