I’ve always avoided topical flea and tick medications whenever possible. I’m just a little uncomfortable with the idea of putting something on my pet’s body that is so poisonous to fleas and ticks that it will continue to kill them for weeks at a time. It looks like I’m not just over-protective after all: the Environmental Protection Agency has launched a review of the safety of flea and tick topicals, which may even lead to the cancellation of some products.
For my household this is no big deal, since there are relatively few fleas in Colorado, but what should concerned pet parents who depend on topical products for flea and tick control do until the EPA decides which products are and are not safe? There are several alternatives available, with varying degrees of safety and effectiveness. But first, let’s look at:
Why the EPA is investigating liquid flea control products
Although the Environmental Protection Agency said in May that there is no reason to stop using liquid flea and tick control products like Advantix, Frontline, Advantage, Revolution, and others, the agency is investigating these products due to an increase in reports of adverse reactions. Some of these incidents involve the use on cats of a product made for dogs. Cats are sensitive to permethrin, an ingredient often found in flea and tick control products designed for dogs only.
Other reactions may be related to individual pets’ allergies or sensitivities, accidental overdoses, counterfeit products with unsafe ingredients, or new products arriving on the market with possibly inadequate testing. Increased reporting rates likely also have contributed to the spike in adverse reactions reported.
Alternatives to Liquid Flea and Tick Products
If you want to avoid topical flea and tick products until October, when the EPA’s report on the subject is expected, begin by discussing your concerns with your veterinarian. A vetmay be able to provide additional information on the safety of the product you were previously using, as well as the distribution of fleas and ticks in your area. In some parts of the country, fleas are uncommon, so you may be able to simply stop using topical flea and tick control. You’ll need to check your dog thoroughly for ticks after any walks in tall grass, and at least once a week normally.
If you do need to continue to use a flea control product, and if you also give your dog a heartworm preventive, talk to your vet about using Sentinel. This heartworm product also helps to repel and kill fleas. You can also consider natural pest control, including the use of apple cider vinegar, beneficial nematodes in your yard, and food-grade diatomaceous earth. Discuss these methods with a veterinarian familiar with natural and complementary veterinary medicine.
Finally, remember that the best defense against fleas is a clean house, neatly mowed yard, and well-groomed dog. If you bathe your dog regularly and groom him daily, vacuum your house often, and take good care of your lawn, in most areas you’ll have a good chance of staying flea-free.