Can Killing Bugs Kill Our Pets?


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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.

Our 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 cause.  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 can die.


Insect killers


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, and regurgitation.
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.


Safe alternatives


    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:


  • 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.


    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."

    You can also sprinkle nutritional yeast in your pet's dish 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 & 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

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