Do you hate fleas and ticks, but love the planet?
Every dog owner wants to protect their pet against fleas and ticks, but not all owners want to use harsh chemicals to do that.
Given the choice, many people would prefer the option of an effective natural product to one containing manufactured chemicals.
A quick browse of the Vet’s Best product range and it looks exciting.
Their unique selling point is the products contain natural ingredients and plant-based formulations that kill fleas, eggs and larvae, along with ticks.
But intriguingly, the Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Spray reviews are strongly polarized.
Pet parents are divided between love and hate.
Whilst some owners are delighted to protect their dog in a natural way and see those fleas heading for the hills, others found the product a useless waste of money.
Which is why we decided to take an in-depth look at Vet’s Best to drill down and unearth the facts.
Is it a hero product or wolf-in-sheep’s clothing?
Let’s find out.
First, let’s address why Vet’s Best products have the word “Vet” in the branding.
This stems from the founder of the company being a holistic veterinarian, Dr. Dawn Curie Thomas, DVM.
With a self-confessed preference for natural products, her credentials appear to be a DVM degree and a love of natural healthcare.
It is her initial research that led to the development of Vet’s Best.
Look closely at the packaging and what do you see?
There’s a strapline of “Veterinarian recommended.”
Think about this more deeply.
‘Veterinarian’ in the singular form, and not “Recommended by veterinarians” [plural].
In other words, you have to question whether Dr Curie Thomas is the vet making the recommendation…but heck she developed the product so if she doesn’t believe in it who does?
A quick stroll through the flea and tick product part of the Vet’s Best website, fails to reveal any recommendations or endorsements from other vets….interesting.
This all sounds so far, after all, what’s not to like about a chemical free life.
So consider the claims made by Vet’s Best and the facts to back up the words.
Let’s look at product efficacy as stated by Vet’s Best.
In other words: How well do they say it works?
Good news, so it seems.
According to Vet’s Best their flea and tick spray uses essential oils (peppermint oil and clove extract) to kill fleas and ticks, but without using plant based chemicals such as pyrethrums or pyrethroids.
However, it’s one thing to make claims and quite another to back the words up with actions and proof.
This is why the Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Spray reviews make such interesting reading (as we will shortly discuss).
But first, let’s look at the endorsements from organizations that police the effectiveness of anti-parasite products.
Oh dear, there appears to be a glitch.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are responsible for testing products to make sure they do what they say on the label.
Only veterinary products that have been through extensive clinical trial and have proven evidence of the results can get the approval of these authorities.
Sadly, it seems Vet’s Best does NOT have the approval of either body.
[The manufacturer’s claim the product is exempt from a requirement for testing.]
In other words, they could write on the label that spraying product turns whatever it touches to gold; but it seems there are no trusted regulatory bodies giving their seal to back this up.
Perhaps it’s time to take a look at the actual product.
After all, putting a product through clinical trials is a pretty expensive thing to do, so it could be a great product that just hasn’t been through clinical trials.
The product uses oil of peppermint and cloves to kill ticks and fleas.
The oils are carried in a solution with sodium laurel sulfate, which is a detergent like chemical.
Pet parents using this Vet’s Best product report their dog smells strongly of peppermint and cloves afterwards.
This smell lingered from several hours to a day or more, depending on the individual.
The lingering smell raises an interesting point.
Because are the oils still potent at killing fleas once the odor has worn off?
Many pet parents think not.
Many users are happy the Vet’s Best does actually kill parasites.
However, the consensus of opinion is that it is a short term preventative…short term as in a few hours only.
Indeed, there are no instructions on the label about how often to apply the product, which leaves it largely open to personal interpretation.
Some pet parents go to the lengths of spritzing their pet every time they go for a walk, in order to provide ongoing protection.
This has the obvious disadvantage of being time-consuming and onerous, and also means you are constantly tailed by a dog smelling of peppermint.
Then of course, you have to consider that not every dog tolerates the sound of a spray and may start to resent the treatment.
It would appear the Vet’s Best is at best a short term (as in – one walk) deterrent for fleas and ticks.
But even then not everyone is convinced the product is effective.
One enterprising owner experimented by placing a tick in a puddle of Vet’s Best sprayed on concrete.
They observed an annoyed tick that walked to the edge of the puddle and climbed out, seemingly unscathed.
Obviously that user was completely convinced the product was a complete waste of money.
Another downside of regularly spritzing the dog is that the coat rapidly becomes greasy feeling.
The fur needs to the thoroughly dampened with product, which leave the fur feeling slippery, and is ‘distasteful’ as one user described it.
This is certainly something to think about with a long haired dog, as you’ll get through large volumes of the product in order to properly protect them on a daily basis.
