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Fleas, Ticks, & Mosquitoes

Fleas, ticks, & mosquitoesWhen it comes to fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, many pet owners pull their hair out.  These pesky critters can cause all sorts of problems, and controlling them is important not only for your pet's health, but also for the health of your home environment.  

Let's take a look at the three main offenders, and at what we can do to protect our furry friends:

Check Outside Pets Every Day

If your pet spends a lot of time outdoors, or if you live in an area where fleas, ticks, or mosquitoes are a problem, no matter what pest control solution you use it is important to examine your pet daily.  This is especially so when it comes to ticks.  Even if you are applying some of the harshest chemical solutions on the market (which I strongly recommend against), your pets can still wind up with these little blood suckers embedded in their coat and skin.

First, let's take a look at conventional pest control products and just how dangerous they are for our pets, and then talk about natural and much safer alternatives.

Conventional Pest Control Products

Conventional pest control products used on pets are toxic by their very nature.  They are designed to kill pests because they are pesticides, and when they are applied to a pet's body, these chemicals are then absorbed into their skin.  Continually dosing a pet with small amounts of highly toxic pesticides can and does have health consequences.

"In 2008, over 600 deaths and 44,000 reactions presumed to be tied to spot-on products were reported by pet owners, vets, and other animal caretakers.  This was a significant jump from the already high 28,000 from 2007."

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA intensified its evaluation of flea and tick control products and recently issued an advisory about "spot-on" chemical pesticide products such as Frontline and K9 Advantix.  These are products applied to the neck or back of dogs and cats as a flea and tick preventive.  The advisory was issued due to a significant increase in reported adverse reactions – ranging from mild skin irritation, to seizures and death.  In 2008, over 600 deaths and 44,000 reactions presumed to be tied to spot-on products were reported by pet owners, veterinarians, and other animal caretakers, a significant jump from the already high 28,000 from the previous year.  

If it is toxic on your skin, it is toxic on your pet's skin 

There are many spot-on pest control products on the market, most of which contain toxic chemicals that can poison pets and harm people.  Some ingredients are linked to cancer, allergies, and asthma, and product labels warn that they should not touch human skin (but are considered "fine" to place on a pet's skin...).  

It is clear that the risks of these products are becoming far too great to warrant their continued use, especially considering there are many safer and more natural alternatives.

EPA Report on Spot-On Products (Frontline, K9 Advantix, etc.)

Commercial spot-on products are toxicDue to the EPA's concern over the number of incidents reported from spot-on product use, they issued a report in 2010 revealing:

  • Most incidents occurred in dogs under 3 years old, likely at their first exposure to a spot-on product.
  • Most adverse reactions were seen in dogs weighing between 10 and 20 pounds.
  • Reactions in mixed breed dogs were most commonly reported, however, the Dachshund, Chihuahua, Miniature Poodle, Pomeranian, Maltese, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, and Bichon Frise seem particularly at risk.
  • Products containing cyphenothrin and permethrin were especially problematic for small breed dogs.  Cyphenothrin is found in many spot-on repellents sold both over the counter and through veterinarians.
  • Adverse reactions for both dogs and cats were primarily skin, GI tract, and nervous system related.  Skin reactions included itching, redness, hair loss, sores, and ulcers.  Spot-on products found to cause these types of reactions included a major market leader.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, and salivation.  Spot-on repellents found to cause some levels of these symptoms included another major market leader, whose products have been sold by the millions at major pet store chains across the country.
  • Reported nervous system symptoms included lethargy, nervousness, ataxia (movement problems), tremors, and seizure.
  • A number of serious adverse reactions in cats were the result of the cat either being treated with a product intended for dogs, or through exposure to a treated dog.
  • Inert ingredients in spot-on products were generally assumed to contribute to toxicity.
  • Dosage ranges were considered to be too wide in some cases, and product labeling was identified by the EPA as needing revamping in many cases.  The EPA's Companion Animal Studies guidelines are insufficient to predict the toxicity of spot-on products.

Avoid all products containing toxic ingredients as much as possible.  To check out the ingredients in your flea and tick medication, head on over to the GreenPaws Flea & Tick Products Directory.  Each product listed is categorized by risk level to help you assess their toxicity. 

Natural Alternatives

Both fleas and ticks have several methods of choosing their host, two of these being by odor and taste.  Natural alternatives work by using scents and tastes that make your pet "unattractive" to pests.  If the odor of a pet is not what the flea or tick senses as a "food source" then they will look somewhere else.  Many of the conventional flea and tick medications on the market today use this method to "mask" the odor of your pet by using harmful toxins.

Let's see how we can naturally protect our pets from these annoying (and disease-carrying) pests:

If You Must Use A Chemical Insect Repellent

If, for some reason, you are unable to avoid a chemical pest control agent (such as when visiting an area where there are infestations of pests, or dangerous diseases from pests, such as leishmaniasis in the Mediterranean), please follow these very important steps to reduce the toxic risk to your furry loved one:

  1. Be very careful to follow dosing directions on the label, and if your pet is at the low end of a dosage range, step down to the next lowest dosage.

  2. Be extremely cautious with small dogs.

  3. Carefully monitor your pet for any symptoms or adverse reactions they may have after applying.  The EPA has reported many side effects from spot-on treatments, including listlessness, vomiting, loss of appetite, drooling, seizures, and skin reactions.

  4. Feed a high quality diet to help strengthen their immune system and counter the negative effects of the chemicals.

  5. NEVER apply dog products to a cat.  The adverse reaction could be fatal.

  6. Rotate chemical treatments with natural ones that are proven to be effective.  Consult a Naturopathic vet (or traditional vet that also incorporates a more natural approach to veterinary care) about natural solutions available.



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