I keep my ear to the ground.
I also have a senior dog who is prone to…well, anything.
Ask our vet and he will tell you that IF there is a side effect that can happen, it will happen to Jet.
This is likely why I wasn’t too surprised when, out of the blue, Jet’s fur fell out as a result of his flea and tick preventative.
Since then, we haven’t used a commercial flea and tick preventative…but is flea and tick medication really poison? Are those scary rumors true? Or was Jet’s reaction a “fluke”?
Let’s start by taking a look at the medication ingredients in various types of flea and tick preventative medications. If anything is toxic or poisonous in flea and tick medications, we will find it when we look at the ingredients in these products. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether you feel safe using these ingredients on your pet.
Flea and Tick Preventative Ingredients
Fipronil is a broad use insecticide and is found in a range of insect-control products. Fipronil kills insects through binding to nerve endings and disrupting central nervous system function. Fipronil has been classified as a possible human carcinogen to human beings and has proven to be toxic to freshwater and ocean fish, freshwater and ocean invertebrates, some birds, and honeybees. In testing on lab rats, fipronil has shown to cause seizures, thyroid tumors, and death.
Flea and tick preventatives that include fipronil include Frontline® Plus, FiproGuardTM, PetArmor®, PetArmor® Plus for Dogs, Sentry® FiproGuard® Plus for Dogs, Frontline® Spray, and FiproGuard Flea & Tick Spray.
(S)-methoprene is added to insecticide products because it mimics insect hormones and influences the growth and life cycle of insects rendering them unable to reproduce among other things. Although not believed to contribute to cancer, studies have shown it to be moderately toxic to some fish and crustaceans, and highly toxic to other fish and invertebrates. (S)-methoprene has shown to have some influence on the reproductive health of laboratory rats including low weight gain during pregnancy and smaller litters. No studies have been done in the effects of (S)-methoprene on human reproduction.
Flea and tick preventatives that include (S)-methoprene include Frontline® Plus, FiproGuardTM, PetArmor®, PetArmor® Plus for Dogs, Sentry® FiproGuard® Plus for Dogs, Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spray and Shampoo, and Bio Spot® ACTIVE CARE Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs.
Imidacloprid is an insecticide that was created to mimic nicotine because it is toxic to insects. Imidacloprid is added to flea and tick preventatives because it is effective at controlling fleas. Imidacloprid works through interrupting nerve signals and disrupting central nervous system function. While Imidacloprid has not been classified as a potential carcinogen, it has been shown to influence reproductive health in laboratory rats. When ingested, Imidacloprid caused a reduction in fetal bone growth in rats. No studies have researched the effect of Imidacloprid on human reproductive health at this time. Humans and pets, however, have shown skin irritation due to topical Imidacloprid exposure. Pets that have ingested Imidacloprid have exhibited drooling, tremors, lethargy, lameness, and vomiting.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Imidacloprid include K9 Advantix® II, Advantage® II, and Seresto® Flea & Tick Collars.
IGR pyriproxyfen is an “insect growth regulator,” hence the use of “IGR” before the name. Through mimicking natural insect hormones, IGR pyriproxyfen affects the growth and life cycle of insects and, among other things, prevents younger insects from maturing and influences eggs. IGR pyriproxyfen has not been classified as a likely carcinogen, however, in animal studies, it has been shown to pass from mother to young through breast milk and in utero. This is important to note because, while not terribly toxic to adults, infants are more likely to experience symptoms of IGR pyriproxyfen toxicity. Symptoms of IGR pyriproxyfen exposure in animals include lethargy, slowed weight gain, diarrhea, vomiting, labored breathing, uncontrolled urination, loss of muscle control, and labored breathing.
Flea and tick preventatives that include IGR pyriproxyfen include K9 Advantix® II, Advantage® II, and Bio Spot® ACTIVE CARE SPOT ON®.
