Dog Ticks and Fleas Q&A
WebMD veterinary experts answer commonly asked questions about fleas and ticks on your dog.
A: I’m not a toxicologist and I try to steer clear of all that. But I will
say that I believe the best way to manage fleas and ticks is go to your
veterinarian and find out what products they recommend for your area. The issue
we have with many of the over-the-counter products is that many are what we
call pyrethroids, or synthetic pyrethrins. We know that is a class of insecticides
that fleas are commonly resistant to, so one of the reasons over-the-counter
formulations don’t work very well is that fleas are resistant to them. What
that leads to is people tend to over apply them because they didn’t work that
well and then you tend to have problems.
Q: There are also reports that the EPA is looking into an increase
in adverse reactions from topically applied flea control products, the ones we
usually put on our dogs and cats between their shoulder blades. So are these
A: I generally believe, based on my experience and our field studies, that
the products we get from our veterinarians are generally very safe and
generally do a very, very good job. But you’ve got to understand that millions
of doses are used each year. With that many doses, things happen. Do
rare reactions occur? Absolutely. We know they do. But generally with a
veterinary-recommended or prescribed flea or tick product, if they are used
according to label directions, they are extremely safe in my experience.
Q: What are the best ways to control fleas and ticks?
A: Besides the flea products we’ve discussed, if you have a cat, don’t ever
let it go outside. Try to keep your home as dry as possible. I would recommend
not having any carpet because carpet is a flea’s best friend. Keep the brush
and weeds in your yard to an absolute minimum.
Q: Are there natural ways I can control them if I don’t want to use
A: There really aren’t from a natural standpoint. Over the years, we’ve
spent some time looking into the more natural or holistic approaches and as yet
I’ve not found any that’s actually effective. The garlic, the brewer’s yeast,
all the research shows none of that stuff works. If it did, I’d be using it.
The ultrasonic devices? The data shows they don’t work.
And just because something is “natural” or “organic” that doesn’t mean it’s
safe. Most of the poisons in the world are actually organic poisons. Some of
these citric extracts people used to use can be fairly toxic to cats. The cats’
livers just can’t handle them.