You probably think you’re doing the right thing for your pet when you apply a flea treatment, but many over-the-counter pet pesticides contain toxic chemicals that may harm or even kill your pet. If your pooch is prone to infestations, there are safer, alternative ways to keep him pest-free without harm. Here are a few facts on the highly popular Advantage flea treatment.
The active ingredient in Advantage is imidacloprid, a neurotoxin. Imidacloprid has been tested by the FDA and deemed safe, but testing procedures used high doses in eight divided applications. In one of the studies, several very young kittens died, but these animals were younger than the recommended safe age for use. Long-term effects are unknown. Cumulative effects are not tested by the FDA prior to a drug release.
Advantage contains 90 percent “inert” ingredients. That sounds safe, doesn’t it? But inert ingredients may not be safe. Inert simply means it does not contribute to the activity of the drug–it will not kill fleas. To protect company’s trade secrets, inert ingredients are not required to be–and usually are not–disclosed. But they can be toxic, carcinogenic, highly allergenic or all of the above.
Bayer recommends that Advantage be administered every month, more frequently in severe conditions. But they caution not to exceed dosage recommendations and contact a veterinarian if in the case of accidental overdose. Symptoms of neurotoxin overdose include confusion, tremors, head shaking and seizures. If you chose to use this product, purchase the dosage strength appropriate to your dog or cat’s weight. Do not use Advantage on very young puppies or kittens.
Cat and Dog Formulations
Dogs and cats react differently to the chemicals used to control fleas. Never use a product labeled for dogs on your cat. Even small amounts can be dangerous or lethal to a cat. Even though the products carry the same brand name, the formulations may be very different. In some cases, cats can be adversely affected by simply contacting the fur of a dog that has been treated.
Giving your pet a flea bath or bathing your pet shortly after applying pesticides can be dangerous if you use hot water because the chemicals are absorbed through the skin’s open pores too quickly and may overload your pet’s system.
Symptoms of Pesticide Poisoning
Some of the symptoms of pesticide poisoning include lethargy, tremors, vomiting, confusion, seizures and drooling.
The instructions that come with topical flea control products such as Advantage advise against allowing the product to come in contact with your skin. It further cautions that if exposure occurs, you should wash immediately. Thoroughly. Quickly. In the minds of many people, these instructions call the product’s safety into question.
The company states that there are no known drug interactions with imidacloprid, but suggests that pet owners consult with a veterinarian before using the product on “medicated animals, animals using this product with other pesticides, and debilitated, aged, pregnant or nursing animals.”
If your dog suffers from severe flea bite allergies, you may wish to use a topical flea treatment once or twice a season. Year round use is not recommended. Diatomaceous earth, a non-toxic powder made from the fossilized algae, can be used as a perimeter control or used as a flea dust. Certain essential oils such as cedar and pennyroyal discourage fleas as well. Healthy skin deters fleas; a regular grooming program and a sensible diet will help keep your dog or cat’s skin flea free.