What’s Worse, the Fleas or the Chemicals to Kill the Fleas?

Flea Control in the News

What’s a dog to do? The itching . The misery. The fleas! But there are so many options. Your dog can’t really tell you which one he prefers. How can you safely fight fleas?

Pyrethrins not so safe

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking a close look at all kinds of flea and tick control products. The EPA has been reviewing the safety of pyrethroid-based flea products for some time. They ordered some of these products to be phased out and insisted on new labeling for other products. Pyrethrins are the active ingredient in many over-the-counter flea and tick products. They affect the nervous system of the pests on your dog. They may not be as safe as previously thought.

Taking another look

Now there is news that the EPA is also taking a new look at spot-on pesticide treatments, sprays, collars and shampoos. This includes Frontline, Frontline Plus, Advantage, Revolution and other popular topical treatments. Frontline contains fipronil; Advantage contains imidacloprid; and Revolution contains selamectin.

These products have been thought to be safer than the flea control products containing pyrethrins. Topical flea products are generally applied between the shoulders or along the back, in an area where the dog can’t reach to lick the product off. These products are also either absorbed into the skin or into the hair follicles. Again, this means that the dog can’t lick the product off. The active ingredient continues to work for several weeks.

The new EPA notice indicated that they had seen a “recent sharp increase” in reported adverse reactions. Some of the reactions were mild skin irritations but there were also reports of seizures and deaths. One expert indicated that the EPA may be most concerned about less expensive topical flea treatments sold over-the-counter in retail stores and not with products such as Frontline and Advantage, which are usually sold through veterinarians.

This doesn’t mean that you should stop using Frontline and Advantage. If you live in an area where fleas are a serious problem you have to weigh the pros and cons of the various flea treatments, or of letting your dog go untreated for fleas. The chances of your dog having an adverse reaction to a topical flea treatment, especially Frontline, Advantage or another product sold by your vet, are still very small.

All-natural alternatives

If you live in an area where fleas aren’t bad you may want to try an all-natural approach to flea prevention. Try some of these alternatives:

  • An herbal flea collar can help keep fleas away. Remember to wash your hands after handling it because it will likely contain herbs that you shouldn’t ingest.

  • Flea the Scene contains natural ingredients that repel fleas and soothe the skin. It has emollients to moisturize the skin and sunscreen to provide some protection from the sun. This is perfect if you need something to protect your dog when you’re headed to the dog park or the beach. It’s safe for humans, too.
  • Cedar mulch around your house and plants will help keep fleas away.
  • Some people recommend adding garlic and brewer’s yeast to their pet’s diet. Other people think that garlic can contribute to problems with anemia in dogs. Use your best judgment.
  • Add a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water or food each day. Apple cider vinegar is good for all kinds of things and it helps the immune system, too. It seems to make the skin less inviting to fleas.

If you live in an area where fleas are bad each year you don’t have to give up using Frontline or Advantage. The EPA has not said that they are dangerous to use. But it never hurts to look for natural solutions when they will work instead.

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