RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it would be reviewing the safety of liquid flea and tick products due to mounting reports of illnesses in dogs and cats, including seizures, irritation, and hair loss, among others. Cats are particularly vulnerable to insecticides, and also fall ill when exposed to chemicals used in dog treatments. “Just a few drops of concentrated permethrin, present in many spot-on treatments designed for dogs, can be lethal to cats,” says Steven Hansen, DVM, ASPCA veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president of animal health services.
These spot-on solutions, typically applied between the pet’s shoulder blades or along their spine, are pesticides that do effectively keep fleas and ticks at bay, but could have unwanted side effects. A recent EPA study also found that many of the pesticides used in the products turn up in household dust. Natural Resources Defense Council says many of these neurotoxin flea and tick chemicals are potentially dangerous to not only our pets, but also to developing children who come into direct contact with the pesticide after it’s applied to a pet, or inhale or ingest the contaminated household dust, particularly when crawling on the floor.
Keeping ticks away from your animals is a worthy goal, though. Depending on the type of tick latching on to your pet (or you), it could carry diseases like Lyme disease (the fastest-growing infectious disease in the country), bartonella, or other co-infections. Here’s how to deal with ticks on your dog without using questionable pesticides. Even if you choose to use a chemical repellent on your dog, you can still use these tactics for extra safety. (Cats tend to groom themselves more meticulously, ridding themselves of ticks more easily without human help—plus, many animal advocates suggest they be kept indoors, for their own safety and to prevent predation of local birds.)