If you use any food or treatment regularly, it’s important to carefully understand what you can about the ingredients. Anything that we subject ourselves to on a regular basis can have vast implications on our overall health. Therefore, preventatives that are placed on your pet monthly or every 6 weeks that enter the bloodstream and stay there the entire time should be treated with the utmost caution.

The active ingredient in pesticide preventatives Frontline and Perrigo PetArmor Plus is Fipronil. What is Fipronil? I wrote about Fipronil earlier in a post on this blog, explaining:

It is a toxin that is described as “a slow acting poison” and even carcasses of the pests killed are toxic if consumed. Another concerning aspect of this toxin is that “fipronil has been classified by the EPA as a Group C (possible human) carcinogen based on an increase in thyroid follicular cell tumors in both sexes of the rat.” So while deemed safe for use by the FDA, it is worthwhile to take the entire picture into consideration before having this toxin enter your dog’s bloodstream for pest control. It should also be noted that “flea populations appear to be developing a genetic resistance to its effects” (in regards to Frontline/Fipronil, and I have heard this about competing products as well).

It’s important to understand that Fipronil is toxic and enters the bloodstream of your dog, whatever way you slice it or dose you provide.

In a study of chronic toxicity, where rats were fed fipronil daily for 52 weeks, researchers found changes in thyroid hormones, increased liver mass, and effects on the kidney. Seizures and seizure-related deaths were also noted. In a similar study, rats were fed fipronil daily for nearly two years. Benign and malignant tumors were observed in the thyroid gland. Due to this, the EPA has fipronil classified as a possible human carcinogen (#NPIC).(Source)

And the even more ominous from that same document:

Fipronil may degrade into products more or equally toxic. If handling fipronil, avoid exposed areas for a reasonable amount of time.

What about the others, such as Comfortis or Trifexis? They also pose the same kinds of dangers, and just last year had 600 reported deaths as a result of applying this pesticide. Another blog post for another day.

Are there safe alternatives? Even in flea or tick infested areas?

Ticks are very serious, heartworms are nasty, and so are fleas – to us and our dogs. But can you imagine dumping pesticides into the blood stream of your infant or child? Lather an insecticide on them that entered their bloodstream? Something that had the above cautions associated with it? Or would you try to find a better way first?

The good news is I have heard (and experienced) amazing things from people who have built up their pets immune system not having any problems with either. Yes, it certainly takes a leap of faith to trust in good health being a great barrier to pests – but people have found it works wonders. I have seen my own dogs both go into tick infested woods, and emerge without a single one on them while dogs (eating kibble) come out covered in them. I see my cat, who is ill, harbor fleas when my healthy dogs do not.

I do believe that through diet and proper, appropriate supplementation an immune system can do wonders at repelling pests. Not to mention that same immune system is vital at preventing cancer, the number one killer of our canine companions.

A compromised immune system loaded with pesticides is a risk I’m just not willing to take. Consider trying to boost the immune system this season and see if it works. Take all the steps, and give it time. If it works for you, the longevity and health of your dog is a possible (huge) reward.

Steps to a healthy immune system and pest free dogs

1) Real food.
This could be a raw or homemade diet, whatever you are most comfortable with. Make sure you find a recipe from a reputable source, such as a canine nutritionist or a veterinarian who is trained in nutrition (and ideally without vested interests in the kibble industry). You may try seeking a holistic veterinarian for assistance or a recommendation. There are many resources online from qualified veterinarians with balanced diets and instructions on feeding. Do your research, and this is the best way to establish a healthy immune system in your dog.

2) Balanced, wise supplementation.
This is truly up to you, your vet, and what your dog needs in his or her stage of life and current health. I choose to use a selection of healthy oils and plants. Some examples include turmeric, coconut oil, a source of omega fatty acids, garlic, and brewers yeast. You may even want to investigate what helps detoxify your dog. The correct answer here depends on you and your dog.

3) Natural sprays.
For added precaution, I also spray my dogs with natural sprays that do not compromise the immune system and overall health. These sprays may contain ingredients such as cedar, cloves, lemongrass, or citronella (note that while the citronella plant is toxic for dogs, using the oil is safe as an insect repellent) – there are many options here, even ones you can make yourself.

