Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dogs Need Crunchier Living, Too

I really thought I'd make sunscreen this week, but we've been back below freezing several nights and it's raining, yet again, so I've not been really inspired.

Instead, I decided to look at my dogs and flea management after a post on my business Facebook page told me quite succinctly that garlic was toxic and the garlic I had just started feeding my canine crew for flea control was going to kill them. "Dogs shouldn't have can cause hemolytic anemia. Just a thought."

Wait, what?

I bought this from Springtime, Inc., which sells all natural pet and people products. It wasn't just something I dreamed up.

So I started researching the topic. And yes, that means on the Internet because I have an inherent distrust for the medical profession whether it comes to animals or people.


Well, because it seems that unless you can find a holistic practitioner, most would rather prescribe a pill for your aching knees than help you develop an exercise program to strengthen your joints and lose weight. Medication and better living through chemicals seems to always be the answer (like using sunscreen every time you go out and taking a vitamin D supplement instead because you're inhibiting your body's ability to produce its own vitamin D.) For years my doctors have nagged me about my high cholesterol and taking medication, even though when I looked at the numbers it seemed they were driven by high good cholesterol and my ratio said I was good. My most recent physician finally noted that and told me I was fine -- I never would take the pills.

When it comes to dogs, once you've looked at the corn-based food most sell as the best alternative for your dog's diet, well it seems a little distrust is in order. If I had the time and resources, my dogs would eat a raw diet instead of me shopping around for foods that actually contain no corn, wheat or soy and are meat based instead of well advertised.

Seriously, the best thing vets typically offer to control fleas is spot on treatments, most of which did not work last summer. I had clients, along with myself, who were spending a fortune on the big brand flea treatments, having to repeat them every two or three weeks, and still battling the little blood suckers.

Not only that, but flea treatments are pesticides, used on your dog's skin, and if you use any spray you'll see it includes the warning to wear gloves and/or wash after use. What about my dog? If it's not safe for me, what makes it safe for her? If I can absorb it and have a toxic reaction, what about her? If it's going to leave enough residue on/in her skin to kill fleas and ticks for a month, what happens to my grandchildren every time they pet her?

Think I'm overreacting? Five years ago the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) conducted studies about spot on treatments due to the number of cases of adverse reactions in pets. Those ranged from symptoms in skin and gastrointestinal, to nervous system and even death. The summary of the report called for more variations in the weight sizes especially when it comes to smaller dogs, better labeling and more testing, but the last time I bought any product, the weight ranges were pretty large. In fact, I just checked a website and the package for small dogs goes up to 22 pounds, that means a seven pound dog is probably getting three times the dosage he needs -- that's a lot of toxicity if he has any reaction to the ingredients.

So even though I'd already purchased the garlic chewables for my dogs, I did some more research. Yes, there are articles that say that garlic, as a member of the onion family (I already know onion isn't good for my dogs) is toxic. One of the easiest to find is from Veterinary Pet Insurance claims that even a small amount can be toxic to pets and that it is not a holistic remedy. That article uses the information that since garlic is more concentrated than onion and onion is bad, a much smaller amount of garlic is needed for toxicity -- as little as one clove. Onion can, in fact, cause hemolytic anemia, or at the very least a bad upset stomach.

Well, that is concerning. The article went on say even smaller amounts over time would be detrimental. But wait, this article is, once again, linked to veterinary medicine, or more precisely, medicine and chemicals.

I went back to the site where I purchased the chewables, called Bug Off Garlic. The website cited a study in Japan, where holistic medicine is more widely accepted, and which the company had no part in funding. That study dosed study dogs with 1/2 lb (equal to about 78 cloves) per 100 lbs body weight, obviously a force feeding situation, for seven days. Afterwards, microscopic examination of the dogs' blood showed no anemia, and only a small percentage had any damage to red blood cells.

Well, we know too much of anything, even a good thing isn't good, but once again, I didn't completely trust the source because after all, they are selling the product which contains air-dried garlic -- less concentrated not more so.

I quickly found three sites that recommended fresh garlic, in controlled amounts, as a supplement to help with pest control. None offered to sell me any fresh garlic and one Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker does involve a DVM who practices integrated wellness for animals in her care. The other two sites are Dogs Naturally Magazine and Pet Guide. The common thread was that the chemical in garlic is not exactly the same as onion -- well, duh, we don't just substitute one for the other in cooking -- so it was not the same in the dog's body either.

The Healthy Pets site recommended flea combs and regular bathing, and offered additional suggestions:

"Essential oil sprays containing lavender, peppermint, geranium, lemongrass or citronella can be very effective as parasite deterrents. You need to purchase a pre-blended product or work with an animal aromatherapist to make sure you’re using safe oils at the correct concentration as dog and cat doses are different

"Cedar oil is a long-recognized flea eradicator, and products exist that are specially formulated for cats and dogs.

"Natural, food-grade diatomaceous earth helps to remove fleas and ticks from your pet’s body. (External use)

"Fresh garlic can be given to dogs and cats to prevent internal as well as external parasites. Work with your vet to determine a safe amount for your pet’s body weight."

The other two sites recommended dosages that varied somewhat, but agreed to start with 1/2 clove for dogs 10-20 pounds. Both also agreed one clove for 20 pounds and two cloves for more than 40 pounds. One suggested an extra half clove at 30 pounds and a limit of two cloves. The other went to 2.5 cloves at 75 pounds.

All sites agreed fresh is best, and that heat treating destroys the active ingredient, so since the product is air dried I should be fine. Dosage on the chewables, which half of my dogs take as a treat and half require bribery (peanut butter) or downright bullying to take, is 1 pill per 20 pounds, apparently the equivalent of a garlic clove. After my research -- and the fact that when I made food for "The Beagle" for about 18 months while we were dealing with a digestive issue and included garlic in the recipe with no bad side effects -- has me concluding that garlic supplements of the right sort and in the right amount are safe. Sure, I could dig and mash fresh garlic, but right now I don't have time and I'm not sure how I'd persuade any of them to eat it.

However, just in case we need a little extra help with the fleas, I went in search of recipes for flea spray and found a ton of those with various essential oils. Apparently the best essential oil is lavender, which not only repels fleas but will kill them on contact. One of the easiest I found was from We Live In A Flat.

The ingredients needed to make the spray are apple cider vinegar (ACV), lavender or chamomile essential oil and water. Combine 1 teaspoon ACV, 3-4 drops essential oil and the water needed to fill a small spray bottle (mine are six ounce). Combine and shake before use. Store in a cool, dark cabinet. How easy and healthy is that?

Several other recipes called for Tea Tree oil because of its natural antiseptic quality and some of the other flea repelling oils, so my mix (not yet made I'll admit, because I don't have a clean spray bottle, having dedicated all I had to my hair products) will probably contain oils besides lavender. And yes, I plan to get on that because "The Beagle" had a flea prior to this whole garlic debate.

While searching, I also found a sweet guide to making a scented, flea repelling collar from One Good Thing by Jillee. To make a flea collar, mix a flea repelling essential oil such as cinnamon, rosemary, wormwood, clove, peppermint, cedarwood or citronella with 2 tablespoons almond or olive oil (always dilute essential oils) and soak your dog's cloth collar with the mixture. Remove and let dry then place back on your dog. Reapply the mixture when you can no longer smell it, which should take about two weeks.

Oooh, no fleas and sweet smelling, you know I've got to try that as well. So I'm going to shove a garlic treat down my dog's throat -- seriously, she just won't eat them -- and see if I can find a spray bottle, or at the very least soak her collar. I'm declaring war on fleas without breaking out the chemicals. I'll let you know how it goes.

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