Just how safe are flea and tick products for your dog or cat?
Spot On Treatments Contain Potentially Harmful Ingredients to Pets and Humans
Many well-meaning dog and cat owners are unaware that spot on flea and tick products such as Frontline Plus, its competing brands, as well as generic equivalents contain pesticides not medications.
In the US, 80-86% of dog and cat owners use spot on treatments to protect their pets from fleas and ticks. Spot on treatments are topical lotions applied to the animal’s skin (usually the nape of the neck or between the shoulder blades) once each month. These products work by something called translocation. The product is absorbed from the pets’ skin into the hair follicles throughout the body. These chemicals work to kill adult fleas and ticks and to interrupt the life cycle of immature larvae and eggs.
Studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US and by Health Canada demonstrate that the chemicals used in these products can cause extreme, life threatening reactions in dogs and cats. These products can also cause harm to people, particularly children and pregnant or nursing mothers.
Adverse Reactions in Pets Include:
- Eye and skin irritation – redness, itching, hair loss, lesions
- Loss of appetite, apathy
- Tremors and seizures, even death
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Some formulations contain chemicals that are toxic to cats.
- Some chemicals used in animal flea control products are known carcinogens.
Adverse Reactions in Humans:
- Workers who routinely use certain flea and tick products on the animals in their care have been shown to suffer vision problems, slowed thinking and memory problems.
- The most serious risks are likely for children and fetuses whose systems are still developing at the time of exposure.
The active ingredients in Frontline Plus, one of the leading brands or flea and tick control products are fipronil and S-methoprene. Fipronil is a widely used pesticide that can be found in agricultural products, termite controls, lawn care applications as well as flea/tick controls for household pets. It works by interfering with the nervous system of the insect causing paralysis and death. S-methoprene acts as an insect growth inhibitor. That is, used alone it will not kill adult insects. It works to prevent insect pupae and larvae from reaching maturity and from reproducing.
Frontline Plus contains 9.8% fipronil and 8.8% S-methoprene. The remainder of the formula, according to the label is made up of inert ingredients whose precise ingredients are not known or routinely tested for toxicity.
The average consumer may think that “inert” means benign or even non harmful. Some experts disagree. Some theorize that these inert substances may combine with the active ingredients to form a kind of toxic soup. Since EPA studies to date have tested Frontline Plus and other brands only in the short term and at an accelerated dose in lab animals; the long term consequences for pets and humans is not known.