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Friday, April 19, 2013

Flea & Tick Control Treatments - Are they safe?

Now that we are moving into the warmer months everyone starts thinking about buying the flea and tick control products and using them on our pets.

Have you ever wondered if these products are safe for your pet?  I do, it is a pesticide so I thought I would do some research on what exactly these products do and are they actually safe.

You can find many brands of flea and tick products at supermarkets, pet supply stores, online retailers, and through your veterinarian. Before you use any of these products on your pets, it is critical to read their labels and consult with your veterinarian. They may contain ingredients that could harm pets and people.

At least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot on treatments with pyrethroids were reported to the EPA over the last five years, according to an analysis of EPA pesticide incident exposure data by the center. The EPA assigns risk levels to all pesticides for their potential dangers to humans and some flea and tick products contain chemicals, specifically permethrins, that are "likely to be carcinogenic to humans."

The center reported that pyrethroid spot-ons also account "for more than half of 'major' pesticide pet reactions reported to EPA over the last five years—that is, those incidents involving serious medical reactions such as brain damage, heart attacks, and violent seizures. In contrast, non-pyrethroid spot on treatments accounted for only about 6 percent of all major incidents."

The Center For Public Integrity's study said pyrethroid-based flea and tick treatments are approved for sale by the EPA, and they are readily available in powders, shampoos, dips, sprays, and other forms, "but they are also linked to thousands of reported pet poisonings, and they have stirred the ire of pet owners, the concern of veterinarians, and the attention of regulatory agencies."

So now that you know the risks you are probably wondering what can I do? What should I look for on the ingredient list?  The following is what you should look for when purchasing this type of product:

Besides pyrethroid-based products, ingredients to be wary of are organophosphate insecticides (OPs) and carbamates, both of which are found in various flea and tick products. The only OP currently found in flea and tick products in the U.S. is tetrachlorvinphos. This chemical is classified by the EPA as being "likely to be carcinogenic to humans." There are questions about the effects of long-term, cumulative exposures as well as combined exposures from the use of other products containing OPs and carbamates. Permethrin is another chemical that the EPA has classified as "likely to be carcinogenic to humans" if ingested orally.

If the ingredient list includes carbaryl or propoxur, the product contains a carbamate. According to the NRDC, the potential dangers posed by these products are greatest for children and pets. Propoxur is considered to be a "probable human carcinogen" by the EPA. As of September 2010, Carbaryl will no longer be permitted for use in new pet products. However, existing stock of flea/tick products containing carbaryl can still be sold. The HSUS recommends that pet products containing carbaryl should be disposed of and not used on pets.

Here is what you can do:
  • Start with chemical-free methods and use chemical treatments only when necessary.
  • Wash pet bedding (and your bedding, too, if your pet sleeps with you) in hot, soapy water.
  • Vacuum often to remove flea eggs, and replace the vacuum bag frequently.
  • Comb your pet daily with a fine-toothed flea comb. Dispose of any fleas you find.
  • If needed, try products made with essential oils of lemongrass, cedarwood, peppermint, rosemary or thyme.
  • If you are getting a new cat, keep it indoors so that fleas and ticks will not be a problem.
  • If non-chemical methods haven't worked, look for lower risk products. Check the label to make sure the product does not contain tetrachlorvinphos or propoxur or any of the other high risk chemicals. Make sure the product is suitable for your pet and follow the instructions carefully. The safest options, according to NRDC, are pill-based flea treatments.
Visit NRDC's http://www.greenpaws.org for a comprehensive list of brand-name products with their chemical ingredients and more information about health risks from pesticides.

I hope this helps in your decision on what to do for your pets.  Whatever you decide to do, make sure you are keeping everyone in your family safe including your furbabies !!!

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