I’m worried about using neonicotinoid spot-on flea products on my dog for health and environmental reasons, as I don’t feel I fully understand the impacts of using such chemicals. Is this justified and what else can I use, please?

Nick Thompson advises…

Personally, I think you’re completely justified in your suspicion of the use of these strong pesticides on our dogs. I’m really concerned about the side effects in some dogs and terrified of what they may be doing to the environment.

The Daily Telegraph feels the same. Last January an article stated that, “Researchers have discovered significantly high levels of the chemical imidacloprid (one of the main neonicotinoids) in rivers and streams in the remote Scottish Cairngorms mountains, the Ouse in Bedfordshire and Lincolnshire’s River Ancholme.”

The article goes on to state, worryingly, “The chemical is commonly applied to animals to kill arthropod parasites, with 68 registered veterinary products using the chemical to treat fleas in dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets. Buglife [the charity] found that in three water bodies – the Tame in Manchester, Wyke Beck in Leeds, and Somerhill Stream in Kent – the problem is so bad it exceeds chronic pollution limits as a result of imidacloprid use on pets.”

A quick Google search reveals pages and pages of dramatic reports like this.

Therefore, as guardians of our dogs, but also of our environment, I think we should use these chemicals with extreme caution. If you’re unsure what’s in any product you use on your dog, ask your vet. I always use the maxim ‘don’t put anything on your dog (if you can possibly help it) you wouldn’t put on yourself’.

Alternatives? There are many; none as effective as our ‘friends’ the neonicotinoids, but without the devastating results on the environment.

I recommend my clients look into herbal supplement products, like Billy No Mates or similar in-food solutions designed to make dogs less attractive to fleas and ticks. In addition, spray-on products like Cedarcide or Dermadog’s Insect Defence Spray (www.dermadog.co.uk/ sprays-balms/), containing essential oils, are also useful in the battle against unwanted insects without harming the entire planet.

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