Okay, so your pet has fleas and/or ticks. You've read all the articles and looked at the EPA's findings on flea and tick control products. Now what? If these spot-on products are safe, what do we as pet owners need to know?
How can I make sure my pet will not be harmed when I use spot-on flea and tick products?
Pets have varying sensitivities to pesticides. You should closely watch your pet during and after treatment and watch for any signs of an adverse reaction, especially when using these products for the first time.
Pet Poison Helpline experts agreed with the EPA's assessment that when used correctly, the incidence of severe or fatal reactions to spot-on products is very low compared to the number of applications applied by pet owners each year. The data indicated that spot-on products are generally safe when used appropriately and according to the directions.
Should you choose to use these products, there are some tips for using topical flea and tick spot-on pesticides. It goes without saying.....always read and follow the directions on the package carefully. "The key to ensuring pet's safety when using flea and tick products is to be vigilant about following the instructions on the package," said Dr. Lynn Hovda, DVM, DACVIM, director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline. "Knowing the exact size and weight of your pet and not assuming a product can be used for all types of animals is essential for using the correct medication and appropriate dose for your pet."
Tips for safe use of spot-on products:
- Always read the directions on the label.
- Pay attention to any warnings on the label.
- Follow the directions exactly as printed. If product is for use on dogs, do not use on cats. If the label says use weekly, do not use more often. If the product is for the house or yard, do not use on your pet.
- Make sure you are using the correct spot-on product for your specific pet and particular pest problem.
- Know the exact size and weight of your pet and use the correct dose amount. Do not guess or estimate.
- Do not use these products on kittens or puppies unless the label specifically allows for such use. For puppies or kittens, use a flea comb or consult your veterinarian .
- If you have multiple pets, keep them separated after after application until the product is dry to prevent them from licking each other and ingesting some of the pesticide.
- Consult your veterinarian before using spot-on products on weak, aged, medicated, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets, or pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to flea and tick medications.
- Check the active ingredients. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends pet owners avoid products that contain organophosphates (such as chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon and malathion). They also recommend pet owners avoid products with carbamates (carbaryl or propoxur).
- The HSUS says pet owners may want to consider using products with insect-growth regulators (IGRs), which are not pesticides. These will prevent the next generation of fleas, but will not kill insects already on the pet. Common IGR products include ingredients such as lufenuron, methoprene, pyriproxyfen, and EcoKyl.
Treatment with a fast-acting topical flea and tick medication can cause itching or brief irritation at the application site as the product does its job and kills pests. This can cause the pet to fidget and scratch. This should be short-lived and leave no redness or irritation on the skin. Carefully monitor your pet for any other reactions.
- If your pet shows any unusual reaction soon after application, immediately remove any remaining product from the pet by bathing them in mild soap (Dawn dish detergent is great for this) and rinsing with large amounts of water....unless the product specifically states not to do so.
- Contact your veterinarian if your pet shows symptoms of illness after application. Symptoms of poisoning include poor appetite, depression, trembling, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea or excessive salivation.
- If your pet needs immediate medical care, call your veterinarian or local animal emergency clinic. Pet owners can also contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.
- The Pet Poison Helpline is available at 1-800-213-6680. They charge a fee of $35 per incident which includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case.
- Contact the registrant (manufacturer). Pesticide manufacturers are required by law to report incident information to the EPA. Contact information can be found on the product label. Clearly identify the name of the product used, the EPA registration number, the type and breed of animal affected, the symptoms observed in the pet, and any other details pertaining to the incident.
- Contact the EPA directly. Contact information can be found on their website.
- Contact your veterinarian. Veterinarians have access to a reporting mechanism called the Veterinary Pesticide Adverse Effects Reporting portal to report incidents.
The product label contains most of the information you need to know to use the product safely.
To view product labels, see: http://oaspub.epa.gov/pestlabl/ppls.home.
The EPA registration number has two parts. Enter the first part in the first block and the second part in the second block. If the number has three parts, ignore the last part.
For information about pesticide toxicity, contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) which provides objective, science-based information about a variety of pesticide related subjects. NPIC also lists state pesticide regulatory agencies, and provides links to their websites. NPIC can be contacted at 1-800-858-7378.
Next time we will look at natural alternatives to chemical pesticides for flea and tick control.