“I think it’s a good idea to minimize pesticide exposure of any sort, not only because of what we know, but because of what we don’t know.”
– Donald Weston, University of California-Berkley, February 2010

Contrary to what lawn care companies, veterinarians and chemical companies would have us believe, herbicides (weed killers) and pesticides (bug killers) can be harmful to our pets and to our family. So many products available in the marketplace are broad spectrum biocides, and by their very nature can harm organisms other than targeted species. This includes you and your family, neighbors, pets, and all other forms of life.

Despite the level of care you may be giving your pets, animal companions are at high risk of being poisoned by home, garden, and pet maintenance practices. Pesticides and herbicides are the culprits. The smaller bodies of our pets make them more susceptible to chemicals, and their behavior patterns make them more likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals. Chemicals that may seem harmless can be a real life and death matter for cats, dogs, birds, horses, rabbits and other pets. Pets are more vulnerable to pesticides and herbicides because they walk through chemically-treated areas, unknowingly and absorb pesticides through their mouth, nose, feet and eyes. Pets are also susceptible to secondary poisoning from catching, and eating, poisoned prey. Both dogs and cats eat rodents, mollusks, and bugs – all considered undesirable species often controlled through the use of pesticides.

Flea and tick products that are designed to kill are another known risk for pets. Most people assume the products applied to the back of the dog and cat’s neck stay on top of the animal’s coat and repel, and, therefore, are safe. The reality is, the products are absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream. The main active ingredient in most spot-on products is a pesticide that kills insects by paralyzing their nervous system (the same way nerve gas works). The pesticide, however, cannot distinguish between an insect’s nervous system, a dog’s nervous system, or a human’s nervous system. If the applied chemical can be absorbed through your pet’s skin, it can also be absorbed through you and your family’s skin when you pet the dog or cat.

Of course, as bad as these products may be for pet owners and caregivers, they often are worse for the pets themselves. Based on the very limited data available, it appears that hundred and probably thousands of pets have been injured or killed through exposure to pet products containing pesticides. As with small children, pets cannot report when they’re being poisoned at low doses.

Natural Resources Defense Council
Health Hazards from Flea and Tick Products

The good news. . . there are many natural products that will safely control and repel fleas and ticks. Research natural options online or consult with a naturally-oriented pet store or an integrative veterinary practice.

Signs your dog or cat is having an adverse reaction to a flea/tick control product:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Lack of coordination
  • Labored breathing
  • Increased excitability
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures

If the symptoms continue, contact your vet immediately.