Each year, millions of Americans purchase and apply to their pets a vast array of toxic chemicals intended to kill fleas and ticks. These include collars, sprays, dusts and more. Other pet owners take their pets to veterinarians to be dipped in chemicals. Many consumers assume that the products they and their vets use have been subjected to rigorous testing, and must be safe. After all, how could the government let deadly poisons be sold on grocery store shelves without applying stringent standards?
Flea and tick shampoos and dips contain ingredients that can be extremely dangerous to pets, children and adults who work with these shampoos and dips. High exposure to flea dip can lead to massive cell death in the kidneys, lungs, thymus, and heart. Labels may warn not to get these substances on your skin, to wash your hands after applying it, and to keep it away from children, yet these chemicals are absorbed by your pet’s skin.
And a pesticide collar is nothing but a poison necklace around your pet’s head. It emits a constant toxic cloud that your pet inhales, and so do you, every time you hug your pet.
There are many different highly toxic and harmful chemicals and combinations of chemicals found in all the brands of flea dips.
Some of the harmful chemicals include:
All of the above have caused serious health problems in animals in laboratories. Here are some of the effects of exposure to some of these chemicals.
Mild exposures to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides include:
- Loss of appetite with nausea
- Stomach cramps and diarrhea
- Blurred vision associated with excessive tearing
- Contracted pupils of the eye
- Excessive sweating and salivation
- Slowed heartbeat, often fewer than 50 per minute
- Rippling of surface muscles just under the skin
Moderately severe organophosphate and carbamate insecticide poisoning cases exhibit all the signs and symptoms found in mild poisonings, but in addition include:
- Unable to walk
- Chest discomfort and tightness
- Exhibits marked constriction of the pupils (pinpoint pupils)
- Exhibits muscle twitching
- Involuntary urination and bowel movement
Severe poisonings are indicated by incontinence, unconsciousness and seizures.
Your dog’s symptoms will depend on the amount of insecticide she has been exposed to.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Abnormal urination
- Muscle weakness
- Constricted pupils
In extreme situations, organophosphate poisoning can lead to seizures or even death!
Cats can be particularly vulnerable to flea and tick shampoo poisoning because when cats groom themselves they take in and digest the poisoning. Signs your cat has been poisoned include:
- Hyper salivation
- Inability to control urine
The order in which these symptoms appear may vary, depending on how contact is made with the pesticide. If the product is swallowed, stomach and other abdominal manifestations commonly appear. The toxic ingredients in many flea and tick shampoos and dips can absorb into your dog’s skin. Flea dips that contain high levels of organophosphates or carbamates are fat soluble, and therefore easily absorbed through the skin and then transported through out the body.
Organophosphates and carbamates can also lead to over-stimulation of muscles through prolonged activation of ACh receptors. This leads to muscular fasciculation and tremors initially followed by flaccid paralysis. Since the directions for use require multiple exposures, and because of the lipophilicity of these compounds, the effects of flea dip can be long lasting.
Flea dips can stay in the fur up to 21 days if your dog or cat isn’t bathed again. However, bathing defeats the purpose of using the dip. Cat’s will naturally try to bathe themselves by licking off and ingesting poisonous flea dip.
Pyrethroid toxicosis, typically involving permethrin is one of the most commonly reported toxicities in cats to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Inappropriate exposure of cats to permethrin products results in as many as 97% showing clinical signs with 10.5% ending in death.
Pyrethrin, permethrin, phenothrin and other pyrethroid poisoning is life threatening to cats and requires immediate emergency veterinary care when muscle tremors are noted.
High exposure to flea dip can lead to massive cell death in the kidneys, lungs, thymus, and heart. Death from acute poisonings is frequently due to respiratory failure. This is because the active ingredients can lead to respiratory inhibition, excess bronchial secretions, and bronchospasms coupled with depolarizing blockade at neuromuscular junctions (diaphragm and intercostals).
So what are the alternatives?
You pet doesn’t have to be poisoned just to be flea and tick free. There is a completely natural, safe, non-toxic and highly effective alternative:
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth is a mineral dust mined from quarries.
Diatomaceous earth to people and animals looks and acts like a powder. In fact it’s often used in tooth paste and food products it’s so safe. You can get it on your hands and rub it into the fur of animals for flea and tick control with no side effects except dry hands if you don’t use gloves when applying it.
For insects however, it’s death because at a microscopic level the edges of the diatom shells it’s made of are very sharp and it scratches away the waxy layer most insects have on their exoskeleton. Diatomaceous earth is quite hard. On the hardness scale where diamonds are a 9, diatomaceous earth is a 7. To humans and pets it just feels like any type of powder, however, to insects, fleas, tapeworms, mites and other parasites, it is just like shards of glass.
This waxy layer, once scratched or removed allows the moisture from the insect’s body to evaporate and the diatomaceous earth is so dry it desiccates the insect within 48 hours of contact. It works the same way for all crawling insects. This doesn’t mean all your problems are over after 48 hours.
Insects like bed bugs take a little more time and treating for insects isn’t as easy as killing the ones you can see. Remember, there are eggs around and larvae hatching and breeding going on and more bugs potentially coming into the room or building all the time, so it can take time to get the infestation under control.
The nice thing is diatomaceous earth, unlike other toxic pesticides, doesn’t evaporate, gas off or go away. Once you apply it, it lasts forever until you vacuum it up or clean it up in some fashion. It gives long term, permanent protection even after the bugs are gone from your life. It’s terrific stuff but it does take more time to work than chemical sprays and you will have to be vigilant and complete in your application of the product.
When lightly rubbed into their coats and dusted in your pet’s area, food grade diatomaceous earth is very effective against Lice, Mites, Fleas, and Ticks on dogs, cats, and birds. Just rub gently into the pet’s coat – there’s no need to make sweeping movements that would create a cloud of powder. It’s always best not to inhale any fine powder directly.
And if your pet licks its fur after you’ve applied it it’s actually beneficial because food grade diatomaceous earth is also an effective organic wormer and will kill any worms or parasites the pets may have.
Diatomaceous earth also makes a great home remedy to get rid of ear mites on your dogs and cats. For an Ear Mites remedy for your pets, simply rub a pinch of diatomaceous earth onto the skin on both sides of the ear flaps daily for a month or so to kill existing and newly hatched mites. Do not use a “puffing” applicator that might get into the ear canal or damage the ear drum.
When using as a daily pet food supplement or as a safe wormer mix food grade diatomaceous earth with pet food.
It can also be applied to carpets, pet bedding and clothing, left for 48 hours then vacuumed or washed.
Here’s a cool video showing you how to apply diatomaceous earth to a cat.