Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is Your Pet Being Poisoned?

There is a lot of controversy right now about flea and tick protection products for cats and dogs.  I guess it's been going on for a few years, but I have been oblivious until I became the owner of my cat, Heidi.  She entered my life about a year ago when my lovely neighbor, Winona passed away.

Heidi P. Rascal
Heidi is a "special" kitty with lots of emotional and physical issues.  When she first arrived, her fearful behavior and lack of fur in places indicated that Heidi must have been abused before she arrived into Nona's capable and loving care.  Heidi got her name, not for the little Swiss girl in the Johanna Spyri story, but because she is such a good little hider.  She lived in the basement for about three months after arriving at Nona's.  It took a long time for Heidi to learn to trust Nona.  And longer still for Heidi to trust me, though Nona insisted I get well acquainted with Heidi to take care of her if anything happened to Nona--who died at the age of 80.

So, I took my new neurotic charge to the vet to make sure I was doing everything possible to make her safe and healthy.  She's on steroids for irritable bowel (not happy about that, but the alternatives were allowing her to lose weight rapidly), she eats special food, and she has her flea and tick prevention--Frontline Plus--a monthly application.    This chemical brew includes fipronil and (5)-methoprene as the active ingredients.  The inert ingredients make up over 78% of the content-- wonder what those are!  Oh, that's right, I can look at the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) available on-line!  It says Frontline also contains 58-73% (is the recipe whimsical?) Diluent, Viscosity Modifer/Spreading Agent, and Solvation Aids.  My, that was helpful.  There's also 10-15% ethanol, so a great fire starter for the wienies.

At the very end of the MSDS, it states "Final determination of suitability of any materials is the sole responsibility of the user.  All materials may present unknown hazards and should be used with caution.  although certain hazards are described herein, Merial [the product maker] cannot guarantee that these are the only hazards that exist."  Phew, I will sleep much better tonight. 

Clyde, King of the Neighborhood
Ironically, I am trying to eliminate chemicals from my home, and I am applying Frontline Plus to my precious Heidi by instruction of our veterinarian.  I was told it is a better option than allowing fleas and ticks to make her sick.  But then I learned that cats rarely if ever get Lyme Disease from ticks.  I confirmed this with my vet!

I have just begun learning about the pesticides in the flea and tick preparations for pets.  It's frightening actually.  There are websites devoted to people's pets having succumbed to the poisons in the very products supposedly meant to help these pets.    Many of the lethal products are over-the-counter, but it gives me pause to wonder if I should be using one of the "safer" poisons available at the vet's on my precious kitty.  A news report by ABC News Channel 5 is an example of the concern about even the vet-provided products.  I don't want fleas and ticks in my home, but neither do I want to poison Heidi or cause her more pain.  And I don't want to poison myself either.  When we touch our pets, we are transferring the poisons to ourselves--and when our children pet them, they are being exposed to poison as well. 

I am researching other pest control methods, and I found the Tiny Timmy website.  This site began due to a heartbreaking story about a kitten, Timmy, being poisoned by over-the-counter spray and suffering permanent neurological damage.  The good news is that Timmy is in a loving home and is well cared for now.  The operators of this web site offer a nontoxic pest control bath application, but I can't imagine giving Heidi a bath with any product.  Heidi does a "Jekyll and Hyde" thing when confronted by unwanted attention--and I expect a bath would fall into the unwanted category--she changes from Heidi, my precious little muffin to Hell Cat in a flash.  (Seriously, she ripped my shirt once when I just wanted to introduce her to someone--in my apartment.)  Claudia (Under Secretary for Timmy Affairs, Division of the T.O.Y. Army) wrote that they are working on a nontoxic pest spray for cats.  That would be so much appreciated!

Stay tuned, but beware of the pesticides for your pet.  Talk to your vet.  Certainly do NOT assume that if a pet spray, powder, or other application is sold in a store that it is safe.  It is probably not.

Check out the product database for pet pesticide products at the Natural Resource Defense Council's Green Alternatives for Flea Control web page.  Look up your product on their product database to see how safe it is.  Also see their How to Control Fleas and Ticks Without Chemicals page for nontoxic alternatives.  Hmmm...would Heidi let me sponge her with lemon juice.  Well, safer for me than trying to give her a bath!  Ticks are rampant here in Vermont this year due to an oddly mild winter--so I'm feeling flummoxed.  I really don't want those blood-sucking arachnids in my home! Grrrrr........

Note dated July 15, 2012:  I switched Heidi's vet, and I switched from Frontline to Revolution as a monthly application.  In my state of indecision, I'd let the Frontline lapse for 20 days and the new vet found lots of fleas on Heidi.  I hadn't noticed them.  My new vet suggested that Revolution is less toxic than Frontline and since Heidi has a lot of problems, it's not a good thing for her to have a flea infestation.  I put the Revolution on her, and suddenly I was being bitten by fleas at home.  I took all of the bedding and any other fabrics in my bedroom to the laundry and hung them out to dry.  I vacuumed the mattress and flipped it over.  No more flea bites for Heidi or me!

No comments:

Post a Comment