The temperature is finally climbing and springtime is finally blooming, and that means our dogs are eager to get outside. You want to make sure that no “hop ons” follow back inside your home, so it’s time to think about safe, effective flea and tick prevention …
… but the most common commercial flea products have been shown to be highly toxic, and so maybe you’re looking for a natural, chemical-free alternative.
A new type of product, a bandana containing permethrin for dogs, has been advertised as safe and harmless, but dog owners need to be careful before hitting that “submit order” button.
Commercial Flea and Tick Prevention
The dangers of oral insecticides (flea pills), pesticides, topical flea treatments and flea collars are no secret. These products can cause serious adverse health reactions in dogs and humans, and the Center for Public Integrity found over 25,000 reports of pesticide reactions have been reported to the EPA in the last 5 years (including 1600 canine deaths).
Here are just a few of the most common reactions to commercial flea products and permethrin for dogs:
- Contact dermatitis (red, itchy, irritated skin)
- Muscle tremors
- Uncoordinated muscle movements
- Labored breathing
- Excessive drooling
Because of this, many dog owners are choosing to make a switch to natural flea and tick protection.
What’s important to be aware of is that many pet product companies, producers and individuals are trying to market insecticide treatment as “natural,” safe and pet-friendly to appeal to the consumer.
“Insect Shield” Bandanas: A Chemical-Free Option?
Insect shield, insect-repelling, flea bandanas are flooding the market right now. These are advertised as friendly, safe, natural and/or non-invasive flea protection methods. Oh, cute! An adorable little add-on that’s fashionable, effective and safe for my pet, right? Finally, a minimally-invasive solution to flea control …
These products can fool consumers. It’s important to look at what makes these products “flea repellant.” These are not natural, safe remedies, but are instead full of synthetic insecticides. One of the worst is permethrin.
Is it safe to use pyrethrin on dogs? Despite that natural claim, not at all.
Flea bandanas are supposed to be a useful tool to combat fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes in outdoor environments. But before you buy flea-repellant bandana, be sure to take a look at the ingredients that make it flea-repellant. Most commercial ones use insecticides, such as permethrin for dogs, in the fabric. Check the labels and product details thoroughly before buying.
Permethrin For Dogs: Read The Ingredient Label
Flea bandanas (such as those found on Petedge.com, Amazon, and Guardian Gear Insect shield) work by embedding permethrin into the fabric. Manufacturers spray this insecticide into or on the fabric. They say these products are good for 10-30 washings.
Permethrin is a type of pyrethroid, which is a synthetic compound used in insecticides. Permethrin is found in pesticide products like Nix, Advantix and flea shampoos. It is used as a widespread insecticide in agriculture, gardening, and commercial household insecticides.
Manufacturers will tell you that it’s a synthetic compound derived from Chrysanthemums – so you think, “natural and safe,” right? Despite this organic derivative, permethrin is a central nervous system poison – a neurotoxin. It was designed to be more toxic than the Chrysanthemum flower, penetrating insect shells and paralyzing their nervous systems. In mammals, it also poisons the liver and paralyzes the muscular system.
Along with a neurotoxin, it acts an endocrine system disruptor: poisoning the thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas and reproductive system. It can also cause liver damage, gastrointestinal poisoning and neurotoxicity with exposure or accidental ingestion. Symptoms of permethrin dog toxicity include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Nerve damage
- Muscular paralysis or damage
Death is also a side effect.
The EPA has a “toxicity class” rating for commonly used pesticides, where Level 1 = most toxic and Level 4 = least toxic. Permethrin toxicity is rated level 2-3, depending on the product.
Permethrin-containing products also carry the word WARNING or CAUTION on their labels. Flea bandanas should be given the same scope of caution. The EPA even says that these are toxic to the nervous system of people and pets, can trigger allergic reactions and are classified as “possible carcinogens.”
[Related] What about other flea and tick meds? Find out how they measure up here.
Permethrin is only found in dog-specific flea treatments since it’s highly toxic to cats and fish. It is also usually only found in topical treatments, since oral ingestion can lead to liver failure and neurological damage. If your dog accidentally chews his bandana, if you put it on your cat, if the cat finds the bandana on the floor, or if your dog goes swimming in a natural body of water – these are all putting your dog and several other creatures at risk for severe damage and death.
Even worse, the pyrethroids found in flea bandana products are also highly toxic to bees, birds and aquatic wildlife. The EPA even claimed that “flea resistance is an issue for effectiveness” – meaning that despite all of the toxicity, it might not even actually repel fleas in the first place. These cute bandana products appear harmless, but are dangerous to the health of you, your pet, and the environment.
What If I Bought A Flea Bandana?
The best way to reduce exposure to permethrin is to avoid topical flea medications, DEET, flea collars and flea bandanas.
But what if you already bought one?
If you purchased a permethrin-based flea bandana for your dog, stop using it right away. And watch for the warning signs that your dog may be sick.
Signs of toxicity include:
- Contact dermatitis (on-site itching, hives, or redness)
- Asthma-like breathing problems
- Loss of coordination
In people, this can also cause contact dermatitis, rashes, irritation, and endocrine system disruption.
The best flea and tick prevention shouldn’t harm your dog. So, toss the bandana and go with a natural alternative – homemade flea and tick prevention.
DIY Permethrin-Free Flea Control
You don’t have to use insecticides or pesticides to keep your dog free of fleas. There are natural alternatives.
If you’re looking for non-toxic flea and tick protection, try making your own safe flea bandana.
Permethrin-Free Flea Bandana
What you’ll need:
- A regular dog bandana or strip of fabric
- 2 tbsp almond oil
- 2 drops of a flea repelling essential oil such as cinnamon, rosemary, clove, peppermint or cedar wood (2 drops in total. If you’re using a combination of oils, only use 1 drop of each)
It’s easy to make:
- Mix the oils together and apply them to the bandana.
- Allow the bandana to dry for about 1 hour before placing on your pet.
- Re-soak the bandana once a week, as-needed.
[Related: What if your dog gets fleas? There are natural home remedies to get rid of fleas on your dog. Check this out]
Want To Know More?
If you want more information on commercial flea and tick prevention and the dangers of pyrethroids, these articles have a ton!
- “Synthetic pyrethroids” from Beyond Pesticides.com
- “Feline permethrin toxicity: Retrospective study of 42 cases,” written by Boland, L., and Angles, J. in the Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery, 12(2), 61-71.
- Drago, B., Shah, N. S., & Shah, S. H. (2014). Acute permethrin neurotoxicity: Variable presentations, high index of suspicion. Toxicology reports, 1, 1026-1028.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2017). Pyrethrins and prethroids.
- Klainbart, S., Merbl, Y., Kelmer, E., Cuneah, O., & Shimshoni, J. (2014). Bifenthrin toxicity in a dog: A case report. Annals of Clinical Pathology, 2(4), 1030.
- Macwelch, T. (2012). “The toxic truth about DEET and permethrin.”
- National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC). (2009). Permethrin.
- Pell, M., & Olsen, J. (2014). “Pets and pesticides: Let’s be careful out there.” Center for Public Integrity.
- Pesticide Research Institute. (2018). “Flea control.” Pesticideresearch.com.
- Rust, M. (2016). Insecticide resistance in fleas. Insects, 7(1), 10.