Monday, August 3, 2009 5:42 PM

"Spot-on" Flea Control: Safe and Effective?

How does one go about preventing fleas from infesting his/her pets and home? If you are like many pet owners today, you use chemical deterrents. Happily, the days when flea collars were the norm seem to be gone. They released large amounts of insecticide into an animal's bloodstream and never seemed to work anyway. Ditto for the shampoos, sprays and powders; it was a constant battle trying to control fleas, as none of these products seemed to give more than a few days' respite. Today, there are many once-a-month types of flea control products that promise to control these parasites plus have a benign effect on your animal. Are these claims true?

Many so-called "spot-on" pesticide products are currently on the market. This category seems to be dominated by two particular products, Advantage (made by Bayer) and Frontline (made by Merial). The active ingredients are imidocloprid and moxidectin for the former and fipronil and methoprene for the latter. The manufacturers claim that these chemicals are safe; they are applied between the shoulder blades, ostensibly because the pets will be unable to lick it off and ingest it. Further, the literature states that the chemicals are not absorbed by the body, but stay in the skin and hair follicles. Since when are substances applied to the skin not absorbed into the bloodstream? This sounds like fantasy to me, but even a couple of magazines I've read lately that feature veterinarian's columns have parroted that claim. How does the chemical travel from the "spot-on"area to cover the entire body? Also, how much hair and dander would you think an average pet sheds in 30 days? Quite a bit, I'd say, from the number of times I have to change the vacuum bags!

In sum, I think this particular claim is untrue. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency's website states that it is currently investigating reports of adverse effects running the gamut from skin irritation and hair loss to seizure and death! Other information I've read cites instances of diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, tremors as well as violent allergic reactions to these products. How, do you suppose, could these systemic reactions occur if the insecticides never penetrate below skin level? They couldn't, of course. Check out the EPA's site whether or not you use these products--there's lots of good info there. For instance, I didn't know that adverse reaction reports made to manufacturers by consumers must, by law, be reported to the EPA. Good to know!

So, despite the fact that these products do seem to work well, do you think it's worth the possible health hazards associated with them? Especially since there are other, less toxic ways to de-flea your pets. We'll talk about those tomorrow.

So Cute: My sister-in-law sent me this link:

Are they the cutest things, or what?!
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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