Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do All Natural Flea and Tick Products Work?

My boy, Sammi
If you're at all like me, when it comes to flea and tick prevention, you feel trapped between a rock and a hard place.  You want to protect your furries from the agonies of their bites and all the diseases that are spread by these pesky creatures.  But at the same time, you're not all that comfortable, if at all, about putting chemicals on your beloved pets.  There are many so-called effective, all-natural flea and tick remedies available these days, but do all natural flea and tick products work?

This summer, I'm on a mission to find out whether Only Natural Pet Store's "Easy Defense" Flea & Tick Tags really work.  If you follow my blog, you know I have six dogs:  Ripley the Blue Heeler mix, Shasta the Hound mix, Sammi the Beagle mix, Cookie the German Shepherd mix, Andie the herding-type mix, and Franki the Black Lab/Dalmatian mix.

Living in a place that's hot and humid every summer means the dogs need protection most of the year.  Many veterinarians recommend year-round flea and tick prevention in many parts of the world, including my own.  But I've never followed that advice, because I wanted to minimize my dogs' exposure to the strong chemicals found in the most popular preventative treatments, such as Frontline, K9 Advantix, Revolution, and Biospot.

(and Cookie in 
the background)
Earlier this year, I got an Only Natural Pet Store catalog in the mail, which is where I first saw the Easy Defense Flea & Tick Tags.  Because they offer a money back guarantee, I decided to put my doubts aside and try them.  I know it's hard to believe a simple tag could keep fleas and ticks off anything. But a 15% discount, in addition to the guarantee, gave me the extra push I needed. Plus, if you buy 2 at a time, you save even more money (about $7.50 per tag).  

According to Only Natural Pet Store, the "Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Flea & Tick Tag is a safe, chemical-free way to keep harmful pests off of your pet. Using state of the art holistic technology, the EasyDefense Tag utilizes your pet’s own energy to create a natural barrier to pests. There are no chemicals or pesticides involved. It is completely safe for pets and humans in the household."

And you needn't be scared off by the price tag ($59.99 per tag or $104.99 for 2 tags) because they last for up to three years.  If you've been buying name-brand flea and tick drops, you know that you can easily spend that much or more on just a 3-month supply!

Sweet Shasta
SO! ... I wanted to know if these tags worked, first and foremost.  But I also wanted to know how well they worked compared to the traditional chemical products.

This summer, four of my dogs are wearing the Easy Defense Tags (Shasta, Cookie, Andie and Franki).  For the other two, I'm using a generic form of Frontline Plus (Ripley and Sammi).  Because the directions on the box advise that the tags can take up to three weeks to begin working, all of the dogs were treated with the generic drops at the beginning of the season (March).

So far, at the end of June, I've seen no fleas on any of the dogs.  Because we had a mild winter, ticks are REALLY plentiful this year.  I've found very few ticks on any of the dogs (relatively speaking).  And the ticks I've found on the 'tagged' dogs, were either just hiding in their fur, or were barely attached.  I've even seen healthy-appearing ticks near the 'tagged' dogs, that didn't seem to be attracted to them.  Usually a tick makes a bee-line toward its intended prey, but they seem to be slowed down or stalled when they get near the 'tagged' dogs.

In my mind, the real test is yet to come ... as the summer gets hotter and more humid, the flea population will peak.  ... I'll keep you posted.


UPDATE ... April 2013:  I got mixed results with these flea and tick tags.  Later last summer, the tick population exploded.  Two of my dogs who were wearing the tags repeatedly became infested with deer ticks.  The other two wearing the tags didn't get nearly as many ticks on them.  A lot of the ticks attached themselves, although it seemed that most of the little pests were still crawling away from the dogs (and onto me!).

I never had any problem with fleas, but don't know if that was due to the tags or the possibility that the flea population was low last summer.   The whole summer, I saw only a couple of fleas on one of my dogs, but only on one occasion.  She and the rest of the dogs were flea-free the rest of the summer.  She was wearing one of the flea and tick tags. 

So after the ticks got really bad, and I got tired of them crawling onto me, I gave in and treated the dogs with some generic Frontline drops.  And although the tags definitely seem to have some repellent properties, from my experience, they work only on some dogs and don't seem to work well during periods of heavy infestation.

A little less than a year after I bought the tags, I decided to ask for a refund on all four tags.  If I didn't live out in a rural area and if I didn't frequently take my dogs out on hikes in the woods, I would have kept the tags through another summer to get a better idea of their effectiveness.

