Heading outdoors with our puppers is the best, and springtime is here.
And so is flea and tick "season."
Fleas and ticks are the many pests that pose a threat to our fur babies.
While some places within the US have designated flea and tick “seasons” where these pests are more active in warmer months, in other places, like Florida and Texas, our pets are threatened by their presence year-round.
As a pet parent, one of the first things we’re often told is to ensure that our pets are on a monthly flea and tick preventative. While it is vital to protect our pets against fleas, ticks and other insects, especially in areas where the pests pose a larger threat, more transparency about the commonly used chemical preventatives, their ingredients and potential risks needs to become normalized in order to allow us to make the best possible choices for our animals.
What are flea and tick preventatives?
We know them as ingestible/oral medications, topical sprays or collars that work to either repel fleas and ticks (in the case of topical preventatives or collars) or kill pests once they’ve bitten a dog in order to prevent disease transmission. There are a variety of flea and tick preventatives. Some are meant to be taken in combination with other preventatives, while others are stand-alone products, often marketed as three-in-one, like Simparica Trio. However, what we aren’t often told is what ingredients and compounds they contain.
The truth is that many of the flea and tick preventatives we are sold contain harmful pesticides designed to kill fleas, ticks and in some cases mosquitos, once they bite a pet.
While they are effective, it’s at the cost of injecting, applying and feeding pesticides and chemicals to our pets, and the FDA has officially issued a warning due to the many risks to our pets.
Isoxazolines are a common class of flea and tick products recommended by veterinarians across the country. These include monthly oral medications intended for monthly oral use like Nexgard or Bravecto. According to the FDA’s website,
“The FDA is alerting pet owners and veterinarians of the potential for neurologic adverse events in dogs and cats when treated with drugs that are in the isoxazoline class.”
A class action lawsuit was filed in 2019 against Merck Animal Health, the makers of the isoxazoline-based preventative Bravecto alleging that the drug may cause neurological reactions in pets. According to an article by PIX11, there were 720 reported seizures for Bravecto in four years as of 2019.
Globally recognized integrative veterinarian and pet advocate, Dr. Judy Morgan DVM, CVA, CVCP, CVFT, posts, "The number of adverse reports to the FDA, EMA, and EPA due to parasiticides was highest for Trifexis® (200,941) followed by isoxazoline-based product, NexGard Specta® (190,802.)"
Dr. Morgan reports further that those statistics are based on only the cases that are reported, and that is approximated at only 1%. And yet, these products are still being offered and sold by conventional veterinarians and online pet retailers.
Flea collars are also facing scrutiny due to discoveries about the chemicals often used in the products.
Flea collars are designed to be worn by your dog in order to release pesticides and chemicals onto the animal’s fur, thus killing pests that attempt to land on or bite them. In October of 2022 the EPA made the decision to ban the sale of flea and tick collars that contain the chemical tetrachlorvinphos, a dangerous chemical that has been linked to brain damage in children.
So, what natural, safe solutions can pet owners who want to take a more holistic approach to preventatives consider?
In the wake of new information regarding traditional prevention methods and with the new wave of knowledge that dog owners are gaining, other brands are beginning to take a more holistic approach to pest prevention.
Woof Creek offers a natural approach to flea and tick prevention with the Essential Flea + Tick Defense Meal Topper which is available at www.WoofCreek.com as well as www.DrJudyMorgan.com and the NEW Flea + Tick Defense Spray.
When used together, the two products work to both deter fleas using all natural ingredients.
Take Only Natural Pet, as another example, has taken an interesting approach by creating all natural, wearable collars and tags designed to deter insects. There are also ways to naturally treat your environment to repel and reduce pests, like treating your yard with food-grade diatomaceous earth and beneficial nematodes; natural in-home and outdoor flea killing sprays from Wondercide, and other great tools for prevention and maintenance.
There is a small increase in due diligence for pet parents who take the natural route of natural prevention, but the heartache and work to potentially manage a pet if the above reported side effects from chemical preventatives affect your pet, like chronic seizures and neurological issues, will be a matter to weigh. And for many pets who are, aside from potty walks, inside dogs, there is a increasingly lower risk for fleas and ticks.
At the end of the day, getting all this fact-based information direct to pet parents, arming fur kids' only advocates with truth and safe alternatives, is our mission. The best thing we can do for our pets in regards to pest prevention is do our research, use a variety of natural products and (as always) listen to our intuition when it comes to our fur babies and their health and wellness.
For further education on this topic, here are trusted resources:
- Dr. Katie Woodley, “The Natural Pet Doctor” (https://thenaturalpetdoctor.com) is a helpful holistic resource regarding Natural Flea And Tick Remedies for Dogs And Cats and, separately, heartworm, prevention options. You can also visit this YouTube Link on heartworm disease (Natural & Conventional Remedies).
- As mentioned above, Dr. Judy Morgan DVM is another trusted and in-depth resource for flea & tick prevention, and the specific dangers to current on-shelf chemical preventatives. Her e-book on this topic can be found here.
Ultimately, as pet owners, the decision as to what works best for our pups while weighing the benefits and risks of each solution falls upon us and us alone, and it’s important that we stay informed for us and for our fur babies.
If you would like to help make pets safer by barking out about the potential dangers out there, you can sign this petition from change.org. We can save pet lives, together.