Spot-on flea and tick products
cause of many health problems
CANINE Kingdom, a website devoted to evaluating dog products and the wellbeing of dogs, was among the first to question the equivocating posture of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about topical treatments for fleas and ticks. In Canine Kingdom’s blog A Nose for News, award-winning journalist Marilyn Wilson first asked why the EPA had removed from its website a list of topical flea and tick medications believed to be linked to 44,000 registered adverse reactions among pets in the USA. “Could manufacturers have strong-armed the EPA to remove the list? Is the EPA allowing the companies time to ‘get their ducks in a row'? Could this be another Menu Foods scandal? Will the EPA fumble the ball as the FDA did with pet food just two years ago?” Wilson asked.
The 44,000 adverse reactions represent double the number reported from the year before, and range in severity from skin irritation to seizures and, in 1300 instances, severe reactions and fatalities. Wilson, who had planned to use one of the named treatments on her two dogs before the initial list was disclosed, urged pet parents to be cautious and to report any adverse effects immediately. Friends and bloggers responded quickly to A Nose for News. One wrote, “I was going to use one of these products on my K9, but now I am going with something less toxic and poison free, for the sake and health of my whole family … you are definitely in the know, Marilyn, I’d be lost without you.”
The EPA has since relisted the suspect products on its website and issued a cautionary advisory. A Nose for News has provided a link to the product warnings as well as a recipe for a lemon lotion that is a safe and effective treatment for fleas and ticks.
“It is the mission of Canine Kingdom to keep pet parents in the know about the problems and dangers of pet products, and conversely the best pet products and practices to use,” says Canine Kingdom founder Mary Beth Close. “Millions of unsuspecting pet parents are using these products right now. Since some of the spot-on treatment products have been around for years, we know that pet parents may have a difficult time believing they are not safe, but it is crucial that they get the information about this critical health alert. The lotion recipe and the latest on the controversy are available at www.caninekingdom.com.
List of registered products
EPA has provided a listing of EPA-registered spot-on flea and tick products at: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/flea-tick-control.html. 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. It is, however, evaluating all available data and information, including reports of adverse reactions, product market share, clarity of product use directions and label warnings, ingredients, and safety data submitted to the Agency in support of registration of these products. This may result in changes in the registration status of certain spot-on products.
Recently EPA added the following to the website - "Safety tips for pet owners: Consult your veterinarian before using spot-on products on weak, aged, medicated, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to pesticide products".
If you use a spot-on product or any other pesticide on your pet, carefully read and follow the product label. Use flea and tick control products only on the animal specified by the product label. Apply only the amount indicated for the size of the animal being treated. Do not apply to kittens or puppies unless the product label specifically allows this treatment. Pay attention to the age restrictions for puppies and kittens on the label.
Monitor your pet for side effects or signs of sensitivity after applying the product, particularly when using the product on your pet for the first time. Do not apply spot-ons to pets known to be sensitive to pesticide products. If your pet experiences an adverse reaction, immediately bathe the pet with mild soap and rinse with large amounts of water. Keep the package with the product container (such as individual applicator tubes). Also keep the package after treatment in case adverse effects occur. You will want to have the instructions at hand, as well as contact information for the manufacturer.
Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are a serious health concern. Fleas can cause allergic reactions and can be difficult to control if they infest your home and yard. Ticks may carry many different pathogens which can be fatal to humans and pets alike. Mosquitoes can spread heartworm to your pets and are known to be a vector for diseases like West Nile and malaria.
So how do you protect pets without harming them? There are numerous so-called natural products, but because a product is natural it does not necessarily mean it is safe. Following is a safe alternative:
Here is a paraphrased version of Juliette De Bairacli Levy’s lemon lotion for fleas, lice and ticks, from her 1955 book The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog & Cat:
1) Pop lemon (or lime or grapefruit) halves into a container, glass or ceramic preferably. For a gallon jar, you will need at least 24 lemon halves and enough water to fill the container. It’s not necessary to use whole new lemons - you can save used lemon skins.
2) Cover the jar with a porous paper - I use a coffee filter. Place the jar with lemons and water in the sun or, alternatively, place the lemons in the container, then pour hot water over them. This is similar to tea preparation.
3) Wait until the lemons turn black and mouldy. At that point, squeeze the mouldy lemons out into the container and discard. Strain the lemon lotion into a spray bottle. Place fresh lemons into the jar with the remaining liquid, cover with water to replenish your supply of lemon lotion. Repeat the waiting period.
5) For a stronger lotion, you can add the juice from two fresh lemons for every quart of liquid.
6) Spray your dog each morning. I use a cotton work glove allocated for this purpose only and stored in a baggy to reach the underbelly, and to rub into facial areas and ears. Don't forget to treat the toes and under the tail.
The author also advises rubbing a few drops of spirit of eucalyptus into the coats of dogs that spend more time outdoors, on the top of the head, under the brisket and above the paws and on the lower legs. This is NOT advisable for homes with cats.
No repellant is 100percent effective, including harsh insecticides like DEET. Lemon lotion advocates have reported the occasional presence of ticks on their dogs but no more than when they used the topical chemical spot-on products.