I had no problem getting a full refund from Only Natural Pet Store (minus shipping charges, of course).  It took about 3 or 4 weeks from the time I mailed the tags back until I got my refund check in the mail. 

Another Update ... July 2013:  I never did find another natural product that I was willing to try, so have been using a "generic" alternative to Frontline because I know it works.

By the way, I'd love to hear from anybody who's had good results from any natural flea and tick product in the past.  Please feel free to leave a comment.

*Disclaimer:  I may earn a small commission from any purchase you make through any of the links to OnlyNaturalPet.com within this article or anywhere else on this blog.  Be assured, however, that my commission does not affect (increase) the prices you pay.*

Monday, June 25, 2012

Franki the Blue-Eyed Black Lab/Dalmatian Mix?

Franki enjoys cooling
off in her pool on hot
summer days.
Hmmmmmm.  Living with a totally black dog with bright blue eyes got me curious about blue-eyed dogs in general.  It's a lot more common to see blue eyes with white, spotted, or merle coats, so it's a bit of a surprise for most people to see a jet black dog with blue eyes.  Franki is obviously a mixed-breed dog and looks "labby" around the head for sure.  She weighs 50 pounds and is much leaner than Labradors in general.  

Franki's size and body shape is long and lean, much like a Dalmatian's.

Ripley and Franki relaxing
after a hike in the woods.

And her frosty blue eyes are endlessly captivating, looking more blue or closer to white, depending on the light.

I also learned that it's relatively common for Dalmatians to have blue eyes, like this puppy pictured below.

So I am left to wonder ... is Franki a Black Labrador / Dalmatian Mix?

Regardless, she is a great dog with a sweet personality, and has brought so much joy and energy to our home. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

It's a common belief that dogs eat grass when their tummies are upset ... we see a pool of puke and partially digested grass and assume that the grass made the dog or helped the dog throw up.  But that implies that grass is some kind of doggie medication and that dogs only eat grass when they don't feel good. 

But is that all there is to it?  Why do dogs eat grass?

Dogs are not strict carnivores.  They've always been scavengers, devouring anything and everything, as long as it fulfilled their basic dietary requirements.  Domestic dogs are actually omnivores and will frequently seek out alternative foods to fulfill their nutritional requirements, especially if they are fed a commercial diet.  And most of the time (about 75%), dogs don't throw up after eating grass. If you think that they do, it's probably because you only notice your dog has been eating grass because you can see it in her puke!  

Grass is good for your dog in moderate amounts UNLESS the grass has been treated with fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides.  Since grass is a plant, it has fiber and nutrients that aren't found in typical dog food.

A great alternative to letting your dogs graze freely on your lawn is Barley grass.  It's easy to provide some safe grass by planting a special patch of Barley grass.  Dogs who like the taste of "lawn" grass will most likely also appreciate Barley grass.  It's inexpensive, grows very quickly, and is highly nutritious.  Barley grass is rich in vitamin A and C, plus it provides other vitamins, plus minerals and phytonutrients necessary for all mammals. 

I planted the Barley grass in this photo about 8 - 10 days before I took the picture.  As long as the dogs don't demolish the patch right away (which they don't), the grass will keep growing most of the summer, just as if it was growing in the ground.  They nosh for a couple of minutes each day and then leave it alone, so it grows back quickly.

I like to use self-watering containers so that the soil stays moist and I don't have to worry about watering every day during the hot summer.  And because some of the grass gets pulled out while the dogs are eating it, I continually add a few seeds here and there all season. 

When it starts getting cold outside, I just bring the container inside and place it in a sunny location where the dogs can continue to eat the grass year round.  Before bringing it inside, though, I pull all the grass out so I can either change the soil or add organic matter to it ... in my experience, the Barley grass will grow more quickly inside during the fall and winter if it has good, fresh soil. 

"Crap! I thought I was in charge!"
"Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?"
~Jerry Seinfeld 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Finding Franki

I've been away from the blogosphere for too long!  Been busy getting my house and yard ready for market ... the "for sale" sign just went up last Saturday.  Right now, I'm just trying to find Franki ... 

I think I may have spotted her ...

Whatcha doin' back there, Franki Blue? ...

Seems there is nothing like an overgrown Viburnum shrub when it comes to shade.  :-)

"He wa'n't no common dog, he wa'n't no mongrel; he was a composite. A composite dog is a dog that is made up of all the valuable qualities that's in the dog breed—kind of a syndicate; and a mongrel is made up of all riffraff that's left over."
~Mark Twain