Permethrin is a broad-spectrum insecticide that works by interrupting the central nervous system function of insects causing muscle spasms, paralysis, and death. The EPA has classified permethrin as a likely carcinogen to humans if ingested. Research has shown that ingestion of Permethrin in dogs and mice resulted in skin irritation, tremors, hormonal changes, and increased liver weight. Research has also shown no significant impact of Permethrin on pregnancy in humans, but when fed to pregnant rats and rabbits, Permethrin caused increased miscarriage, misdevelopment of ribs, and reduced weight gain during pregnancy. Permethrin is highly toxic to saltwater and freshwater animals and fish, highly toxic to bees, and minimally toxic to birds.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Permethrin include K9 Advantix® II.
Etofenprox is a broad-spectrum insecticide that works by interrupting the central nervous system function of insects. Etofenprox has been labeled as not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Research has shown Etofenprox to be highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and fish, but not birds. Symptoms of overexposure to Etofenprox include skin irritation, tremors, lethargy, excessive salivation, trouble breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, depressed respiration, liver toxicity, and disorientation.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Etofenprox include Bio Spot® ACTIVE CARE SPOT ON®, Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spray and Shampoo, and Bio Spot® ACTIVE CARE Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs.
Piperonyl butoxide is added to pesticidal products to enhance the effectiveness of other pesticidal ingredients. Piperonyl butoxide works by preventing insects from breaking down pesticidal ingredients before they can be effective. Piperonyl butoxide also speeds up the timeframe in which pesticides work to kill off insects. Piperonyl butoxide is moderately toxic to fish and highly toxic to other aquatic creatures. The EPA has classified Piperonyl butoxide as a class C carcinogen. Research has shown that Piperonyl butoxide exposure in laboratory animals (rats, rabbits, and dogs) can cause skin irritation, eye irritation, and high levels of ingestion can lead to death. Laboratory animals have also exhibited an increased incidence of liver tumors in mice upon ingestion of Piperonyl butoxide.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Piperonyl butoxide include Bio Spot® ACTIVE CARE SPOT ON®, Spectra SHIELDTM Flea & Tick Collar Attached Medallion, Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spray and Shampoo, Bio Spot® ACTIVE CARE Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs, and Flys Off® Mist.
N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide
N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide is added to pesticidal products to enhance the effectiveness of other pesticidal ingredients. N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide is listed as a class C possible carcinogen by the EPA. N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide is toxic to fish and water dwelling invertebrates. Research has shown that overexposure (mostly by way of consumption) in animals to N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide can cause depression of the nervous system, increased liver weight, tremors, decreased body temperature, decreased motor activity, liver cancer, and death.
Flea and tick preventatives that include N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide include Bio Spot® ACTIVE CARE SPOT ON®.
Flumethrin is a pesticide that works by interrupting the central nervous system function of insects. Flumethrin is listed by the EPA as not being likely to be a carcinogen. Flumethrin is extremely toxic to fish and aquatic life, but it is not toxic to birds. Research found that dogs in research laboratories experienced skin lesions after consuming Flumethrin. Toxic exposure to Flumethrin in animals results in tremor, uncoordinated movements, lethargy, drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, and urinary incontinence. Extreme overexposure to Flumethrin in animals can result in disorientation, difficulty breathing, decreased body temperature and spasming.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Flumethrin include Seresto® Flea & Tick Collars.
Amitraz is a pesticide that works by interrupting the central nervous system function of insects. Amitraz is listed as a class C possible human carcinogen by the EPA. Amitraz is extremely toxic to fish and aquatic animal life, and many instances of Amitraz poisoning have been noted in dogs and cats. Research has shown that Amitraz can cause skin irritation when the skin is exposed and decreased blood pressure, decreased heart rate, decreased body temperature, reduced birth weight in offspring, and increased eye defects in offspring.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Amitraz include Preventic Tick Collar.
