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Fleas: Toxic Flea Products and Solutions

Updated on October 4, 2016

Flea Products Can Harm Our Dogs and Cats

The heat of summer is the middle of flea season and this summer is a hot one. While fleas multiply and hop on our pets, many dog and cat owners are searching for ways to eliminate them without causing more harm than good.

Harsh chemicals in over the counter flea products are known to cause mild to severe effects. The following are some of the symptoms and reactions that often occur within two days after a flea treatment:

Respiratory difficulty and coughing
Tremors and/or seizures
Lethargic and may stagger
Itchy skin with constant scratching
Vomiting and/or diarrhea
Chemical burns from drops

These products paralyze the nervous system of the fleas and can also be neuro-toxic to your pet and people in the home. Other pets in the home may also be susceptible to adverse effects. The nervous system of a child is still maturing and can be harmed by the harsh chemicals in many flea products.

Vet care and debt from flea treatment effects.

One dog owner is $10,000 in debt from keeping her dog alive after a second dose of Frontline Plus. Two days later her dog was throwing up and became very ill. Her dog required four blood transfusions and expensive drugs. It cost a cat owner $5,000 to save her cat after applying a flea product. Both pets were in good health before the flea treatments.

Reported Adverse Incidents

The EPA said the reported incidents increased 53 percent from 2007 to 2008. Symptoms reported were diarrhea, salivating, itching, hair loss, skin ulcerations, lethargy, nervousness, seizure and vomiting. The trend of harmful reactions was primarily in the drop form that is applied on the dog's back, such as K9 Advantix and Frontline Plus. Two other brands that cause harmful reactions are Hartz and Sergeant's drops, shampoos and powders.

Two of the most popularly used brands for flea treatments are Frontline and Advantage. Both brands have an increasing number of complaints. The most common adverse reactions are skin problems and seizures.

There were 26,977 incidents reported in 2010. The number of reported incidents in 2008 were around 44,000. Consumers are petitioning for improvements in the ingredients and are getting involved in class action lawsuits. In addition to the cases reported each year, we can assume there are numerous injuries and deaths that have gone unreported.

Many people are unaware of the extent of harm some chemicals in flea and tick products cause and may not make the connection at the onset of illness. The insecticide should be washed off using cool water and dish detergent as soon as any symptoms are noticed. Permethrin can lead to tremors, seizures and death when applied to cats. Check the chemical ingredients on the package label of flea collars.

The U. S. Humane Society has petitioned for a hotline National Poison Control number to be printed on the labels of flea and tick products. The EPA details the number of incidents per product as well as the severity, however, a more detailed account from the pet owners is not recorded. Although the EPA is working to make label changes, the Humane Society asserts they are not doing enough. Many ingredients are not listed on the label given the reason they consider it confidential business information.

Safety of Flea Shampoo and Spray

Both Sergeant's and Hartz flea sprays for cats may develop into thousands of dollars in vet bills leaving no guarantee your cat will return to normal. Hartz flea and tick shampoos and powders have a history of poisoning cats to death. Zodiac Spot On for cats has caused burn spots and dying hair roots at the application site that even cause clumps of hair to fall out.

There is a percentage of every insect or bug population that is resistant to any particular chemical. A new strain emerges that the new chemical is unable to effect. When new chemicals are added and the level of toxicity increases, the problem with resistance repeats itself. The chemicals become less safe for not only the pets, but also the person applying the product and anyone within close contact.

Home Made Flea Treatments

The following are proven methods to be effective in combating fleas using products you may already have in your home. While most products to control fleas are directed at the fleas, 85 percent of the infestation consists of eggs and larvae.

Carpet - Mix together a 1:1 ratio of salt and baking soda. Sprinkle it into carpets all the way to the baseboards and in corners. Press it firmly into the fibers with a broom and vacuum the next day or two. Repeat at least once weekly for a month. Both the salt and baking soda have a drying effect and salt grains also have sharp edges. Seal the dust bag in a plastic trash bag, throw it away and replace it.

Bare floors - Clean with disinfectant and hot water mopping once or twice a week for a month.

