Chances are, if you’re a pet owner, the image here of a dog frantically scratching at that itch is very familiar! Anyone who has or deals with pets seems to lament the increased numbers of fleas this year. If you’re currently dealing with itchy pets, and consequently, itchy family members as these pesky, tiny terrors take over your home, you’re not alone. However, before you grab the nearest flea control remedy, spray, powder, or treatment, take a moment to be sure you know what you’re exposing your family and pets to. Many flea control products contain harsh chemicals, toxins, or other ingredients that are dangerous to touch or breathe in! Some flea control products are even harmful to the pets you’re supposed to use them on. The good news? There are green ways to control your pest problem, ways that are healthier for you, your family, your pets and the environment.
When it comes to flea and tick control, it’s important to treat your pets to keep them comfortable and healthy, especially as ticks can pass on Lyme Disease to your pets. However, it’s equally important because having a healthy and pest-free pet is also better for your home and the health of your family. However, not all treatments are created equal, and in fact what you think is a safe product may be harmful for your pets health or harmful for yourself and your family to touch. Even so-called “natural” treatments, such as essential oils, can cause allergic reactions, so it’s a good idea to do a little research into what is really in that bottle or container of flea and tick treatment.
The safest and most effective flea control is actually the one that requires some good old fashioned work. Give your pet a regular bath, weekly is preferable, with a non-pesticide shampoo. Shampoos with pesticides can irritate your pet’s skin or cause a reaction. Get a flea comb and comb your pet’s fur regularly. Wash bedding in hot water and vacuum your floors frequently. This will take care of most of the tiny critters that try to invade your home. Adding garlic to your pet’s meals, or brewer’s yeast, has also proven effective for many, as the taste or smell repels fleas.
If, after following the above remedies, you are still seeing fleas on your pet, you may need to apply a flea control product. Here’s where things get complicated. There’s no end to the amount of flea powders, sprays, baths, topical treatments, or oral treatments. What’s safe for your pet? Are they safe for your family to be around or breathe in? Will your kids have to wash their hands every time they touch your pet? Believe it or not, most of the treatments that are available in your local pet or retail store are not regulated and may contain toxins and chemicals that are hazardous to touch, breathe in, put on your pet, or let loose on the environment. It almost makes the fleas seem not so bad!
If you do need a flea control product, your best bet is to purchase an oral pill from your vet. These are generally considered to be safe and highly effective, plus there’s no residue left on your pet’s skin. Some of the topical products your vet carries may also be effective, but these products could have a harmful effect on the environment. If exposed to topical flea treatments, animals such as birds, aquatic animals, and insect-eaters such as lizards could be put at risk. In addition, these treatments have caused harmful reactions and diseases in people and pets.
Generally, there are no safe pesticides to treat ticks. Collars for flea and tick treatment contain harmful chemicals, so they would not be a good treatment option. In fact, some studies have shown that the effect of the residue left by these collars is actually extremely harmful to both children and adults, and could cause cancer, nervous system problems, and developmental issues. Just like with flea treatements, your best bet is frequent baths, combing, and washing pet betting in hot water. If more treatment is needed, the monthly pills available from your vet are the safest and most effective option.