By Priscilla Feral

Even though veterinarians dispense pharmaceutical grade flea and tick products for dogs, it doesn’t mean that these products don’t include chemical pesticides, and you shouldn’t question their safety, and first consider a market flush with natural flea and tick repellents.

In the 1980s, Hartz Mountain released a product called Blockade, an aerosol spray product that had been tested on dogs in laboratories without incident, the company claimed. The product was removed from the market while they acknowledged 366 cats and dogs had died after their owners used Blockade on them. At the time, Friends of Animals encouraged a boycott of Blockade, and later, in 1994, after Hartz Mountain reintroduced it, the company wrote to us saying it was sending us a donation of 10 cases of Blockade flea and tick repellent to “control infestation on (our) animals.”

I quickly told them, thanks, but no thanks.

One popular flea and tick repellent from veterinarians is Frontline Plus, and its most problematic ingredient is fipronil. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pesticide division says that fipronil can cause nervous system and thyroid toxicity, thyroid cancer, kidney damage, convulsions and more. Why would anyone informed apply that to their dog? Another product called Bravecto is fed orally, and its active ingredient is fluralaner – a systemic insecticide and acaricide. Its common side effects are vomiting and diarrhea, as well as seizures and skin irritation, plus reports of kidney and liver damage.

Just say no.

Other common ingredients found in pharmaceutical flea and tick products are pyrethrins and pyrethroids. The Center for Public Integrity reported that from 2002 – 2007, at least 1,600 pet deaths from pyrethroid spot-on treatments were reported to the EPA. These products also accounted for most major pesticide pet reactions, including seizures, heart attacks and brain damage.

Another toxic insecticide ingredient is imidacloprid, found in flea and tick products. It belongs to a class of chemicals called the neonicotinoids. In lab tests, this chemical caused thyroid lesions and liver toxicity. In short, a total loser.

There are lots of natural flea and tick products with essential oils, or geraniol – a biodegradable ingredient that’s safe to use and safe for the environment. There are also recipes for making your own sprays, too. The following natural products are sold by our local pet supply store:

*Pura Natural flea and tick spray
*Alzoo flea and tick repellents for dogs and cats
*Nantucket Spider repellent spray for dogs
*Oscar’s Critter repellent spray

Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, has presided over the international, non-profit animal advocacy organization since 1987. She has also served as president of the San Antonio-based sanctuary Primarily Primates and is a food activist and author of three vegan cookbooks.