Bathing - Leave a lather of mild suds on your dog or cat for a minimum of five minutes. The water and suds drown the fleas without having to use harsh or toxic chemicals. Volatile essential oils, as well as products made for dogs, are not to be used on cats. Adding a drop or two of lavender, tea tree oil or oil of oregano to the final rinse will help to repel new fleas from jumping on your dog. There are many adverse incidents reported after using dog products on cats.

Repellent rinse - Slice a lemon and simmer it in 2 1/2 cups water with a lid for 30 minutes. Turn burner off and leave it set overnight. The next day, add 3 or 4 cups of warm water and slowly pour on your dog while rubbing it into the fur. Begin at the neck and around the ears, torso, legs, tail and rear end.

Flea Comb - Comb through the hair slowly rinsing it often in a container of suds water. A drop or two of dish detergent helps to assure the fleas drown in the glass. Allow the container to set a few hours or overnight before pouring down the drain or toilet.

Natural flea and tick spray - Cedar oil, either with or without lemongrass, is a natural flea and tick spray that kills on contact with no harmful side effects to dogs, cats or children. Evolv made by Wondercide is one such product. They offer a 4oz size for small dogs and cats and a 16oz for large dogs that may last up to two months.

Apply Caution if You Offer Garlic to Dogs and Cats

Repellent treats - Pets Alive! from Gardens Alive! is a special blend of nutrients containing dried yeast, garlic, wheat germ and bran, kelp and bone meal to help keep pets healthy. Yeast and garlic act as flea repellents working from the inside. Since garlic has the potential to thin the blood, there are several breeds that are more susceptible to anemia and are not to consume it.

A small piece of pressed or minced garlic clove every other day during flea season may help to repel fleas for dogs. Garlic is a food that remains controversial as to whether or not it is harmful for dogs in general, therefore, if you offer garlic use it very sparingly in small amounts. Garlic may cause a gastrointestinal reaction in cats.

Check the label on treats and food for the sweetener additive Xylitol. This ingredient has been shown to have a potential to lower blood sugar in dogs and lead to liver failure.

Bedding - Wash and dry on the hot cycles. A little Borax added to the washer will give the detergent an added boost to kill fleas and eggs. May also add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of white/clear vinegar to the final rinse cycle.

Place rugs and blankets in the dryer and run on high for 20 minutes between washings. For an added boost, spray with a mild mix of white vinegar and water before putting in the dryer.

If your dog sleeps on a large bedding pad, it can be sprinkled all over with baking soda and salt and set aside for a day or two out of your dogs reach then vacuum well. Repeat once a week for four to six weeks. You may need to lather it up in sudsy water leaving the suds on for 10 minutes, rinse well and allow it to air-dry in the sun.

Keeping our homes and pets free from flea infestation can be a daunting task. Although putting forth the effort once or twice a week throughout the summer months requires perseverance, the reward of residing in a more comfortable environment is worth it.

Liz Olivia



Submit a Comment

  • Lizolivia profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Central USA

    Although the objective is to kill the fleas, we like to think, and even almost presume, that the products would be improved with less toxicity after the makers have gotten reports about the adverse effects from the chemicals, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I really don't know if there has been any improvement in the chemicals used in most flea products over the years. Thank you for stopping by.

  • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

    Barbara Anne Helberg 

    6 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

    @Lizolivia...This is great shared information. At a recent visit to the vet, I was surprised to hear him say fleas are developing resistance to such products as Frontline.

    I've used the Hartz over the counter pretty reglarly for Cee-Cee. She's a Border Terrier mix. I also used it on Ebony, a Newfoundland. I don't believe either of them reacted to it negatively, but now that I know about its possible effects, I'll watch closer. Dogs do vomit and scratch sometimes seemingly without particular reasons. So, perhaps, my dogs have reacted, and I just didn't make the connection.

  • Lizolivia profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Central USA

    Thanks for stopping by, I read your article and followed. Your topics are interesting.

  • DrMark1961 profile image

    Dr Mark 

    6 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

    Thanks for mentioning the problems with Frontline. I also have an article on natural flea control and the use of vinegar and apple cider vinegar to control fleas.


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