Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs held a webcast to announce the results of their year-long study into pet spot-on products, commonly known as flea and tick preventatives. According to EPA, the number of incidents and deaths associated with these products increased by 53 percent between 2007 and 2008. This is an alarming statistic considering that in 2008 alone, 270 million spot-on products were sold. While the study deemed the products safe – if used correctly – all products analyzed reported incidents ranging from minor symptoms like itchiness to major cases like death.
Despite EPA’s claims that topical pesticides are safe, Kristen Vance disagrees. Vance is a mother of two children, an 8-year-old Rottweiler mix, and a 5-year-old domestic cat. “I do not want unnecessary chemicals on my animals,” Vance said. “I have two young children who constantly pet the dog and put their hands in their mouths. I don’t want the children to ingest the pesticides by accident. Anything that is toxic enough to kill an insect is too toxic to willingly put on my animal or to expose to my children.”
Concerned? Searching for a greener option? Here are three steps you can take to find a safer, more sustainable way to keep fleas and ticks off your pet:
Do Your Research
Consider your flea and tick preventatives carefully. There are many products to choose from, some available only through a veterinarian, others available on the shelves of the nearest big-box retailer. Before selecting a product, talk to your vet, and consult the Natural Resources Defense Council’s product comparison site to see how different products stack up.
Exercise Preventative Measures
Check your pet for fleas and ticks regularly, especially after hikes or prolonged outdoor exposure. Bathe your pet regularly, and vacuum your home – including your furniture – to prevent flea outbreaks.
To combat fleas, use a flea comb to check for and remove any fleas or make your own flea powder using a mix of powdered rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender and fennel. If you discover a tick on your pet, ease the tick out with a pair of tweezers. And if your area has tick-borne illnesses, put the tick in a bag and take it to your vet for examination.