are pesticides harmful to dogs

If you knew something was poison, you’d want to keep it away from your pet, right? Protecting your loved ones is natural, but countless dogs and cats get poisoned on a regular basis, all in the name of “flea control.”

Score: Clever Marketing 1, Pets 0.

Most flea control products are pesticides. Period. Pesticides put your pet at risk.

You have natural flea control options, so please Stop. Using. Poisons.

The best flea treatments are the ones that kill fleas without making your animals (or your family) sick.

Cancer and More

It’s been known for over 20 years that exposure to pesticides increases the risk of cancer. An early study showed dogs getting malignant lymphoma in far higher incidence than expected when their owners used lawn pesticides.

Fipronil, the active ingredient in a popular topical flea product (Frontline) has been associated with aggressive behavior, kidney damage, and “drastic alterations in thyroid function.” It’s extremely toxic to fish, birds, and bees.

How These Products Cannot Be Safe

dog fleaLabels tell a lot, but you have to read the fine print to keep your animal out of harm’s way. You’ll see warnings accompanying all pesticides, if you look for them.

In the case of the most popular products, the “topical tubes” like Frontline, Advantage, and their cousins, the warning is largely aimed at you, the user.

From an actual label:

“Keep out of the reach of children.

Children should not come in contact with the application site for 30 minutes after application.

Causes eye irritation. Harmful if swallowed. Do not get in eyes or on clothing. Avoid contact with skin. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling.

If contact with skin or clothing occurs, take off contaminated clothing. Wash skin immediately with plenty of soap and water.”

So, think with me here.

The companies are warning you not to get this in or on your body and especially your child’s body, but it’s somehow just fine to put on your pet’s skin?

Umm, where’s the logic, there, exactly?

The claim is that these topical flea control poisons somehow magically don’t get absorbed. They supposedly stay only in the sebum, the fat layer of the outer skin, and don’t get inside your animal.

But wait. Skin is not lifeless, right? It’s not like some impervious shell we and our pets live in. It’s a living, breathing organ, supplied with blood capillaries, and full of pores.

[You remember pores, don’t you? Those damned things that filled with sebum or got clogged up in other nasty ways when you went through adolescence? There were a lot of them on your face, remember? Well, they are all over.]

Living, breathing, feeling organ: skin

Living, breathing, feeling organ: skin

These same pores are points of exchange. Oil or sebum is there to give that shine to hair or skin, sweat issues forth to cool the core when they open, goose bumps rise, hair stands on end when a dog feels threatened — in short, this is an active, living surface!

Safe for my Dog, Not for my Child?

Common sense should tell you to think twice about these pesticides being risky to you and your kids but not your dog or cat.

“These are poisons that we are applying to our pets,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Steve Owens in 2010.

Bigger, Better, Faster: The Story of Resistance

There’s a movie called Sweet Land, about Scandinavian immigrants in Minnesota in the early part of the 20th century. It’s one of the sweetest, most human movies I’ve ever seen, and I highly recommend it.

In the 1920′s, as portrayed here, the land was largely untouched, and farming it was the goal to make a life for one’s family. The draft horse was the farmer’s means to getting the land worked. Plowing, disking, planting, hauling off trees, pulling the thresher, taking the crops to the mill — the horse was indispensable in all this work.

The movie is set right at the beginning of the industrial age, so tractors had just been introduced. Frandsen, one of the main characters, a lovable fool, has one, and is so proud of his new mechanical horse that can do the work of an entire team of six or more draft horses.

“Bigger, better, faster,” he grins, telling his friend’s new bride, who’s just arrived from Norway, in awe at this new country.

Like the pesticides used in farming, against weed or weevil, the problem of resistance develops in the targeted victims. A certain percentage of any living population of pest has a gene or three that confer resistance to the chemical coming at them. It’s the way nature is made.

We’re Alive, Pass It On!

These resistant ones breed with the other resistant survivors, and those genes naturally get selected for. They are passed on to subsequent offspring, who grow increasingly resistant to the poison with each new generation.

This drives the poison makers crazy. They lose money if they can’t kill the pest, and so, they make their poisons “bigger, better, faster.”

Antibiotics are a classic example. When penicillin first appeared, it killed most bacteria and was the miracle drug of its day. Now, several generations of people later, its powers are greatly reduced, and successively more toxic classes of antibiotics have been created.

And people taking these new generations of drugs experience more toxic side effects than plain old penicillin ever brought them.

The same course happened in weed control and herbicides, and it’s happening as we go down the path of flea poisons.

The label for Merial’s latest and greatest claims “The killing action of FRONTLINE TRITAK For Dogs kills fleas fast…”

Unfortunately, “bigger, better, faster” in the pesticide world also means “more toxic.”

Natural Flea Control to the Rescue

You don’t want fleas sucking your pet’s blood, causing itching and discomfort, that’s a given.

But poisoning your pet to kill the fleas isn’t much of an option either, is it? The price for that is illness and early death. A bit like torching your house to kill the ants in your cupboards.

There are safe, natural flea control alternatives, and they are still convenient and easy to use, but don’t poison your dog or cat (or your kids!).

In our rush for convenience, we may forget the baby as we toss out the dirty bath water. Far better will be to spend a bit of time understanding the enemy (here, the flea or tick), and choosing your best flea treatment wisely.