Q: Are flea collars and dips dangerous for a dog or person’s health?
A: I love my dog Jake and wouldn’t ever want to compromise his health. Before I did the research on flea collars I might have used one, but now I would never consider it. We unknowingly apply toxic chemicals to our pets intending to kill fleas and ticks assuming they are safe; sadly, they are not. The active ingredients in most of these products include chemicals such as imidacloprid, fipronil, permethrin, methoprene, and pyriproxyfen, all of which have caused serious health problems in animals in laboratories. Even some of the inert ingredients can be hazardous to your pet.

The chemical residues stay on a pet’s fur, and what they come in contact with, including your rugs, couches and children. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that residue levels produced by some flea collars are 1,000 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe for children to be near. The NRDC convinced our government to ban six dangerous pesticides formerly used in flea collars, but 2 — tetrachlorvinphos and propoxur — are still in use.

Labels warn us not to get the product on our skin, and to wash our hands after applying, and to keep it away from children, but there is no warning for our pets. The chemicals are absorbed into your animal’s skin and into their bloodstream. Immediate effects of pesticide overdose include vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, seizures, and respiratory problems. If your dog or cat shows any of these symptoms after the application of a pesticide, immediately wash the product off and call your vet.

My tips:

  • Buy a flea comb. The NRDC says on its website that regular combing of a pet can help reduce fleas.
  • Those caught in the comb should be drowned in soapy water.
  • Vacuum frequently to rid carpets and floors of fleas and their eggs. Dispose of used vacuum bags immediately so fleas don’t escape and re-infest the room. Or get your carpets professionally steam cleaned.
  • Give pets frequent soapy baths with nontoxic shampoo to control fleas.
  • Wash pet bedding weekly in hot water.
  • Use products made with essential oils that repel insects but do not harm pets or people.
Beth Greer, aka Super Natural Mom®, is an award-winning journalist, green holistic health educator, healthy home expert and impassioned champion of toxin-free living. She’s also a radio talk show host, and trusted consumer advocate, who is leading a movement of awareness and responsibility about healthy homes, schools and work environments. Connect with Beth on Facebook and Twitter.