Flea and Tick Treatments

Why I do not use topical flea and tick treatments on my pets.

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 the Clarke Courier 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 also find information on the web site Pesticide.Org

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.

I found the following EPA approved insect repellent receipe in a soap making:  Combine two tablespoons each of citronella, rosemary, geranium, and eucalyptus essential oils with ½ cup of olive oil in a dark glass bottle.  I use a variation of this for my dogs: 1/8 ounce of each essential oil combined with one cup of Tate’s Natural Miracle Conditioner.  The conditioner is non-greasy so there is no oily residue on your dog’s coat.  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. 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.
List of Registered Products
EPA has provided a listing of EPA-registered spot-on flea and tick products [on the EPA web site]. Since the chart previously located on this page reflected only a portion of the numerous pet spot-on products available, EPA felt that pet owners and consumers might be led to believe that only those products listed were the focus of concern. In fact, EPA is intensifying its evaluation of all spot-on products and is providing a more comprehensive list of these products.
EPA is not initiating a product recall of these products nor is the Agency suggesting that the products not be used. EPA recognizes the importance of the products in effective flea and tick control. EPA’s objective at this stage is simply to advise consumers and pet owners to exercise caution when using the products and to monitor pet behavior following their use, as some animals have experienced adverse reactions following treatment.
Regulatory Agencies are Taking Action
EPA is evaluating all available data and information, including:
? reports of adverse reactions,
? product market share,
? clarity of product use directions and label warnings,
? product ingredients, and
? pre-market safety data submitted to the Agency in support of registration of these products
This assessment may result in EPA action to require changes in the registration status of certain spot-on products. EPA will be working collaboratively with Health Canada to address this issue, as Canadian regulatory officials have identified similar concerns about the use of spot-on flea and tick products. EPA intends to update this page periodically to provide the public with the most current information on this issue.
For more information, please visit EPA’s Pesticides Q&A database. ”

Visit the EPA web site here

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.”

Food for Thought

If you feed yourself or your pets food that is processed and pre-packaged, it is important to read the labels so you can make an informed decision. Packaging and buzzwords can be deceiving. Look beyond the marketing ploys and read the ingredient list so you can make a healthful decision. Words like “healthy,” “natural”, “nutritious,” and “made with organic ingredients” do not tell you anything about the actual quality or nutritional value.

Pet Food

Ingredients are listed by weight so you should not assume a pet food with meat as the first ingredient is good quality. Fresh meat can be 70% water and heavy so a very small amount can put it at the top of the ingredient list. If you find a food with chicken as the first ingredient and byproduct meal as the second, there are actually more byproducts than chicken in the food. By contrast, a food with chicken meal as a first ingredient followed by chicken, vegetables and good quality grains is a healthier choice.

(Although you will find a variety of high quality dry and canned pet foods at our Midas Touch store, I highly recommend a diet of fresh foods for dogs and cats. My own crew of 5 golden retrievers, Gustof the German Shepherd and 7 cats eat Primal and Aunt Jeni’s raw food, The Honest Kitchen and Sojos dehydrated foods, and fresh meat and bones.)

I purchased a bag of Purina Beneful from the grocery store to take a look at the ingredients. The label reads:


Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product mealcorn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat, preserved with mixed-tocopherols (from Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, sugarpropylene glycol, meat and bone meal, tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, salt, water, animal digest, sorbic acid, potassium chloride, dried carrots, dried peas, calcium propionate, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2), DL-Methionine, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, Menadione sodium bisulfite complex, calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.

The ingredients I do not like to see in a dog food include:

Ground Yellow Corn  Since this is listed as the first ingredient on the label there is more corn than meat in this product. A dog is a member of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, foxes, and coyotes. Members of the Canidae family are carnivores. The definition of carnivore in the Webster dictionary is: an order of Mammallia “adapted by their structure to feed upon flesh. The teeth are large and sharp, suitable for cutting flesh.” Animals adapted to eating corn have large flat teeth.

Chicken by-product meal – is defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials as “the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers.” On The Animal Feed Resource Information Systems web site I found the following statement, “This meal is a combination of all poultry by-products processed together in the same proportions as they occur in the processing plant. Composition can be quite variable for plant to plant and batch to batch, depending upon what is being included.”

Sugar – In her book, “Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats” Kymythy Schultze writes, “Cancer cells thrive on sugars.” “Sugar is addictive, damages the pancreas, and drains vitamins and minerals from the body. It is implicated in hypoglycemia, diabetes, obesity, behavior problems, cataracts, tooth decay, arthritis, allergies and cancer. Yeast also thrives on sugar. In a 1993 study, unhealthy candida yeast overgrowth was 200 times greater in animals receiving dextrose than in control groups that did not receive the sugar.”

Propylene glycol – is a synthetic chemical produced from propylene oxide. In their propylene oxide storage and handling guide, Dow Chemical states, “The second largest use of propylene oxide is the production of propylene glycol and lesser amounts of co-produced dipropylene glycol and higher propylene glycols. Propylene glycol is one of the most widely used synthetic chemicals, finding its way into such diverse applications as the manufacture of thermoset polyesters for building boats, home construction components, additives for human and animal foods, and pharmaceutical excipients. It is also a primary ingredient in cosmetics and laundry detergents.”

Propylene glycol is not approved for use in cat food because it affects the red blood cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that propylene glycol in or on cat food has not been shown by adequate scientific data to be safe for use. Use of propylene glycol in or on cat food causes the feed to be adulterated and in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. 21CFR589.1001. (But it can be in our food and our dog’s food!)

Animal Digest  is defined by AAFCO as “material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably.” The source of the animal tissue does not need to be identified.

Added Color  These are chemicals added to make the dog food more attractive to the buyer. They have no nutritional value and the continual consumption of these chemicals may have adverse affects on your dog. Yellow 5 has been demonstrated to provoke an allergic reaction in some people and there are FDA regulations that require all prescription medications to post a notice if they are formulated with Yellow 5.

As you can see by the label, Beneful contains very little meat. Since meat is the most expensive ingredient, this food can be sold for less and looks like a bargain to the consumer at about $1.71 per pound. But be prepared for the possibility of spending more on medical care. A dog fed a steady diet of corn, wheat, sugar, chemicals and meat by-products will not be in optimal health. Maladies you may have to deal with as a result of a poor diet include excessive shedding and itching, rashes, ear infections, hot spots, diabetes, and behavior issues.

By contrast, a dog food with higher meat content and less artificial ingredients will cost more. Below are the ingredients listed on a bag of Evo dog food that sells for about $2.26 per pound:

Turkey, Chicken, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Potato, Herring Meal, Chicken Fat, Natural Flavors, Eggs, Apples, Tomatoes, Potassium Chloride, Carrots, Vitamins, Garlic, Cottage Cheese, Minerals, Alfalfa Sprouts, Ascorbic Acid, Dried Chicory Root, Direct-Fed Microbials, Vitamin E Supplement, Lecithin, Rosemary Extract.

There is not one pet food that will be ideal for all dogs and all cats. Individual animals have individual needs and they depend upon you to make the best choices for them. Keep in mind that dogs and cats are carnivores. Read the labels and choose the best foods your budget will allow. And here is something you won’t see on a pet food label – – – variety is good! Please don’t feed your pet the same processed food every day of his life. Rotate between at least three different brands of food – share the leftover meat and vegetables from your dinner – add egg yolks, plain yogurt, sardines and other healthy real food to his meal – mix it up a bit and keep things interesting!

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