Did you know that most toxins found in dog and cat flea treatments are the same insecticides used for lawn care and commercial agriculture? What’s more, many of these chemicals are linked to serious diseases such as cancer.
So what are the best flea and tick treatments for your pet? Read on to find out…
Warnings Against Chemicals in Commercial Pet Flea and Tick Treatments
There is a reason why more and more people are buying organic foods these days. It’s because consumers are becoming increasingly aware about the dangers of pesticide and insecticide residue when it comes to human health.
The most important fact to know as a pet owner is that the same basic chemicals used in agriculture are also in many flea and tick pet products.
Here are just a few of the chemical toxins to watch out for:
#1: Imidacloprid. Over 400 household products contain this insecticide, including many pet flea and tick treatments. The U.S. EPA maintains that there is no connection between Imidacloprid and cancer.
However, the Natural Resources Defense Council recently recommended that the EPA review its stance since Imidacloprid has been linked to some cancers.1 The National Pesticide Information Center also points out a connection between exposure to Imidacloprid and reproductive issues in rats.2
#2: Fipronil. Fipronil is an insecticide and a parasiticide that is used to kill adult fleas and larvae, ticks, and chewing lice. It is the main ingredient for many topical pet products, including Frontline®.
A meta-analysis conducted by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority found “several areas of concern in the use of fipronil-containing products,”3 including risk of alopecia, pruritus and heart erythema as well as dermatitis in some animals (in response to topical use). They also caution against using fipronil on very small animals like guinea pigs and rabbits.
Interestingly, the Australian study did not mention cats, but prudence may dictate to be wary of fipronil for smaller cats. Research has also discovered that long-term use caused thyroid dysregulation as well as thyroid tumors in both female and male rats. Fipronil is classified as a “possible human carcinogen” by the EPA.4
#3: Piperonyl Butoxide (PBO). PBO might not be listed as one of the ingredients in your pet’s commercial flea and tick repellent, but more than likely it is in there somewhere. PBO is used in conjunction with over 700 different insecticides to enhance their effectiveness.
A recent study conducted by Duke University5 found that PBO can break down the biological signaling crucial for neurological developments in fetuses. Spectra Shield Medallions™ and Ovitrol Plus™ are just two of the brands that contain PBO.
Of course, these are just three of the MANY insecticidal chemicals used in pet flea and tick products. Others include permethrin, methoprene, pyriproxyfen, and other categories of aryl heterocycles. Each contain their own risk factors for both humans and pets, so be sure to do your homework before you buy.
In response to massive adverse reaction complaints, the EPA issued an order in 2009 that commercial flea and tick companies list ingredients on their products. This is a step in the right direction, but the requirement still does not prevent manufacturers from using these harmful or untested substances.6 Be wary of any chemical ingredients, especially if they contain a risk of cancer for you and your pet.
5 Effective Natural Flea Treatments
In human health, natural substances work with the body’s system to upgrade good things, like immune function and gut balance, and downgrade bad things, like pathogens in the bloodstream. You can use the same principal when structuring the best way to get rid of external pests (which can be thought of as pathogens living in your carpet and on your pet’s skin!)
The following natural substances work with the life cycle of fleas and ticks themselves. If used regularly, they can stop reproductive cycles in their tracks without harming you and your family, including four-legged family members.
“Clean, clean, clean” is what all experts advise when it comes to proactive actions you can undertake for naturally keeping fleas under control all year round. This is because flea reproductive cycles could last anywhere from two weeks to several months. Cleaning up areas where fleas hide and lay eggs means you are getting at them before they repopulate. Weekly or even daily vacuuming carpets and couch cushions, cleaning all pet bedding on a regular basis, washing and fine-tooth combing your pet and sprinkling natural substances on selected carpeted areas (see below) are all easy actions you can take right now. Remember that female fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day!
#2: Diatomaceous Earth and Fleas
Diatomaceous earth, or DE, is an all-natural substance made of the fossilized remains of ancient creatures called “diatoms.” They are usually sold as a fine powder that can be sprinkled into carpet or lawns. DE is deadly to tiny critters like fleas because it has microscopic sharp edges which make tiny slices in flea exoskeletons, causing dehydration and death.
Although DE is safe for animals and humans, it should not be inhaled, so be sure to wear a mask when applying it to carpet. Also make sure that none of your furry friends (and other little ones) are around when you do it.
Let the DE sit for several hours and then vacuum it up thoroughly. In addition, DE can be a great “dry bath” substance for kitties who are especially leery of water. Just be sure to keep it away from his or her face and use it sparingly.7
It is also important to keep pests at bay in the areas directly outside your home – and you do not need to use harsh chemicals to do it. Nematodes are microorganisms that love to feed on flea larvae. Not so appetizing, we know, but it is a very good thing for preventing baby fleas from entering your home.
Simply mix nematodes into your soil or spray them on your lawn and outside areas. They are harmful to fleas and their offspring but not to outside animals, humans, or pets.8
#4: Essential Oils for Dogs
Cats are often very sensitive to essential oils. For dogs, however, there are dozens of options. Lemon, rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, and citronella are some to experiment with. You can add a few drops to water for a bedding or body spritz.
Mixing with all-natural glycerin is great for a shampoo, and mixing with a neutral oil like jojoba can be ideal for a rub in key spots on the body. Be sure to use just a little bit on you or in a diffuser at first to “test out” how your dog responds to certain scents. Just like humans, dogs will have their preferences – and will be even more vocal about them since their sense of smell is so acute!
Finally, sometimes a little bit of apple cider or white vinegar is just the ticket for spritzing bedding, carpets, and fur. Simply mix equal parts vinegar and water and pour into a sprayer.9 Fleas do not like the smell of it and will stay away from anything that has vinegar residue on it. Vinegar is mild enough for cats as well (if they will stay still for a spritz, that is).
We can all agree that fleas and ticks are unwelcome invaders in our homes. In the face of such annoying pests that could make you and your pet sick, it is easy to react. You don’t have to grab the first chemical solution you see on the shelf to make them go away.
Taking a few moments to know the risks of commercial products and to consider healthy options will help protect the health of your pet, as well as yourself and your family!
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The same chemicals used in flea and tick products are used in agriculture, and can be toxic to your pet.
Imidacloprid has been linked to some cancers, and Fipronil is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA.
The EPA requires manufacturers to list the chemicals in these treatments, but does not prevent them from using harmful or untested chemicals.
5 All-Natural Treatments:
- Diatomaceous Earth
- Essential Oils
Protect your pets by examining ingredients and considering natural alternatives to flea and tick prevention.