Chemical Flea Collars Threaten Pets and Kids, as well as Pests

A new report finds hazardous chemicals are still being used in flea and tick collars.

By Emily Main

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Here are a few alternative treatments to keep your dogs and cats flea-free this season:

• Get rid of chemical collars. Despite the potential for harm, there is some good news regarding flea-collar chemicals. “These chemicals are not very persistent in the environment or in our bodies,” Dr. Solomon says. She recommends removing collars and washing your pet and its bedding. Residues wash away, and your body will eventually excrete them, she adds. You could try buying brands that don’t name the above chemicals as active ingredients, but there’s no guarantee they won’t contain the chemicals anyway.

• Baths and combs are your pets’ best defense. Bathing dogs every other week is generally effective at preventing flea infestations, and it also helps to remove ticks if they haven’t already latched onto a pet’s skin. “A flea comb will also remove ticks just as well as it does fleas, assuming they aren’t already attached,” says Dr. Solomon.

• Find less-toxic flea fixes. Look for flea treatments that contain insect growth regulators, or IGRs. These come in a pill prescribed by your vet, and they work by inhibiting a flea’s ability to reproduce. “In the long run, these are more effective because they disrupt breeding cycles of fleas,” Dr. Solomon says, adding that flea collars really only work if an adult flea comes in contact with the fur.

• Treat ticks with care. Solomon says that there really aren’t any safe alternatives for ticks, but given the potential for both pets and owners to succumb to diseases carried by them, it’s worth investing in some of the more potent tick treatments. She recommends fipronil (sold under the brand name Frontline), selamectin (sold as Revolution), and imidacloprid (sold as Advantage) if you’ve got persistent tick problems.

NRDC has compiled a list of the best and worst products on the pet market at its Web site www.greenpaws.org.

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