Safe Prevention of Canine Parasites

by Vickie Halstead, RN, CVNS, LNC

Many products exist for dogs that help prevent parasites such as fleas, ticks, worms and heartworm. Refer to this article written by Anne Jones for more detail on parasites: The Wise Use of Preventive Medications About Fleas, Ticks and Other Pests. Knowing the risks versus the benefits of these preventive medications allows you to be an advocate for your Bichon Frise. Safe alternatives are available to avoid the risk.

As you consider giving one of the preventive medications to your Bichon, know that they are insecticides, a poison, whether given topically on the skin (spot-on) or taken internally as a pill. Also consider that Bichons, like most white-coated breeds, are more sensitive to medications as compared to other breeds, so the risk is higher when giving these dangerous chemicals to your Bichons. The use of preventive medications for fleas, ticks and worms can trigger the onset of any of the numerous autoimmune diseases, seizures, chronic digestive disorders, and death. Refer to this article for more detail on the definition of autoimmune diseases: Definition of Autoimmune Disease. Keep in mind that the #1 health issue in Bichons is allergies/skin problems, an autoimmune disease.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted information about pesticides for pets on their web site where you can read their facts sheet for prevention of fleas and ticks. They state “Do not apply spot-ons to pets known to be sensitive to pesticide products”-this is applicable to Bichons. The EPA also recommends caution when giving flea and tick preventives to dogs that are elderly, pregnant, puppies, sickly, weak, or medicated. Visit their factsheet here:
Consider that some preventives for fleas/ticks that are applied to the skin (spot-on) direct the owner to wear gloves before applying it to your dog! Would you do this to your child? Click here to read this 2010 warning from the EPA

Prevention of heartworm from mosquitoes, a serious canine illness, is important for the health of your Bichon. Some breeders use alternatives to prevent mosquito bites and/or give smaller doses to Bichons. For example, the FDA recommends a dose of .5mg/kg of Interceptor (Milbemycin Oxime) per month. For a Bichon weighing 13 pounds, this would equal 3 mg per month. The tablets are available in 2.3 mg for toy breeds and 5.75 mg for breeds 11-25 pounds. Therefore, the correct dose for a Bichon weighing 13 pounds would be about ½ tablet per month of the 5.75 mg tablet, or give one whole tablet every 6 weeks. Read this article written by Nancy McDonald for more detail about heartworm prevention: Advantages and Disadvantages of the Various Forms of Heartworm Preventatives

To reduce the risk of adverse reactions, give heartworm preventive medication alone or with preventives for worms only, avoiding the combination medications that contain a flea/tick preventive along with a heartworm preventive. Combining heartworm medication with only worm prevention is less risky. The BFCA Health Committee has received numerous reports of reactions to combination preventives for heartworm plus fleas/ticks, and some deaths.
Tick bites can also cause canine health problems, including Lyme disease. Some medications on the market help prevent flea and tick bites without coverage of heartworm or worms. However, these medications are also insecticides that can be toxic to your Bichon. Instead of giving these poisons to your dog, consider one of the safer options listed below and examine your Bichon for fleas and ticks after outings. Transmission of lyme disease to humans and dogs requires 2-4 days of attachment of the deer tick. Fortunately, ticks are dark in color allowing faster recognition in the white coat of Bichons. Below is a list of the current preventives for heartworm/worms and fleas/ticks to help you make your decision. The ingredients are in parentheses and are listed in order of quantity, followed the target pests.

These products fight only worms, including heartworm, so are safer for Bichons:
Interceptor (Milbemycin Oxime) (is not currently available in the US): Heartworm, hookworm, roundworm, whipworm
Milbemax (Milbemycin Oxime, praziquantel) (is not currently available in the US): Heartworm, hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, flatworm
Heartguard Plus or Tri-Heart Plus or Iverheart Plus (Ivermectin, pyrantel pamoate): Heartworm, roundworm, hookworm

These products combine prevention of heartworm with prevention of fleas and ticks, so are risky for Bichons:
9 Advantix II (others not specified, Permethrin, Imidacioprid, Pyriproxyfen): Heartworm, fleas, ticks, lice, biting flies
Sentinel (Lifenuron, Milbemycin Oxime): Heartworm, fleas, ticks, hookworm, roundworm, whipworm
Revolution (Selamectin): Heartworm, fleas, ticks
Trifexis (Spinosad, Milbemycin Oxime): Heartworm, roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, fleas, ticks, lice
Capstar (Nitenpyram): Heartworm, fleas, ticks

Instead of giving your Bichon the risky chemicals/insecticides, there are other options to safely prevent bites from fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes:

Brewers yeast with garlic tablets 2-3 per day, can be purchased from most pet stores or catalogues.

Purification essential oil: Add 25-30 drops to a 10-15 oz. glass spray bottle filled with water. It must be glass because the oils dissolve plastic. Shake bottle before using. Spray the dog before going for walks and work into the coat, concentrating on legs, belly, and ears. The purification oil is safe for dogs-this is a therapeutic grade A oil that can be taken internally by both animals and humans.

Rub 2 drops of lavender oil in your hands and rub into skin starting with tail, can be purchased at whole food stores and health stores

RediCare healing spray and insect repellent
Espana Silk All Natural Bug Spray

If you see fleas, shampoo with Espana Silk All Natural Protein Antiseptic/Healing Shampoo or use Dr. Bonner’s lavender castile shampoo, leaving it on at least 7 minutes

Herbal flea powders

Cedar oil spray

Why risk serious adverse reactions to pest control medications when Bichons are primarily housedogs? A good question to ask yourself and your veterinarian as you advocate for your Bichon Frise.