Toxic flea and tick products are poisoning our pets

Pick your poison

Summer is here and that means fleas, ticks, hot spots and the problem of how to rid our pets of these nasty bloodsucking, disease-laden parasites. The dilemma lies in the fact that most flea and tick products themselves are nasty, chemical-laden toxins. The most recommended flea and tick products—Frontline, Advantage, and Revolution—are made with chemicals that are toxic to our pets. Frontline is a class C carcinogen and works systemically entering the animal’s bloodstream. Advantage and Revolution stay in the subcutaneous (skin) layers and are less invasive but still somewhat so, and toxic. Fipronil, selamectin, and imadocloprid are the chemical agents in these spot-on products and are also found in shampoos and sprays.

The U.S. EPA pressures the FDA to increase the safety of toxic spot-on flea and tick products for our pets.

With reported cases of skin allergies, auto-immune disorders, and even cancer and death caused by flea and tick products, the EPA is seeking to increase the standards for their quality control and safety. Many products are also toxic to aquatic life, sickening fish and wildlife who live in or drink from polluted streams and rivers.

The drug companies studied these products on rats and mice but typically for only three to six months with no longitudinal studies looking for long-term effects. It’s possible that these products may very well be a contributing factor in so many new diseases in our pets now that we did not see years ago.

Not only are we poisoning our pets and the environment, we are jeopardizing the health of our own families in order to solve a problem that is very easily managed by natural and non-toxic alternatives. You can care for your pets, family and the environment in a healthier way.

Natural—or naturally poisonous?

Natural, regrettably does not necessarily mean non-toxic: When it comes to flea and tick control almost all of “natural” products are harmful to you, your children, your pets and the environment. Natural products are suspect for two reasons. In some cases, a natural plant-derived component is combined with toxic chemicals to create the end product. In other cases, the plant-derived component is itself toxic to animals though it might be safe for humans. Some wonderful essential oils are highly toxic to cats: Tea tree and pennyroyal oils, for example can cause severe allergic and/or toxic reactions. Toxic pyrethrin is an insecticide that comes from chrysanthemum and d-Limonene from citrus. When we use these products a toxic chain of events is set in motion. Our pets’ immune systems are depressed. Fleas and ticks develop an increased resistance to these products which then have to be made stronger in order to work escalating the ripple effect of toxic pollution to our precious loved ones and Mother Earth.

Please don’t be fooled by the word “natural”. It is nothing more than a brilliant advertising scheme. Consider the following statements found on the labels of so-called natural and safe flea and tick control products.

“Avoid contact with skin.”

“Harmful or fatal if swallowed.”

“This product is toxic to fish, birds and other wildlife.”

“Harmful if absorbed through skin.”

“Harmful if inhaled.”

“Avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing.”

“Keep out of reach from children.”

Does this sound like something you want to put on your pets who then get stroked, loved, brushed and cuddled by your loved ones?

A healthy pet has a healthy immune system and a healthy immune system is not as tasty to fleas and ticks. If we start by feeding our pets healthy foods and manage our home in a safe, environmentally friendly way we can keep our animals, children and planet free from these nasty chemicals.

Managing fleas in your home

Our inside home environment is probably the best breeding ground for fleas which lay their eggs in carpets, rugs, and some furniture. Boric acid is a non-toxic powder that kills the fleas and larvae. This treatment is completely safe and lasts one full year. Flea Stoppers and Fleabusters are two common easy to find boric acid flea powder products and can be found online or in select pet stores. You can administer these yourself or have it professionally done.

Pets get the spa treatment

Managing our pets at the same time that we manage our home environment is crucial. After reducing the flea population in our homes, taking care of our pets gets easier and easier. Use a flea comb daily. Pull the little jumpers off the comb and put them into a bowl of water to drown while you work. (It’s very satisfying.) Bathe your animals with a non-toxic shampoo, massaging the soap through the fur for 10 minutes to make sure fleas have drowned. The massage makes bathing much more enjoyable for both of you. Cats on the other hand are more difficult to bathe but often love being combed frequently. Bare in mind that fleas are sneaky little blood suckers and will scurry around to his back while you’re combing his stomach. Be thorough, comb the whole animal, and keep an eye out for renegades.

Fleas also live outside in the grass. If taking care of your house and animals doesn’t stop the problem, it might be time to add nematodes to your lawn. These microscopic worms eat flea larvae in the grass, killing them naturally. Nematodes are safe for the outdoor environment, for your pets and your family—and are very easy to apply. Find them at your local gardener supply or online at

Managing your home environment is easier than you think. It’s so much healthier for you and yours, too, that the thought of putting chemicals on your pets will be a thing of the past. I know sometimes it seems as though putting a few drops of something on your pets once a month is the most convenient and effective way to treat the flea and tick situation, but once you realize what the cost of using these products truly is, you may become a convert.

Hot Spots

Hot spots are an allergic reaction to fleas and occur when your dog licks himself so much that the skin develops a bacterial infection. If you are diligent in your efforts to manage your home and your pet your efforts will pay off tremendously. Sometimes though, hot spots happen, and can easily get out of control. The saliva in the dog’s hair creates a moist environment ripe for bacterial growth. You’ll want to shave or cut the hair around the hot spot, clean it with hydrogen peroxide and then let the air do the healing. It will heal naturally without a trip to the vet for medication. The most common medical treatment for hot spots is a steroid, which only further debilitates the health of your pets.

With a bit of knowledge and effort on our part, we can help our pets live longer and healthier lives, keep our families safe, and contribute to a healthier environment.