The Truth About Flea & Tick Treatments & The Natural Alternative

The following is an article by Maine Golden Retriever Assoc. president, Amy Herbert. She discusses the safety issues inherent in using  some of the tick and flea products currently on the market and offers viable alternatives. 

The Truth About Flea & Tick Treatments & The Natural Alternative

How many times have you gone to the vet or pet store to purchase spot on flea/tick treatments and had someone tell you that there are side effects and it is not 100% safe?  Most likely, NEVER.  Most veterinarians and pet supply stores tell everyone that these products are safe to use on puppies, pregnant, nursing, and geriatric dogs, but the precautionary statements on the products themselves tell otherwise. 

Now I’m not saying that you should never use these products on your animals, but you need to know all the facts prior to using them so that you can make a conscious decision regarding your animals and families health.  I can’t tell you how many friends of mine use these products and when asked if they had read the precautions on the package, they said no.  Below are the ingredients common in spot on treatments, their side effects and classifications set forth by the FDA, EPA, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, US Dept. of Labor, Extension Toxicology Network, Journal of Pesticide Reform and Pesticide Action Network. 

Now let me explain what Active and Inert ingredients are so that you understand the classification.  Active ingredients only make up a small % of the product and are tested and approved by the EPA prior to being marketed.  Testing consists of high doses given to lab mice, rats, dogs and cats for a short period of time and then the animal is euthanized and its body is examined to determine side effects.  Inert ingredients make up between 85-99% of products and undergo very little testing by the EPA because they are not considered the main ingredient and companies are not required to disclose what these ingredients are because they are trade secrets.  Yet these inert ingredients are also dangerous.  Interesting to say the least.

Chemical                                    Type of Ingredient                  Side Effects                                                                                         

Fipronil                                                      Active                                                         thyroid cancer, human carcinogen, organ damage, neurotoxin causing nervous system damage, reduced fertility, decreased litter size and weights, fetus mortality, skin problems including ulcers, itching, hair loss and burns.                 

Imidacloprid                                    Active                                                      carcinogen in dogs, organ damage, incoordination, labored breathing, muscle weakness, increased miscarriages

Methoprene                                    Active                                                      liver enlargement, headaches, eye and throat irritation, difficulty breathing, confusion, dizziness and nausea in humans

Permethrin                                    Active                                                      liver and lung tumors, possible human carcinogen, kidney enlargement, lung changes, tremors, elevated body temp, increased aggressive behavior, fertility affected, bone marrow changes in laboratory animals

Pyriproxyfen                                    Active                                                      reduced weight gain, toxicity to pups

Ethanol                                                      Inert                                                      adverse effects on fetus

Butylhydroxanisole                  Inert                                                      animal carcinogen and possible human carcinogen

Butyldydroxytoluene                  Inert                                                      animal carcinogen and possible human carcinogen                 

Carbitol                                    Inert                                                      headache, depression, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pathological lesions in brain, lungs, liver menni, pulmonary edema, intravascular hemolysis and bone marrow depression

Polyvinlpyrrolidone                  Inert                                                      not evaluated by EPA for carcinogenic

So to sum it up the EPA considers these side effects safe for use on our pets and around our children.  Now I don’t know about you but I’m not ok with this so I have chosen to take a more natural approach to protect my pets and children from fleas, ticks and all biting insects. 

Orally I give my dogs garlic powder on every meal year round and during the summer months I give them Black or Green Walnut Hull liquid on their food once per day.  The garlic permeates through the skin to deter insects from coming close while the black walnut hull causes the animal’s blood to taste very bitter to insects so they stop biting.

Topically I put Sentry Natural Flea & Tick Spot on treatment once per month (contains only natural ingredients); I spray each dog down once per day with one of the following sprays, cedar oil, neem oil, flee flea, or sentry natural flea spray (I rotate between all of these to prevent resistance); I also rotate the sprays with Diatomaceous Earth (DE) which is a powder that I rub into the dogs coat.  Each evening I firmly brush each dog to disrupt any ticks or fleas that may have gotten on them.

Around my home I spread DE under crates, baseboards, beds, couches and any corners that insects may hide.  DE ruins an insect’s outer oily shell so that it dehydrates and dies after coming in contact with DE powder.  DE is very dusty when you are spreading it, so make sure rooms are well venalated while you are putting it down and unsure that no kids or animals are around until the dust settles.  I also spread DE in my play yards and kennel runs.  Cedar oil can be sprayed around your home on carpets, furniture and outside in the yard.  I also use cedar oil on my children and myself as a bug repellant.  Gardens Alive makes a product that is mixed with water and then sprayed around your home inside and out to kill and prevent flea infestations.  It is safe for dogs and children after it dries so spray it and wait an hour before letting anyone or thing go on that area.

I stopped using regular spot on treatments and sprays containing pesticides and dangerous chemicals over 5 years ago and I will never turn back because I truly believe that these products used long term are killing our animals and causing harm to our children that happen to come in contact with the product.  My advice to everyone is to read labels and warnings (if a product says keep away from children and don’t allow contact with skin, should we really be using it on our pets?), understand pros and cons of using the product and make informed decisions. 

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