Did you know that the pet grooming products used to control fleas and ticks are
actually pesticides? Whether you treat your pet yourself, or use the services
of a groomer, it is important to take precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure and potential injury to your family or pet.
If you have a dog or cat, you have probably used a flea or tick control product on your pet. These products can be used to prevent or treat pests on your pet. Some pet
owners choose to have a pet groomer apply the flea and tick control products. Products used by professional groomers to kill or control fleas, ticks and other pests on pets must be registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency as well as registered in New York State with the Department of Environmental Conservation1
Minimizing exposure to pesticides is beneficial since all pesticides are toxic to some degree2
. Recent research has examined the link between pesticide exposure and children’s health outcomes. Pesticides have been shown to affect a variety of body systems including reproductive, endocrine, immune, respiratory and developmental disorders (e.g. autism) and behavioral conditions (e.g. ADHD)3
. There is evidence that some pesticides may pose a risk of some childhood cancer4,5
Adverse effects, such as burning eyes, vomiting and coughing have been reported when tick and flea control products are not used according to label directions6
. Though it is often difficult to directly link a specific pesticide use with adverse effects it is still prudent to reduce exposure, especially to pregnant woman7,8
, and young children, when possible. Infants and toddlers are particularly at risk since they are closer to the ground or floor surface and frequently put their hands in their mouths which can lead to exposure9
Studies have found that small amounts of flea or tick control pesticides can remain on a pet's fur and skin after the product is applied. It is particularly important to not touch your pets until after the treatment dries, however even dry residues can persist.10
In 2010, the US EPA released a report about poisoning incidents in pets. Most of the reported incidents resulted in minor symptoms; however, some did result in death of the pet. The US EPA concluded that many pet poisonings occurred because the products were misused. This lead to requirements that labels on flea and tick control products be revised to provide clearer information11
. If your pet experiences symptoms such as irritated skin, vomiting or trembling, you may want to contact your veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) at (888) 426-4435. You can also report the incident to the manufacturer, who is required by law to forward such reports to the US EPA. Information on how to contact the manufacturer is provided on the product’s label. In Suffolk County you can also contact your local Region 1 of Department of Environmental Conservation and report such information.
How to minimize exposure to flea and tick pesticides when used on your pet
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) recommends that care be taken when dealing with treatments containing potentially harmful pesticides. NYSDOH offers these recommendations6
- Read the product label first! Labels contain important information about proper use.
- Apply only the recommended dose; more can be harmful to you and your pet.
- If the product gets on your skin, wash immediately. Consider wearing gloves when applying.
- Do not touch treated pets, carpet or furniture until the product dries.
- Be sure to use the correct product. Some products are for pets, while others are to be used strictly on carpets and furniture. The two types of products should not be used interchangeably.
- Do not use dog treatments on cats, or cat treatments on dogs.
- Be certain of your pet's weight and purchase the appropriate treatment.
- Safely store products away from children and pets.
Pet groomers should alert all pet caregivers about the potential risk of pesticide residue exposure and share these tips with them.
Are there other ways to control fleas and ticks?
The US EPA suggests the following tips to help prevent, reduce, or eliminate flea infestations12
- Vacuum your home on a daily basis to remove flea eggs, larvae and adults. It is important to vacuum carpets, cushioned furniture, cracks and crevices on floors, along baseboards and the basement. Remember to discard the vacuum bag.
- Steam cleaning carpets may also help as the hot steam and soap can kill fleas in all stages of the life cycle.
- Try vacuuming your pet to remove any fleas from its fur, if the pet will tolerate it.
- Wash all pet bedding and family bedding on which pets lie in hot, soapy water every two to three weeks. If an infestation is severe, discard old pet bedding and replace it with fresh, clean material.
- Try using a flea comb, which can be a very effective tool to suppress adult fleas on your pet. When fleas are caught, deposit them in hot soapy water to kill them.
To reduce ticks in your yard, the Centers for Disease Control recommends the following13
- Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
- Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
- Mow the lawn frequently.
- Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
- Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
- Remove any old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.
- Refer to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station's Tick Management Handbook[PDF - 8.53 MB] for a comprehensive guide to preventing ticks and their bites through landscaping.
- Discourage deer. Removing plants that attract deer and constructing physical barriers may help discourage deer from entering your yard and bringing ticks with them.
For More Information
New York State Health Department website on flea and tick control products:
Information about pesticide poisoning: https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/workplace/pesticide_poisoning_registry/
Information about using pesticides around and on pets
Information about the regulation of pet groomers and pesticide products:
If you have any concerns about exposure to flea and tick products for you or your pet, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222
For more information you may want to check out these websites:
- 1New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). (n.d.). Pet Groomers and Pesticide Products. Retrieved from http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/106044.htmhttp://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/106044.html.
- 2National Pesticide Information Center. (2015, November 6). Pesticides and Human Health. Retrieved from http://npic.orst.edu/health/humhealth.html.
- 3Liu, J., Schelar, E. (2012, May). Pesticide Exposure and Child Neurodevelopment. Workplace Health and Safety. 60(5):235-243. doi: 10.3928/21650799-20120426-73.
- 4Environmental Protection Agency. (2015). Childhood Cancer. America’s Children and the Environment(3rd ed.). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/health-childhood-cancer.pdf.
- 5Leiss, J.K., Savitz, D.A. (1995, February). Home pesticide use and childhood cancer: a case control study. American Journal of Public Health. 85(2):249-252. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1615305/.
- 6New York State Department of Health. (n.d.). Reducing Poisonings from flea and tick control treatments. Retrieved from http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/pests/fleatick.htm.
- 7Xue, Z., Li, X., Sue, Q., Xu, L., Zhang, P., Kong, Z., Xu, J., Teng, J. (2013, July). Effects of synthetic pyrethroid pesticide exposure during pregnancy on the growth and development of infants. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health. 40(6):693-697. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22279658.
- 8Qi, X., Zheng, M., Wu, C., Chang, X., Want, G., Lu, D., Zhou, Z. (2011, November). Impact of prenatal pyrethroid exposure on neurodevelopment of one year old infants. Journal of Hygiene Research. 40(6):693-697. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221779679_Impact_of_prenatal_pyrethroid_exposure_on_neurodevelopment_of_one-year_old_infants.
- 9United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2011, October 3). Exposure Factors Handbook. National Center for Environmental Assessment. Retrieved from https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/risk/recordisplay.cfm?deid=236252.
- 10Britton, W. (2007, September 13). MGK-264:Data Evaluation Record for “Human Exposure During and Following Use of a Pyrethrins/Piperonyl Butoxide/MGK-264 Shampoo Formulation on Dogs- Volume I & II [Memorandum]. Washington D.C. United States Environmental Protection Agency.
- 11United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2016). EPA Evaluation of Pet Spot on Products: Analysis and Plans for Reducing Harmful Effects. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/pets/epa-evaluation-pet-spot-products-analysis-and-plans-reducing-harmful-effects.
Xue, Z., Li, X., Sue, Q., Xu, L., Zhang, P., Kong, Z., Xu, J., Teng, J. (2013, July). Effects of synthetic pyrethroid pesticide exposure during pregnancy on the growth and development of infants. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health. 40(6):693-697. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22279658.
- 12United States Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Are there other methods to
prevent and control fleas and ticks besides use of spot-on flea and tick products? Retrieved from https://pesticides.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/212332257-Are-there-other-methods-to-prevent-and-control-fleas-and-ticks-besides-use-of-spot-on-flea-and-tick-products-.
- 13Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Preventing Ticks in Your Yard.
Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/in_the_yard.html.