It’s a fair assumption that pet parents seeking alternatives to the raft of licensed flea products are keen to avoid applying unnecessary chemicals to their pet.
However, a point often overlooked is that anything can be dangerous to excess…even drinking too much water can be dangerous as it makes blood salt levels fall too low.
OK, that is an extreme example, but the responsible pet parent should spare a thought for the ingredients in Vet’s Best, as they may be spraying it on the dog several times a day.
Reviews of Vet’s Best Flea and Tick spray quite rightly highlight that the product contains sodium laurel sulfate.
This is a potential sticking point because it’s a chemical…hmm…in a natural product.
Sodium laurel sulfate is a surfactant, and is found in substances such as laundry detergent, washing up liquid, and shampoos.
Its job is to break the surface tension of grease on an object, so that water and the cleaning agent can penetrate through.
Think of those greasy dishes that running water just slides off.
Then you add a blob of washing up liquid and the grease breaks up into beads that can be rinsed away.
In the case of Vet’s Best, the sodium laurel sulfate is present in order to make it easier to apply to the coat.
Its inclusion means the essential oils are less likely to sit on top of the coat and make it greasy, but will be easier to spread from the surface down to the skin.
Is sodium laurel sulfate something to worry about?
Probably not, but…
The Merck Veterinary Manual lists sodium laurel sulfate as a toxicity risk to some cats and capable of causing gastrointestinal upsets (sickness and diarrhea) in all animals.
Cats are picked out in particular because of their sensitive respiratory tracts.
Inhaling an aerosol of sodium laurel sulphate has produced breathing difficulties in some cats, due to an increase of secretions within the lung. [Please note, in fairness Vet’s Best Flea and Tick spray is not for use on cats]
In addition, cats groom a lot which makes them more likely to ingest some of this chemical, which could possibly upset their tummy.
The same applies for dogs.
Remember, to be effective you need may need to spray regularly, such as daily or even several times a day.
This increases the chances of your dog licking or chewing at their coat and swallowing some of the ingredients.
OK, the risk is low.
But it’s good to be aware of all the ingredients, especially if your reason for selecting a product is to protect your pet from chemicals.
However, the good news is that peppermint oil is widely regarded as safe for dogs.
So much so that it can even be used to treat the nausea associated with stomach upsets, and side effects are rarely seen.
Slightly more interesting is clove oil.
This is considered a ‘hot’ oil because of its properties, and can cause allergies in sensitive individuals.
Other hot oils include cinnamon and wintergreen, all of which are best avoided in cats.
First, let’s be clear Vet’s Best has many highly satisfied users who consider this product safe to use on their valued fur-family members.
However, browse the Vet’s Best Flea and Tick spray reviews, and there are users who recount their pet sneezing and coughing excessively after application.
Another owner told how her dog became alarming lethargic after using the product.
In both cases the pet recovered when the product was washed out with shampoo.
Of course this is just a tiny number of pet’s amongst what is presumed to be thousands of satisfied customers (and let’s face it, if we don’t have a problem its human nature to keep quiet) and so we shouldn’t be unduly influenced by it.
A sensible precaution – as with using any new product – is to observe the pet after use for any possible allergic reaction or sensitivity.
Signs to watch for include lethargy, breathing difficulties, sickness and diarrhea.
If you see anything that concerns you, a good first step is to bathe the pet and wash away the offending product, and then phone your vet for advice.
Picking a five star review at random, we learn the owner is highly satisfied with the product.
She sprays the dog heavily before each walk, and then washes the dog on her return, and finds this works well for her.
Contrasting this with a one star review, where the user found it did nothing to protect their pet.
In the middle, a three-star reviewer was disappointed that it didn’t help, whilst a two-star reviewer pondered on the purpose of a product that smelt pleasant enough but didn’t help with a flea problem.
All of which sounds very negative, so let’s balance things with some more five star opinion.
The smell scores highly.
Indeed, one person chose the product as a chemical free alternative because her dog has seizures.
Not only does it seem effective against the fleas, but the smell of the essential oils seems to help the dog, and is now referred to as her ‘aromatherapy’.
In truth it seems that if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.
At best this product may act as a deterrent to fleas, when used intensively before a walk.
On the downside, it has no proven benefits and may make your dog sticky and smell strongly of cloves.
You also need to think very carefully about the risk of potentially leaving a dog unprotected.
With tick-borne diseases a real threat to your pet’s long term health, how much of a gamble are you prepared to take and is a ‘natural’ product worth the risk?
Dr Sarah Robinson attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a D.V.M. in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats. Sarah has published numerous articles on canine feeding in pet related magazines, veterinary journals and leading natural health web sites.