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Are Frontline and other flea prevention products bad for dogs?

I use chemical flea-prevention products on my dog, and I feel bad about it.

When I lived in North Dakota, I never had to worry about fleas. (A benefit of brutally cold weather.)

But fleas are a year-round problem here in San Diego, so I want to start an honest discussion about fleas.

There’s a lot of talk about natural flea prevention lately, and of course that’s a good thing. But what if those options aren’t possible?

Why I use chemical flea prevention on my pets

Is Frontline bad for dogs?

My approach to flea prevention is to use the least amount of toxic chemicals as possible while keeping my pets flea free.

I use chemical flea-prevention products on my pets because:

  • Fleas are a big problem in my area.
  • I can’t use natural flea-prevention products because of allergies to the ingredients (cedarwood oil, peppermint oil, sage, thyme oil, etc.)

I typically buy flea-prevention products through 1-800-PetMeds. The company recently gave me some store credit, and my last order included Advantage for the cats and K9 Advantix for Ace.

What are the potential risks of chemical flea prevention products?

Chemical flea prevention products are made with insecticides. You know, like, toxic poisons. It’s not rocket science to figure out that these could be harmful, especially over the long term.

An active ingredients in Frontline is an insecticide called fipronil. An active ingredient in K9 Advantix is an insecticide called imidacloprid.

I’m not picking on these brands. I use them regularly on my pets. I just want pet owners to think carefully about whether these products are truly necessary and how often they should be used.

Potential side effects are listed right on the packaging. For example, Advantage and K9 Advantix list that the products could cause skin irritation or gastrointestinal issues.

I’ve never noticed these types of reactions from my pets.

Instead, I’m more concerned about the potential toll these chemicals could take on my pets over time.

While it’s impossible to avoid all toxins (they’re pretty much everywhere), I believe we should do all we can to limit what our families and our pets are exposed to. Spot-on flea treatments are just one example.

Natural flea prevention options

I love that there are so many natural options available for flea prevention, and I recommend you go that route if possible, even though it’s not an option for me.

Natural flea spray with cedar oilTopical products without the chemicals

There are monthly, topical flea prevention products without harsh chemicals such as a brand called Natural Defense. This is made with peppermint oil and other natural ingredients harmless to pets and humans but deadly to fleas and ticks, according to the company.

Natural sprays

1-800-PetMeds carries a natural anti-flea spray made with cedarwood oil and peppermint oil. The company says it’s safe to use this product in addition to spot-on treatments.

Food grade diatomaceous earth

This can be sprinkled over the pet’s bedding. It’s safe for humans and pets but kills fleas and ticks by drying them out. I’ve also sprinkled a combo of salt and baking soda into my carpets to potentially kill flea eggs. I can’t say whether it actually worked, but it didn’t hurt.

What if you have to use chemical flea prevention?

Sometimes we have no choice but to use chemical flea prevention products. If that’s the case, there are still ways we can limit the toxins our pets are exposed to overall.

For example:

  • If we have to give flea prevention and heartworm prevention, we don’t have to give them to the dog on the same day. We can spread them out. In some areas, dogs won’t even need heartworm prevention.
  • We can give our pets the minimum amount of flea prevention necessary for our area. Perhaps once every six weeks instead of every four.
  • We can rotate between natural products and chemical products, assuming the natural products are effective.
  • We can limit which vaccinations our pets receive so they only get the vaccines that are truly necessary.
  • We can use natural cleaning products in the home whenever possible.
  • We can feed our dogs a raw diet or the healthiest diet we can afford.

Now I want to hear from you.

Do you use chemical flea-prevention products?

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