Pesticides & Preventatives Poisoning Pets?

Written by Jan on January 8, 2009 – 3:14 pm

Caution Sign

As most of you know, I have for years been sounding the warning siren about the slow poisoning of dogs from pesticides, co-called “preventatives” and other toxic chemicals. If your e-mails are any indication, many of you are listening. But many of you aren’t. Veterinary waiting rooms continue to be filled with accidentally poisoned pets. Some of these pets don’t survive.

Okay, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 46% of dogs and 39% of cats dying of disease will die of cancer. Pesticides are proven to increase your dog’s (or cats) chance of getting cancer.  A University of Pennsylvania vet school study showed topical insecticides (aka preventatives) “significantly increased” bladder cancer risk, especially in overweight dogs. Other studies have shown cancer risks from herbicides. Some products meant for pets can even increase the chance you and your children will become ill.

Snail, ant and rodent baits may also prove deadly, sometimes killing quickly, sometimes slowly. Don’t think it can’t happen to your pet. In the “poison free” yard of my favorite pet safety advocate (me!), both of my dogs were exposed to rat poison. I immediately induced vomiting, got advice from ASPCA‘s Poison Control Center, took them to the emergency room visit followed by weeks of Vitamin K supplementation yet my dog Jiggy’s liver enzymes rose off the charts. Now, nine months later, an incompetent exterminator has lost his job and Jiggy still shows impaired liver function.  Jiggy’s vet bills top $3000 with no end in sight.

Even when we don’t realize it, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and other poisons assault our dogs’ bodies in countless ways:

  • We purposefully apply insecticides to kill fleas and ticks. Surely, none of us would rub poison between our children’s shoulder blades, or bathe them in poisons, but when it comes to pets, we trustingly accept the “wisdom” of advertisers and flea-and-tick product vendors. You can check out your Flea and Tick products for safety at Green Paws. Don’t forget to check all the products your groomer or kennel owner uses, too, and have them send for a Green Paws Action Kit. And remember, even if a product is labeled “natural” or listed as “safe,” it may still be harmful to your pet’s long-term health.  In 2008, ASPCA toxicologists reported more than 31,000 calls related to insecticides, often because of misuse of flea and tick products. If you use one of these products–particularly products from Hartz, Sergeant’s, Farnam, and Bayer–please read Pesticides in Pet Products: Why Your Dog or Cat May Be at Risk I hope you’ll also watch this CBS video sent to me by one of the people featured; she lost her dog Lincoln to flea and tick medication.  Here are two related links from the Environmental Protection Agency: Increased Scrutiny of Flea and Tick Control Products for Pets and Listing of EPA-registered Spot-on Flea and Tick Products.
  • We administer insecticides orally to kill heartworms, even when sustained cool temps make contracting heartworms all but impossible (according to the University of Pennsylvania and other experts). Yet, advertisers tell us to buy these products year round. It’s about money, honey.
  • Pets unknowingly auto-apply pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins during walks with you. Even if your own yard is free of toxic chemicals, romps on golf courses, common areas and dog parks, with their unknown pesticide and herbicide products and treatment schedules, can prove deadly. Whatever gets on your pet’s feet is licked into their bodies, assaulting livers and increasing carcinogenic loads.
  • Pets eat hidden pesticides in their food, especially corn-laden grocery store kibble. Corn deemed unfit for human consumption—sometimes because of excessive pesticide contamination—often ends up in pet food. Pet food expert Dr. Jean Hofve tells me there is no upper limit for pesticide contamination.
  • Pets get into rodent, ant and snail poison even when you are careful. Some of these products (like rat poison) cause a slow death by internal bleeding and you may not recognize symptoms until it’s too late. Just a tiny amount of some products (like snail bait) can kill fast. (Read this to learn about snail bait poisoning.) My dogs’ poisoning came in an usual way: from rat bait locked inside a safe-looking bait box; a raccoon trying to get at the bait banged the box on the ground and my dogs found the scattered bait. Note: it’s not enough to use safe products in your yard. Ask your neighbors to as well.)
  • Pets (and hunting birds, coyotes, etc.) eat poisoned animals (rats, groundhogs, etc.) and are poisoned themselves. This happens more than you might suspect.

So here’s what to do to keep your pet safe from poison. First, check all products for child safety. If they’re not safe for kids, they’re not safe for dogs and cats. Second, wash your pet’s feet after walking on any suspect area. At least, wipe paws with a damp cloth. Clean paws, too, after walks on grimy chemically-laden streets and salted roads. If you wouldn’t lick a surface, don’t let your animal lick the grime off his paws. It just takes but a moment to wash up, and could save you countless tears, wasted days and thousands of dollars at the vet’s office.

Find a wealth of additional information in an article called Pesticides and Pets.  I hope you’ll print it and read it. No, don’t just read it. Study it.

The EPA has a flea and tick fact sheet and The National Pesticide Information Center has a tips sheet.

You can report a problem with pesticides, drugs or foods at this excellent new AVMA reporting page.  Also fill out the form at Beyond Pesticides.

Finally, those of you who have my book, Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care, please reread the chapter “Stop Pest-ering Me” to learn natural ways to protect your dogs from pests. If your pet has been exposed to any poison, immediately contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.

You can also find the links mentioned here on my Links page.  Want to know the truth about Heartworms? Click my heartworm link to find 3 in-depth articles. And please bookmark this blog post so others can find it. And here’s another article from my friends Drs. Kim Bloomer and Jeannie Thomason: Battling Fleas, Ticks, & Mosquitoes: Pet Health Care or Billion Dollar Pet Industry?

