According to Bayer, these new formulas will kill fleas at all life stages and prevent flea infestation in the home.
The older formulations of these products contained only an adulticidal. The new versions will have larvicidal and ovicidal properties with the addition of the chemical pyriproxyfen, an insect growth regulator (IGR) that prevents the development of flea eggs and kills flea larvae as well.
Pyriproxyfen targets the hormone pathways of insects, but does not affect mammals, according to Bayer.
According to Peter Ryan, vice president and head of the company’s Companion Animal Business Unit:
“Adding pyriproxyfen to the original formulations of Advantage® Topical Solution and K9 Advantix® gives an added layer of protection to our customers’ pets and their pets’ surroundings. It interrupts the flea life cycle at multiple stages, and prevents reinfestation.”
I guess Bayer Animal Health’s idea of a ‘next generation’ flea and tick product is one that contains even more chemical pesticides than previous formulations.
By the way – please don’t be fooled by the benign-sounding description of pyriproxyfen as an ‘insect growth regulator.’
It’s a chemical pesticide. ‘Growth regulator’ is a euphemism for killing agent.
As an active ingredient in spot-on flea and tick formulas, pyriproxyfen is a newer chemical and there aren’t many reports available on adverse effects. However, EPA tests of pyriproxyfen on rodents showed decreased body weight and toxicity in the offspring of animals exposed to the chemical.
EPA Advisory for Spot-on Products Remains in Effect
One year ago, the EPA issued an advisory about spot-on products similar to the new Bayer formulas. These products are for application to the neck or back of dogs and cats as a flea/tick preventive.
The advisory was issued in response to a significant increase in adverse reactions to spot-on products in 2008 over prior years.
Among the EPA’s findings:
- The majority of adverse reactions were seen with the first application in 10- to 20-pound dogs under 3 years old.
- Especially at risk were the following breeds: Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, Miniature Poodle, Pomeranian, Dachshund, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Bichon Frise.
- Products containing the chemicals cyphenothrin and permethrin were especially problematic for small breed dogs.
- Adverse reactions in cats were often the result of the cat either being treated with a product intended for dogs, or through exposure to a treated dog. Cats treated with products intended for dogs had a high rate of serious reactions and fatalities.
- Symptoms for both dogs and cats included skin redness, itching, hair loss, sores and ulcers. GI tract symptoms included salivation, diarrhea and vomiting. Nervous system symptoms included lethargy, nervousness, movement problems, tremors and seizure.
The EPA also noted inert (inactive) ingredients in spot-on products should be assumed to contribute to toxicity. In addition, the agency found that dosage ranges were too wide in some cases and product labeling was insufficient in many instances.
So Does the EPA Advisory Mean ‘Next Generation’ Chemical Flea and Tick Control Products Will Be Safer?
I’m afraid not.
The EPA advisory doesn’t require Bayer Animal Health or the manufacturers of other spot-on flea and tick control agents to reformulate their products. The agency is merely suggesting certain manufacturers tweak dosage ranges and improve product labeling.
The new Advantage® and K9 Advantix® are probably good examples of the direction these products are headed – Bayer added another pesticide into the formulas.
With 44,000 reported adverse reactions including 600 deaths in 2008 – which represented almost a 60 percent increase over the prior year – it’s my firm belief the risks of these products are too great to warrant routine, monthly use.
In fact, there is no pesticide that doesn’t have the potential for side effects. It doesn’t matter whether the product is in pill form, in a dip, a shampoo or a collar, it’s not entirely safe.
Remember that what goes on your pet also gets inside him through absorption or ingestion.
Safe, Effective Solutions for Flea and Tick Control
Your first line of defense should be a safe, natural pest deterrent.
Safe, natural pest repellents include:
- Cedar oil
- Natural, food-grade diatomaceous earth
- Fresh garlic -- work with your holistic vet to determine a safe amount for your pet’s body weight
- Feeding your pet a balanced, species-appropriate diet. The healthier your dog or cat is, the less appealing she’ll be to parasites. A biologically appropriate diet supports a strong immune system.
- Bathing and brushing your pet regularly and performing frequent full-body inspections to check for parasite activity.
- Making sure your indoor and outdoor environments are unfriendly to pests.
If You MUST Use a Chemical Flea/Tick Control Product …
If you find yourself faced with no choice but to use a chemical pest preventive, I strongly urge you to take the following steps to reduce the health risk to your pet:
- Be very careful to follow dosing directions on the label, and if your pet is at the low end of a dosage range, step down to the next lowest dosage.
- Be extremely cautious with small dogs, especially if you own one of the breeds reported to be at high risk for adverse reactions. And do not, under any circumstances, apply dog product to your cat.
- Don’t depend exclusively on chemical treatments. Rotate natural preventives with chemical ones.
- Use only when your pet is in a high-risk environment (i.e. camping in a Lyme disease endemic area), then discontinue.
- Monitor your pet for symptoms and adverse reactions after you apply a chemical product – especially when using one for the first time.
- Consult your holistic vet about natural therapies that can help alleviate your pet’s toxic load.