Weather Forecast


Pet care: Anti-flea drugs can cause adverse reactions

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a young 19-pound cavapoo. The dog had an adverse reaction to Vectra – agitation, rapid heartbeat, bulging eyes, snapping, etc.

We took him to the vet immediately, and the vet indicated that it might have had a reaction or a seizure. I asked the vet for a suggestion of a less-toxic brand, and tried Advantix. The dog had a rapid heartbeat and was agitated, rolling on his back to get it off. I immediately bathed him, and he slowly calmed down.

What natural options are there for pest control, as it is clear he has adverse reactions to the chemicals? He had a tick recently, and with his shaggy hair, I’m concerned he’ll pick up fleas. – M.T., Sea Girt, N.J.

Dear M.T.: I appreciate you contacting me since your experience with your dog helps reinforce my concerns about these anti-flea and tick products and supports my advocacy of safer alternatives.

Pet owners: beware! I am sorry that you and your dog went through such terrifying ordeals with these products. A dog in a borderline seizure state or experiencing rapid heartbeat and having a panic attack are not the kinds of reactions the manufacturers like to know about or make public.

I have written about these biocidal products that you used on your dog that are being widely marketed by veterinarians and via other outlets across the country, even though they are systemic poisons and can have harmful side effects, even causing death.

On my website,, you will find a full review of steps to take in an integrated way to keep ticks and fleas at bay. I also discuss Bayer’s Advantix line of products, which I do not consider any safer than Vectra.

An Environmental Protection Agency report warns that propoxur, a flea-killing chemical in flea collars marketed by Sergeant’s Pet Care Products and Wellmark International, is unsafe for children. However, the products can be distributed until two years from now, and retailers can continue to sell them after that until the stock is gone!

A daily flea combing during the season is a first step. Some people have found that coconut oil – 1 teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight – in the food daily, plus ½ teaspoon of brewer’s yeast helps significantly.

Rubbing diatomaceous earth into the animal’s coat every three to four days, and brushing it out well before reapplication will desiccate fleas.

I have had some good reports about PetzLife’s Complete Coat, a quassia-based botanical product that repels and may kill fleas and ticks. I am less familiar with the product Mercola Natural Flea and Tick Defense, available online and containing oils of lemon grass, cinnamon, sesame and castor in purified water and which, according to veterinarians who have used this formula, is safe and effective for cats and dogs.

Warning about pets in hot cars

In Belmont, Calif., a German shepherd left in a car in warm weather died, and her owner faces animal cruelty charges as a result. This case is a somber warning to owners to not leave pets in the car.

Temperatures inside a car on a 75-degree day can reach 100 in 10 minutes, and 120 after 30 minutes.

“Even with cooling down and ice packs and emergency fluids and all these things, you might not be able to save a pet in that situation,” said East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals chief veterinarian Michael Sozanski.

Book review

“Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves,” written by Dr. Laurel Braitman should be required reading for veterinary and animal science students and for all who have any professional dealings with animals, wild and domesticated.

Anyone concerned about animal rights and well-being and about animal consciousness will gain some insights from this book. Regardless of some serious omissions in her literature research citations and rather limited consultations with veterinarians, Braitman accomplishes her mission of demonstrating that abnormal behavior and emotional distress in animals manifested in various forms of “madness” are a mirror and a consequence of our own madness when it comes to our relationships with and treatment of animals.

She analyzes the anthropogenic complex of human-caused animal suffering, even from those who claim to love animals. Having faced the ire, ridicule and denial of many, but not all of those involved in various industries, organizations and professions engaged in domestic and wild animal use – including some involved in animal welfare and conservation – this book echoes my long-standing concerns with documented evidence.

I think it is tragic that before humans sought to civilize animals and nature, they did not first civilize themselves. Now, as Carl Jung advised, “civilized man must heal the animal in himself and make it his friend.”