Deltamethrin is a broad-spectrum insecticide that works by interrupting the central nervous system function of insects. Deltamethrin is used in a wide range of pest control products such as those used on lawns, in agriculture, and in pet pest protection products. Deltamethrin has been classified by the EPA as not being likely to cause cancer. Deltamethrin ranges in toxicity from medium to high toxicity in fish and under laboratory testing, it proved extremely toxic to honeybees as well. Human exposure to Deltamethrin can result in skin burning or irritation, headaches, vomiting, nausea, muscle twitching, and abdominal pain. Dogs that have eaten, breathed in, or touched Deltamethrin have been seen to experience a lack of coordination, drooling, vomiting, and muscle twitching.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Deltamethrin include Scalibor® Protector Band.
Zeta-cypermethrin is a broad-spectrum insecticide that works by interrupting the central nervous system function of insects. Zeta-cypermethrin is listed as a class C possible carcinogen by the EPA, labeled as a possible disruptor of the endocrine system, and classified as class Ib, or highly hazardous by the World Health Organization. Zeta-cypermethrin is highly toxic to fish, water-dwelling creatures, and honeybees. In laboratory studies, Zeta-cypermethrin ingestion caused an increase of non-cancerous tumors in the lungs of female mice. Further lab testing showed cockroaches exposed to small doses of Zeta-cypermethrin experienced paralysis, restlessness, and a lack of coordination. Mice exposed to small doses of Zeta-cypermethrin exhibit salivation, writhing, and convulsions. Rats exposed to small amounts of Zeta-cypermethrin experienced seizures, tremors, writhing, and salivation.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Zeta-cypermethrin include Spectra SHIELDTM Flea & Tick Collar Attached Medallion.
Nitenpyram is an insecticide that targets the central nervous system of insects causing overstimulation which leads to paralysis and death. Nitenpyram is toxic on low levels to fish, aquatic invertebrates, and birds. Nitenpyram is not currently classified by the EPA and no long-term studies have been conducted on the toxicity of Nitenpyram to pets. Toxicity of Nitenpyram to humans has been listed as low. Symptoms noted in poisoning by Nitenpyram include convulsions, lethargy, tremor, unstable gait, difficulty breathing, fatigue, vomiting, salivation, and cramping.
Flea and tick preventatives that include Nitenpyram include Capstar® Tablets and Sentry Capguard™ (Nitenpyram) for Dogs.
So What Does This Mean?
If all of these commercially available flea and tick treatments contain potentially carcinogenic or dangerous ingredients, should we really be using them?
First, it should be noted that a product that contains a dangerous substance is not inherently dangerous itself since dangerous ingredients can be neutralized by other ingredients in the product. With that said, I personally don’t trust them.
With that said, I personally don’t trust them. I will not knowingly put these substances on my boy even if they are “neutralized” by other ingredients in the product.
So, does this mean that you shouldn’t treat your dogs for fleas and ticks? NO!
Fleas and ticks carry a range of diseases that can affect both you and your pet. Some of these include Lyme disease, Bartonella, ehrlichiosis, rocky mountain spotted fever, typhus, tick bite fever, flea-borne spotted fever, meningoencephalitis, and tapeworms.
But what options do you have if you choose not to use commercial products?
- Organic and all natural commercial pest repellents for dogs (Try Natural Pet Spray or Natural Pet Shampoo
- Keep fleas away by rubbing your dog down with FRESH orange or lemon juice (NEVER use citrus extracts or oils)
- Make an all-natural flea spray of your own for your dog (1 cup white distilled vinegar , 1 quart fresh water, 2-3 drops of lavender oil in a spray bottle, to be misted on your pet before going outside.)
- Put a drop of rose geranium oil on your dog’s collar (DO NOT use this for cats or on your dog if you have cats EVER)
- Food grade diatomaceous earth can be rubbed through your dog’s coat as a means of eliminating existing flea infestations.
- Coconut oil makes a great repellent spray as well, boil 1/2c of coconut oil with 1c water in a saucepan, let it cool and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray your dog before any trip out! If you already have a flea infestation, try rubbing your dog down with coconut oil and they’ll jump right off.
I’m not encouraging you to stop using commercial flea and tick repellants, that is your choice, but know that if you choose not to use them anymore, there are other options. Just be sure that whatever you choose to do, you protect your pup at all times!