Frugal Flea and Tick Protection for Your Pets

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With flea and tick season approaching, you want to know which product is safe for your pets while providing the best protection. In a press release from April, the EPA announced that it has recently been receiving a growing number of reports of pets with adverse reactions to spot-on flea and tick control products. The reactions range from skin irritations to seizures to death. As a result, the EPA will increase its scrutiny of these products. Health Canada has received similar reports and both the EPA and Health Canada will meet with the manufacturers of flea and tick control products to discuss the issue and determine if more restrictions are needed on the products to protect the health of pets.

Flea and tick dusts, sprays, collars, and shampoos have produced similar reactions in some pets, but the reactions are more often associated with the spot-on products. Many pet owners have used the spot-on products on their pets with no reaction. So, for now, the EPA recommends that pet owners continue to use flea and tick control products because fleas and ticks do transmit diseases to both pets and humans. However, the EPA advises owners to consult with their veterinary and to be certain that they follow the directions on the products and monitor their pets for signs of a reaction. In addition to skin irritations and seizures, symptoms include distress, nervousness, and tremors.

Investigations of the reports of adverse reaction are incomplete and do not yet rule out the possibility that the products were not used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For example, products designed for dogs could have been used on cats or warnings against using the products on animals that were ill or too young could have been ignored.

What to Do if Your Pet Has a Reaction

The EPA recommends immediately bathing the pet with a mild soap and large amounts of water to remove the product, unless the product instructions state that the pet should not be bathed after application or bathing the pet would result in stress for the animal. You should also contact your veterinary. Any reactions should be reported to the EPA. They ask for as much of the following information as you can provide:

  1. Name(s) and EPA registration number(s) of product(s) applied. The EPA registration number will appear on the label as EPA Reg. No. XXX-XX.
  2. Active ingredient of the product, if known. This information can be found on the product label.
  3. Breed(s) and age(s) of animal(s) and any other factors needed to understand any previous medical condition(s) of animal(s),
  4. Who applied the product(s)-owner or veterinarian,
  5. Length of time between application and reaction,
  6. Description of adverse reaction,
  7. Date(s) on which adverse reaction occurred,
  8. Contact information and telephone number, and
  9. City and State where the incident occurred.

You can report the required information by clicking on the “Ask a question?” link in the Resources box at the top right of the page containing the EPA report about these adverse reactions.

Safety Tips for Pet Owners from the EPA

  1. Observe warnings or consult with your veterinary before using flea and tick control products on younger or older pets, on pets that are weak or sick, on pets that are already on another medication, on pets that are pregnant or nursing, or on pets that have previously had a reaction to these products.
  2. Discourage ticks by keeping lawns mowed short.
  3. If you have a flea infestation in your home, vacuum the basement as well as other areas of the home daily. Pay special attention to cracks and crevices in the floor and vacuum along baseboards. Vacuum not only the carpet but also cushioned furniture.
  4. Steam cleaning carpets can kill fleas. Also, wash the pet’s bedding or the bedding on any bed on which the pet lies in hot, soapy water every two to three weeks. Discard the pet’s bedding and buy new if you have a severe flea infestation.
  5. Using a flea comb to comb the pet, especially around the pet’s neck and tail, will remove fleas. When you capture a flea, place it in hot, soapy water to kill it.
  6. Consider keeping your pets indoors during flea and tick season, especially if your pet is older, weak, sick, pregnant, nursing, or on a medication that would make the pet sensitive to flea and tick control products. You may want to consider keeping your pet indoors if it has already had a reaction to a flea and tick control product.

We all want to keep our pets and our homes free of fleas and ticks, but we also want to keep our pets healthy and give them long lives. For now, check the EPA Web site frequently for updates or subscribe to e-mail alerts and consider either keeping your pet indoors or using one of the less risky flea and tick control products.

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