Many years ago I applied monthly pesticide treatments on my dogs and cats as recommended by my veterinarian. At the time I thought it was my responsibility as a caring pet owner. I did not think to question why I was told to put on disposable gloves to avoid possible contact with my skin while the solution was being placed directly onto my pets’ skin.
Then one day my golden retriever collapsed to the ground within minutes of the treatment. I carried her to the car and rushed to the emergency vet. She was given intravenous fluids and recovered enough to come home by the end of the day. There was never a diagnosis of the malady that caused her collapse but circumstantial evidence pointed to the topical flea and tick solution. Circumstantial evidence was enough for me to discontinue topical pesticides from that day forward.
The ingredient in the topical treatment I was using on my pets is Fipronil. The World Health Organization has classified Fipronil as a moderately hazardous pesticide. I printed the Material Safety Data Sheet for Frontline Plus For Dogs from the Merial website and found the following:
- “Mixture: consisting of the following components: Firponil Technical, (S)-Methoprene, ethanol”
- “Harmful if in contact with skin”
- “Harmful by inhalation”
- “Harmful if swallowed”
- “Toxic to aquatic organisms”
- “Toxic to bees”
When I was writing a column for our local newspaper I wrote about natural alternatives to Fipronil. After it was published I received a phone call from the legal department of the company promoting Fipronil. They took exception to my suggestions about the potential hazards of their product and demanded a retraction. To my surprise, an unpaid, free-lance writer for a small town newspaper appeared on their radar. The newspaper conceded to print a statement that the product is safe when used according to package directions.
Because I do not have a legal defense fund I will not suggest to you that putting a pesticide on your pet’s skin each month is unhealthy. You can read the Material Safety Data Sheet and form your own conclusions. You can find information about the dangers of pesticides here.
I have found diatomaceous earth and essential oils to be effective in controlling parasites.
Diatomaceous Earth can be added to food to destroy internal parasites and can be rubbed into the coat to kill fleas and ticks. It is also effective in barns as an insecticide and deodorizer. There is a food grade and a commercial grade of D.E. Only food-grade should be used with your pets. The commercial grade is chemically treated for use in swimming pool filters.
An effective bug repellent that is safe for dogs and people can be made with essential oils and olive oil. You will need citronella, rosemary, geranium, and eucalyptus essential oils. Combine two tablespoons of each essential oil with ½ cup of olive oil in a dark glass bottle. Rub a few drops in the palm of your hands and massage it onto your dog’s skin and fur, with particular attention to the belly area, legs, and feet. This formula is approved by the EPA as an insect repellent. I would not recommend using essential oils on cats or small dogs, as they can be sensitive to the strong aroma.
Increased Scrutiny of Flea and Tick Control Products for Pets
The following is an excerpt from the EPA web site:
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is intensifying its evaluation of spot-on pesticide products for flea and tick control due to recent increases in the number of reported adverse reactions in pets treated with these products. Adverse reactions reported range from mild effects such as skin irritation to more serious effects such as seizures and, in some cases, death of the pet.
Flea and tick products can be appropriate treatments for protecting your pets and your family’s health because fleas and ticks can transmit disease. While many people use the products with no harm to their pets, EPA recommends that pet owners take precautions when using these products. People should carefully follow label directions and monitor their pets for any signs of an adverse reaction after application, particularly when using these products for the first time. Also, before use of these products on weak, aged, medicated, sick, pregnant or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to pesticide products, EPA recommends that a veterinarian be consulted. Additional safety tips are available for taking care of fleas and ticks on your pet.
Pets may experience adverse reactions from flea and tick control products, including spot-on treatments, sprays, collars and shampoos. However, the majority of reports to EPA are related to flea and tick treatments with EPA-registered spot-on products. Spot-on products are generally sold in tubes or vials and are applied to one or more localized areas on the body of the pet, such as in between the shoulders or in a stripe along the back. ”
Flea Collar Law Suit
The following article appeared in the June 2009 Pet Age magazine:
“The Natural Resources Defense Council on April 23 filed a lawsuit in California against major pet retailers and manufacturers for illegally selling pet products containing a known cancer-causing chemical called propoxur without proper warning labels.
In a new scientific analysis, the nonprofit NRDC found high levels of propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos, another carcinogenic neurotoxin common in household pet products, on pet fur after the use of ordinary flea collars”
On their web site, NRDC states that children are particularly at risk from pesticides designed to kill fleas and ticks on household pets “because their neurological and metabolic systems are still developing. They are also more likely than adults to put their hands in their mouths after petting an animal, and so are more likely to ingest the hazardous residue.”