Non-Toxic Flea Control

Keep your pets safe and healthy with these tips for warding off fleas naturally.

| July/August 1990

Tough critters, fleas. These tiny pests can live for months without eating, jump 50 to 100 times their height, and helped wipe out one-fourth the population of 14th-century Europe. 

Like many of the earth's creatures, fleas find the living lush and easy in the summertime. But it's less than lovely for pets who are dutifully bombarded with a ritual dousing, powdering and collaring of the very latest—and usually strongest—chemical created to fight the flea wars.

DDT (now banned) and chlordane (limited use) are two that tried and failed. Like many varieties of crop pests, fleas surviving the treatment became resistant to the insecticides.

"The problem is that most dogs and cats can't develop resistance as fast as fleas can," says Dr. Richard Pitcairn, a Eugene, Oregon, veterinarian. "Companies are always having to come up with products more powerful than the last." Unfortunately, many of these products induce side effects, in the owner as well as the pet—which makes finding and using non-toxic flea control methods more important than ever.

Hartz Mountain pulled the flea spray Blockade from stores in 1987, after the Illinois Animal Poison Information Center (a national poison center) received 560 consumer complaints about the product—a reported 46 cats and dogs died after being sprayed. Blockade was reintroduced in 1989. In addition, many long-term pet ailments, such as kidney and liver diseases, cancer and constant hyperactivity, are increasingly suspected to be the result of frequent chemical dousing, and—even more dangerous—the combined use of several such products at once, according to research at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in Washington, D.C.

More immediate effects of chemical poisoning, according to PETA, are foaming at the mouth, vomiting, muscle tremors, breathing difficulties, hyperactivity and lack of coordination. If your recently treated pet shows any of these symptoms, immediately wash the product off and call your veterinarian.

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