Written by Rose DiLeva VMD, MS, CVCP, CVA. Posted in Ask The Vet.

     Could you give some advice on fleas and ticks and problems with skin issues in dogs and cats?


     After  twenty years of practicing veterinary medicine, I have seen many diseases vary in their incidence.  Twenty years ago the number of cancer cases was minimal. Today it is the number one killer of companion animals.  In my practice the most common cases I treat holistically are cancer followed by skin problems. Most of the skin cases have been to a number of conventional practices for the typical treatment of antibiotics and steroids.  Antibiotics and steroids have their place in veterinary medicine but it is my personal belief that they are overused and just mask the symptoms rather than treating the true underlying condition. 

    Some skin problems are fairly easy to diagnose such as flea infestation. Often times the fleas are visible on the pet’s fur or their droppings, which appear like specks of black pepper.  The best way to inspect your pet for fleas is to move your hand against the direction of the fur and look closely at the skin itself for fleas or flea droppings.  Many of the products on the market today work well to eliminate a flea problem on your pet. My choice of topical treatment is Frontline. It kills fleas, flea eggs, ticks and chewing lice. It is applied directly to the skin monthly. Other more holistic methods include the use of citrus fruit, such as a lemon or orange, cut it lengthwise and rub it against the direction of the fur. It’s a great flea repellant. For the home, sprinkle table salt on the rugs and leave it overnight. Vacuum it up the following day and throw away the vacuum bag. You can place a flea collar in the new vacuum bag so that if other fleas, larva or eggs are vacuumed up, they to will die.

    Ticks have become more of an issue in the past years.  Many of the ticks that live in our area are carriers of numerous and serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Erhlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Cat Scratch Disease. Presently, I diagnose Lyme disease in a dog or a cat every week. These pets can present with red like hives or a rash on the skin, lethargy, decreased appetite, lameness, weakness and incontinence.  The best tick control is to inspect your pet each and every time it comes in from the outside. We are in one of the highest incident areas for Lyme disease in this country.  I frequently suggest that the owners of Lyme positive pets get tested themselves because they are likely to be with their pet when it is outdoors. I can say that I have seen a high correlation between pets that have Lyme disease and owners that come up positive, at least in my client population.  
    By far the greatest diagnosis for the itching, scratching, hair loss pet is allergies. Once again, many clients that come to me for an alternative approach to their pet’s skin problems have been to many other veterinarians for conventional treatment.  I have found that a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbs and food allergy testing get these patients under control. Many companion pets are allergic to wheat, soy, yeast, dairy, beef, corn and rice.

    Skin conditions can be an indication of numerous other body system dysfunctions ranging from an under active thyroid gland to over active adrenal glands. A normal healthy animal’s hair coat should be smooth and shiny and without flakes or dandruff. If you have any questions about your pet’s skin or health, please call your veterinarian for an examination.


    Dr. Rose DiLeva is owner of Animal Wellness Center in Chadds Ford, Pa. She practices holistic veterinary medicine. She practices acupuncture, chiropractic, traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese herbal medicine, gold bead implants and more. She can be reached for consultations or speaking engagements at 610-558-1616


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