There are even more things you can try, like electromagnetic waves, natural supplements that target heartworms specifically, even bug guarding outfits.

Remember that the same thing you do for your dog is good for you too. An immune system is our primary defense against cancer-causing toxins. Choose not to compromise it with pesticides and seek a safer route. Experiment by boosting your dog’s immune system while using safe, natural supplementation and barrier methods before suppressing their immune system with known toxins and carcinogens.

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • This is such an interesting post Jen. I hate putting toxic, commercial flea and tick preventatives on Haley and I usually only apply them for a couple of months of the year. On the other hand, a lot of people agree that natural parasite control methods aren’t very effective. I think you’ve maybe hit on something here, that it’s more than just using a natural product, but working to boost the immune system on several fronts combined with natural products.

    • Thanks Elaine! I\’m always triggered at this time of year in seeing all the ads and such for this.Yeah, I also thought the same for quite awhile – the natural sprays and so on were the ticket. I switched to homecooked (then raw) at the same time I dumped the preventatives and took up the natural stuff – and never thought at the time it might be one or the other. I now think what helped was more the food… partly because I\’ve lapsed in spray and they still don\’t attract fleas/ticks. So I started reading more about the immune system and what it can control (bugs, worms, cancer), and I think that\’s what was helping more :) But I do think it takes some time to detoxify and strengthen, perhaps not given enough time by some if they\’re even willing to switch the diet.There\’s a lot I don\’t know of course so I\’ll continue to read and share what I learn, and cross my fingers I\’m doing the right thing. I think that\’s all we can hope for sometimes!

  • So true, these toxic chemicals are so strong that over a period of time they build up toxins in their body. Natural alternatives are best. Both Curry and Brownie have been off frontline and monthly worm pills for a year now and have been clear of fleas and worms. I’ve been using the Curry n Pepper flea away oil once a week, with an additional application before heading out on hikes for added protection. The oil is non-toxic, moisturizes the skin and helps keep fleas, tick, mange and mites at bay.

    Also adding Apple Cider Vinegar to the food our water daily (1-2 tsp) helps keep fleas away.

  • This was very informative Jen. S&D are on raw, plus I spray them about once per day during the hard core flea and tick times. I did not know about the Heartworm preventative though. My vet does recommend it, but I hate it. Typically I stretch it out so it’s every two months or so, but I will be chatting with the holistic vet at the end of the month and seeing what he recommends.

  • disqus_lGZFPnJCVs

    A very interesting read, especially as I have just been told by ‘Bayer’ my fur child is likely to have had a very uncommon reaction called pyrethroid-induced paresthesia following the use of Advantix. Bayer has recommended I use Advantage instead …. Unfortunately, we live in a high risk flea and tick area, so as much as I hate the use of these toxic my vet is saying it is the only way. She is on a natural raw diet, omega oils and a multi vitamin as well as the occasionally apple cider vinegar in a her food.
    Having read the comments below, I noticed Jen’s concerns about Interceptor, which happens to be what my vet has her on.
    Are you able to explain further?

    • The new company manufacturing it is Elanco, and when I first heard the news there were a number of people concerned about them. It was quite awhile ago and I can’t remember the specifics (and I’m not knowledgable enough on the matter to pass on info anyway, which is probably why I didn’t get into detail). I would however recommend researching Elanco to see if any of the concerns were warranted. I have heard of people in high flea/tick areas having success with the natural preventatives, so it might be worth a shot if it hasn’t been tried already and you’re comfortable. There are some natural remedy communities online with folks in those areas that may be worth chatting with too – that was my inspiration to switch over (I’m in a high flea area, and tick when we hike). Good luck! :)

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  • Steve

    I might pay attention to this article if it was written by someone who is QUALIFIED TO WRITE ABOUT PESTICIDES. This author has no scientific background that she presents: ie a bonafide PhD, Masters degree, Veterinary degree or even a licensed pesticide applicator. This is like getting medical advice from your hairdresser.
    How do you write with any authority on a subject that you are totally unqualified to write about?
    Useless drivel by a dog walker.

    • Gold

      Steve, try arguing that logic put forth by the author.

      We can always dismiss ideas for not coming from a “proper authority” (subjective in itself), but in my humble opinion, that would be logically fallacious.