Can killing bugs kill our pets?
by Nina Anderson and Howard Peiper
Common home pesticides can be harmful or fatal to our pets ... and aren't
so great for us, either. Fortunately, there are lots of safe alternatives.
ur lifestyles tend to make many of us hate bugs. We
will do almost anything to rid our homes and yards of these creatures, whether
they are beneficial or not. Unfortunately, we do not realize the toll on
our health and our pets' health from all these toxic substances.
Pesticides used to control weeds, insects (especially
fleas and ticks), termites, rodents and fungi are sold as sprays, liquids,
sticks, powder, crystals, balls and foggers. There are more than 34,000
pesticides in use and they are the number two cause of human household poisonings
in the United States. Insecticides, as well as plastics' ingredients and
particulates from household detergents, can disrupt an animal's biological
processes. This can manifest as feminizing male animals and disrupting their
ability to reproduce.
In the weeds
Approximately 91 percent of all American households
apply a total of 300 million pounds of pesticides annually. Most are insoluble
in water - which means they stay around a long time - and can poison your
cat or dog.
Toxic weed killers, including lawn treatments, should
never be used by pet owners whose animals can come in contact with the contaminated
areas. In addition, pets may be affected by drinking water into which the
pesticides have leached, although it is often difficult to determine the
DDT, Chlordane and Lindane are some common names for
potential killers. They may remain in the air and on the ground. Contaminated
animals can exhibit foaming of the mouth, irritability, increased respiratory
rate and even seizures. If proper treatment is not administered, the animal
Cats and dogs are not immune to insect sprays. They
can be affected either from direct contact with the pesticide or through
ingestion of contaminated food.
The chemicals in pesticides are fat soluble and are
stored in the fatty tissues, primarily the liver, and in the nervous systems.
As they accumulate over time, they cause problems with the nerves, hormones
and immune system.
Birds affected by household spray insecticides containing
chlorinated hydrocarbons can become ill within 48 hours. Strychnine, used
in pesticides, is especially lethal for dogs and cats. Signs of poisoning,
such as apprehension and stiffness, can appear within minutes of ingestion.
Convulsions develop as the poison spreads, with respiratory arrest causing
death. Arsenic, which is used in insecticides, herbicides, ant poisons,
snail bait, paints and some drugs can cause acute poisoning. Cats can exhibit
symptoms within 30 minutes of ingesting larger doses and can die within
seven hours. Birds show signs of ruffled feathers, drooping wings, anorexia,
Pyrethrum (from chrysanthemum flowers) is a non-toxic
insecticide and is used as a flea repellent. Safe in its natural state,
reactions are normally limited to salivation because of its bitter taste,
although it can be harmful to frogs and reptiles. Many products contain
chemical additives that are dangerous and can cause problems for dogs and
cats. Be careful when buying pyrethrins and only use natural safe pyrethrum
powders. Rotenone, touted as semi-toxic, is derived from the derris plant.
If ingested by a cat, it may cause nausea and vomiting, and in the long
term can promote liver damage.
Non-toxic pest control is available and can be quite
effective. As plants become stronger, they become less susceptible to disease.
Here are some additional tips:
All people hate fleas and will do anything to keep them
away. Most chemical flea collars come with explicit warnings about their
toxicity. There are non-hazardous flea collars and shampoos that use pennyroyal,
eucalyptus, cedar and citronella as "insecticides."
- Horticultural oils such as Sunspray Oil work by smothering insects
instead of poisoning them.
- In your vegetable garden, try companion planting. Certain bugs will
not eat carrots if they grow next to tomatoes, which they don't like.
- Strengthen your plants through proper feeding of kelp, compost and
minerals. Strong plants are less likely to attract and more able to combat
predators. Organic gardeners don't use pesticides.
- If you despise mosquitoes, use citronella-based repellents - usually
found in health food stores - instead of harmful bug sprays.
- Install bird houses to attract purple martins, or bat houses to encourage
bat colonies. Both will devastate mosquito populations. Bats are beneficial
creatures and should not be treated as predators.
- Ants and roaches can be repelled by using lemon grass.
- Exterminating termites can be successful using the safe "Heatwave"
system which "cooks" the wood to temperatures of 130 degrees and
kills the bugs.
You can also sprinkle nutritional yeast in your pet's
once a day and behold... no more fleas. It seems the ingredients in yeast
causes a certain odor to be produced in the skin. This makes the pet unappetizing
to fleas and ticks. Garlic and sulfur (a key mineral element) can do the
same, causing a reaction which emits hydrogen sulfide on the surface of
the skin, making it unappetizing to fleas.
Our pets are unsuspecting victims of potential pesticide
poisoning from the very people whom they trust. Please be conscious about
using bug killers and choose more environmentally friendly methods. It may
save your pet's life.
Nina Anderson and Howard Peiper are authors of "Are You Poisoning
Your Pets?" which describes household hazards to your pet and gives
solutions and methods that can bolster the immune system of your animal
family member. Available through bookstores or by calling (800) 903-3837.