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  1. What is the most important thing that dog lovers should know about flea and tick products on the market today?
  2. What do you recommend as the safest way for dog lovers to help protect their pups from fleas and ticks?
  3. The Poisons on Pets II report seems to be focused on flea products. But what is the safest way to get rid of/prevent ticks, in particular?
  4. Are prescription treatments safer than over-the-counter products?
  5. Due to chemical concerns, many flea/tick manufacturers are turning to herbal oil based products. Are these products safer?
  6. Is GreenPaws planning to add any new products to the product guide? If so, how do I submit a product to be added?

1. What is the most important thing that dog lovers should know about flea and tick products on the market today?

The most important thing dog lovers should know is that not all over-the-counter flea and tick products are safe for your pet! Many Americans believe that commercially available pesticides, such as those found in pet products, are tightly regulated by the government. In fact, they are not. Many of the products sold in grocery, drug and pet supply stores, even when applied as instructed on the box, can cause serious health consequences to pets and humans. Just because these products are on store shelves does not mean they are safe.

Check our the Green Paws product guide to see if you are currently using a flea or tick treatment that could be harmful to your pet, and to find safer options.

Until the EPA bans the last of these toxic chemicals, consumers should avoid products that list tetrachlorvinphos, carbaryl and propoxur as active ingredients. Let us know if you or someone you love (whether furry or not) has had a toxic reaction to a pet product, email us at greenpaws@nrdc.org with your story.

2. What do you recommend as the safest way for dog lovers to help protect their pups from fleas and ticks?

The safest way for pet owners to protect their pets and their family is to avoid toxic chemicals by controlling fleas through regular use of a flea comb, bathing, and vacuuming. Weekly baths and washing pet bedding in hot water can help get rid of existing fleas and their eggs, as will regular vacuuming. For more information visit the Green Paws page on Better Flea and Tick Treatment.

What if combs and bathing aren't enough? What products do you suggest, and how effective are they?

Pet owners looking to find a non-toxic way to get rid of their pet's fleas can take a look at our Guide to Better Flea and Tick Treatments. The page offers advice on using a flea comb, maintaining outdoor areas, and how to deal with a pet's bedding. When chemical control is necessary, choose a safer treatment and avoid the most toxic chemicals. All pesticides should be used with caution and in consultation with a veterinarian. Check our comprehensive product guide, and ask your vet about the products or treatments marked with a yellow paw.

3. The GreenPaws report seems to be focused on flea products. But what is the safest way to get rid of/prevent ticks, in particular?

If you live in an area where Lyme Disease is common, ticks are no laughing matter - they can be a serious health hazard to your pet, and even to you and your children if they crawl from your pet onto you. Even if you're not in a Lyme Disease area, ticks can carry other illnesses and their bites are painful. The safest methods for tick control include keeping the grass short and deer out of your back yard, and going over your dog with a flea comb (or bathing them with a regular pet shampoo) after they've been out in the woods. If that's not feasible, the options for chemical treatment are less-than-ideal. There are no truly safe pesticides that are effective against ticks. Many people use fipronil (Frontline) or selamectin (Revolution) as first choices. Other options, such as permethrin, pyrethrins, or imidacloprid are also effective, although the former two chemicals should be avoided in cats. Because these tick treatments are all applied topically, they can leave a residue on your pet's fur. Remember to wash your hands (and your kids' hands) after petting your dog or cat, and preferably avoid sleeping with your pet when they have these treatments on their fur. Avoid using flea and tick collars, or other tick products containing tetrachlorvinphos, propoxur, or amitraz.

4. Are prescription treatments safer than over-the-counter products?

The safest choices are definitely "over-the-counter" non-chemical products - a flea/tick comb, and a gentle pesticide-free pet shampoo. This combination, along with a washing machine and a vacuum cleaner, will do a great job tackling fleas and even ticks. However, if you need additional flea or tick control, some of the safest alternatives are available from your veterinarian. In general, flea control in pill form (such as lufenuron, nitenpyram, or spinosad) is safer than anything that leaves a residue on the fur. If you want to choose an over-the-counter product, check the labels for the names S-methoprene or pyriproxyfen, as these are safer alternatives (but be careful since some products contain these in combination with a more toxic pesticide).

6. Due to chemical concerns, many flea/tick manufacturers are turning to herbal oil based products. Are these products safer?

While it may seem that herbal oil based products seem like a better option for your pet, not all essential oils are safe for pets or people. Herbal or natural products containing citrus, cinnamon, clove, d-limonene, geranium, tea tree, lavender, linalool, bay, eucalyptus, and rue oils should be used sparingly because they can cause allergic reactions in people -- and severe reactions in cats and dogs have been reported. Avoid the use of any flea or tick product containing pennyroyal oil. It can cause seizures, comas, and even death in animals. Herbal or natural products that contain cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and thyme are likely safer. Learn more in our Guide to Safe Pets by looking under 'oils'.

5. Is GreenPaws planning to add any new products to the product guide? If so, how do I submit a product to be added?

Tell your family, friends, pet groomers, vets, and anyone you know about Green Paws! Visit greenpaws.org to download our fact sheet, wallet guide and help spread the word about keeping your pet and family safe from harmful chemicals. You can also order an Action Kit on the Green Paws site, which includes materials that can be taken to vet offices, pet groomers, pet stores and anywhere people and pets gather.

last revised 4/23/2009

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