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Tags: cats, dogs, flea medicine, flea preventative, heartworm, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, poison, poison control, preventatives, spot-on flea and tick, tick
Posted under Cancer, Flea and Tick Meds, Pet Meds, Uncategorized | 61 Comments » Email This Post

61 Comments to “Pesticides & Preventatives Poisoning Pets?”

  1. Jan Says:

    Claire, I’m so sorry for your loss. If you did not report both incidences to the USDA, please do so immediately.

    Ask your vet to do the same. And ask for details on the product: lot #, expiration date, etc. Then write the manufacturer and report what happened and tell them you want to be compensated for your vet bills and the loss of your dog. Be tough. Don’t let them get away with this.

  2. Jan Says:

    Claire, one more thing. Ask for a copy of the “package insert.” It may also be on-line. It will show all the known adverse reactions which will make talking to the manufacturer easier.

  3. Diana Says:

    Hi Jan,
    On your response #45. here, shouldn’t Karen also hold her vet accountable, report him to the state vet board or something? The vet LIED, which is what caused the death of her beautiful little Yorkie. The vet also didn’t give product description, as a poison, or the possible consequences of taking the shots; he never told her that shots are more dangerous too, than pills, or that her little Yorkie couldn’t handle the amount bigger dogs can.

  4. Jan Says:

    Diana, I wish we could hold vets accountable for recommending toxic products, but they are approved by the FDA so we’re out of luck. All we can do is research the products we give our pets and choose our vets more carefully.

  5. Miguel Says:


    I just like to ask something about my dog. He died because of kidney failure and heartworm. Before he died his jaw dropped and it has also saliva. Is it possible that he had rabies or the reason why his jaw dropped because he had difficulties of breathing? Please i need your answer badly because the vet here told me that i may be infected of rabies because i am exposed to my dog. I am scared because there is a baby in our house. Can i get infected by rabies? Or does he have rabies before he died? By the way my dog is a chow chow

  6. Jan Says:

    Miguel, they should have done an autopsy (called a necropsy) on your dog if they suspected rabies. I think it’s required by law. I’m not an expert on this, but merely having a dropped jaw and rabies shouldn’t be a sure sign.

    Also, is there a chance your dog was bitten by a rabid animal? Possible candidates would be bats, coyotes, raccoons, etc. Were you bitten by your dog? Or scratched? Rabies is not an airborne disease. You need contact with saliva into an open wound or mucus membrane.

    Is rabies a problem in your area? It’s actually pretty rare unless you live in certain areas. Call your local Animal Control and your local doctor. You need the advice of experts. Rabies is a fatal disease if not treated.

  7. Michael Says:

    Hi Jan,

    I live in Malaysia and I would like to ask about fleas and ticks. Recently there is a lot of small (I think is ticks) drop out from my dog, Shih Tzu. Just a few days ago i search around her leg and realize that there is bunch of very small ticks stick on her leg. I try to pluck them away from her and was so surprise and scare because there is like 20+ of the small ticks. The next day there is 20-30+ again. Most of them are the small ticks, just some of it,maybe a few are a little bigger. Then on Sunday morning, I gave her a bathe and the next day, there is a lot of ticks coming out from her leg and maybe paws again. This time is around 40+. For 3 consecutive days there is almost 100 of it. I realize some of it is in red brown color and some is black. Few of it is white in color.

    The product I using to prevent ticks is Front Line spray, but I has stop using it for a while because there is no ticks around her that time and if I use on her, she will keep scratch her body after awhile. Since there is a lot of ticks, I bought and re-apply the front line spray on my dog, but this morning I still saw some of it on my bed. Just a few but it still moving. As I know front line able to kill the ticks but why it still moving ? Does this means that front line product for example this spray is not effective anymore ? I read some of the review from Facebook regarding front line and people complaining the front line product is not effective anymore.

    Besides that, can I use Surolan and Front line spray at the same time ? This is because my dog is having ear mites and the vet recommend us to use Surolan to cure it. And another question is can I use the front line spray to spray my house compound, those area like the window corner, backyard (the place where my dog usually go to pee and poop).

    I’ve read your article about insecticides that might bring harm to dogs and cats. But if we doesn’t use this kind of method, then what alternatives (herbal and natural products) that can effectively free dogs and cats from having ticks and fleas?


  8. Dr. Sara Says:

    the study you cited was 1989. There was a more recent study that indicated NO increased risk of cancer with fipronil or imidocloprid. I really want the general public to know the TRUTH, both good and bad, about my profession. Flea/tick medication saves lives. Lyme disease kills.

  9. Jan Says:

    Dr. Sara, thanks for your comment. I’d love to see the more recent study you cited. My contact information is at I’d love to read the and revise the article if appropriate. I have no agenda and no profit motive.

  10. Laurie Zaslove Says:

    I read your article about dogs not needing heart worm meds during the cooler times. THat maybe true in areas with snow. BUt here in Florida we rarely have freezes. Hw meds are very important year round.
    I have a question for u? what do u think about not using hw preventive at all & spraying the yard with pesticides?? I am guessing the plants?? THis is not about me & my dogs. It is about someone else. I personally feel only spraying ones yard is not going to stop dogs from getting bit by a mosquito with heart worm. THey say they do a hw test when they get the dogs yrly shots.

    Wondering in Pensacola, Fl.

  11. Jan Says:

    Laurie, using poisons on your yard isn’t any better than using poison on/in your dog. And what is this about yearly shots? They are a thing of the past for informed vets.

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