Dear Dr. Fox: We have two senior springer spaniels with a sensitivity to fleas, and I have reviewed your articles on flea prevention for dogs. We are currently giving them Bravecto as a flea treatment. Living in New Jersey, we only dose them twice per year.

While we don’t like using this, it is the only preventative that has not caused side effects, at least, that we can see. Frontline and Advantix both caused vomiting and lethargy for a few days after application.

We almost lost our older girl to a hot spot that became infected, which our vet believes was caused by a flea bite. Any other suggestions? B.H., Trenton, N.J.

Dear B.H.: Many dogs get by OK with seasonal use of Bravecto, but I would never use it on my dog here in Minnesota. In India, we had to use Frontline all the time, and at least one dog had seizures.

I would rely on a flea comb after each trip outdoors; check for ticks at the same time, especially between the toes and ears. Best to avoid brushy areas where there could be ticks and fleas from other animals.

As a preventive measure, make a “tea” of one sliced lemon boiled briefly in 2 cups of water. Let cool and store in fridge. Apply to each dog with a sponge, getting the underbelly, legs, under the neck, and along the back, head and ear-tips. This will repel mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. Essential oil of eucalyptus lemon is also excellent, and you can make a spritz out of it with water, but cover their eyes when applying.

These natural herbal products have been used effectively for centuries but their use has been supplanted, and even outlawed, by the big pharmaceutical companies, which are in the human and animal health business primarily to make a profit. Their reticence to take action and recall or relabel drugs that have adverse side effects is a matter of public record.

As for Bravecto, and other insecticides widely sold in most veterinary clinics and some grocery stores, I am of the same opinion: These chemicals should only be used as a last resort. Eventually, insect tolerance and resistance to these insecticides will evolve, and using them year-round as prevention will accelerate this process.

Also, these products will not prevent biting insects from transmitting allergens, Lyme, heartworm and other diseases, as they only kill or sterilize the pests after they have bitten and fed off your dog or cat.

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Write to Dr. Fox c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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