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What You Should Know Before Buying Flea or Tick Products

May 8th, 2012 Pets

Keeping your pet free of pests like fleas and ticks is a vital part of ensuring they live a happy life. After all, how would you feel if you had tiny critters making you itchy day in and day out? There are plenty of products out there that proclaim themselves as the be-all end-all of pet pest prevention, but how effective can they really be? According to the Humane Society, you want to educate yourself as much as possible before committing to a specific brand. Not only do they vary in efficacy, but some can actually harm your furry friend.

In fact, the Center for Public Integrity recently released findings of a 2008 study which indicates that at least 1,600 pet deaths over the previous five years could be traced back to chemicals in a few products. Relatively speaking, this is a fairly small number, but it still pays to be extra cautious before making a purchase. Here's what you should know about flea and tick medication.

1. Chemicals. As a rule of thumb, you want to avoid products that use a chemical known as pyrethroid. The same 2008 study found that more than half of the "major" pesticide reactions reported to the EPA were the result of spot-on treatment using pyrethroids. When you're shopping for products, be sure to check the ingredients list - pyrethroids can be potentially harmful to pets, but they are still allowed for sale. It's up to you to be diligent in your search and weed out any products that may contain them.

The Humane Society also recommends staying away from organophosphate insecticides (OP) and carbamates, which can be found in various products you'll see on pet store shelves. Though OPs may not be harmful to your cat or dog, the EPA states that they are "likely to be carcinogenic to humans," especially when exposed to them over a long period of time. Keep an eye out for a chemical known as permethrin, as the EPA has similar things to say about it.

If a product in question contains either carbaryl or propoxur, it has carbamates. The NRDC says these chemicals can be particularly harmful to children and your pets, so do your best to avoid them.

2. Safe flea control. So what can you do to ensure that you're safely and effectively keeping pests off of your pet? PETA recommends prevention so that you don't have to worry about them. This means keeping your dog or cat healthy and consistently grooming their fur. The cleaner an animal, the less likely he is to get fleas.

If you find yourself having to get rid of fleas or ticks, however, there are a few natural methods of doing so. You can find black walnut fairly easily, either in capsule or liquid form. Administer the minimum effective dose several times a week and you may see the problem disappear.

You can also find fine-toothed flea combs that will force the little pests off of your animal's fur. If you choose to go with this method, keep a small bowl of soapy water nearby to dip any fleas you pick up inside. This will ensure that they don't just hop right back into your animal's fur when you're done.