Pet flea and tick treatments contain pesticides that end up in the environment.

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<p>Responsible owners of the UK’s 22 million dogs and cats are likely to follow the advice of many veterinarians and treat their pets with monthly preventative ‘spot-on’ treatments for fleas and ticks. But new research shows these treatments are polluting rivers and could pose health risks to pet-loving families.</p>
<p>Spot-on parasiticides are liquids that are applied to the back of your pet’s neck. They spread to the animal’s skin and become toxic to fleas (and sometimes ticks) for at least a month. Often sold as part of a pet health care plan, pet owners make monthly payments for a year-round package of care.</p>
<p>around it [86% of dogs and 91% of cats] Get your dog treated for fleas at least once a year, whether or not they have fleas. The most common active ingredients in these treatments are imidacloprid (an insecticide linked to bee declines) and something called fipronil, which is another powerful drug that can harm the nervous system of animals and humans. It’s an insecticide.</p>
<p>A recent study by the Environment Agency detected these synthetic chemicals in river water samples across the UK, with 99% of samples containing fipronil and 66% containing imidacloprid. Concentrations generally exceeded what is considered safe limits by most experts.</p>
<p>How did these chemicals get into the river? Fipronil and imidacloprid were banned for outdoor agricultural use by 2018 due to concerns about their persistence and toxicity to non-target insects.</p>
<p>Apart from veterinary medicine, the only use of fipronil and imidacloprid is as bait for ants and cockroaches, but there is no evidence that this is a significant source of the measured contamination. That dogs treated with these chemicals swam in the river seemed like a plausible explanation.</p>
<p>A study by research organization UK Water Industry Research found that concentrations of both chemicals were much higher in wastewater from sewage treatment plants, that little was removed through the treatment process, and that they were also present in rivers downstream of sewage treatment plants. It was revealed. This strongly suggests that this pollution is coming from domestic sources, such as plughole flushing from the home.</p>
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To investigate this further, my colleagues and I studied what happens after these chemicals are applied to pets. We administered these chemicals to dogs and measured how much they came off when the dogs were bathed or petted. We found that bathing dogs, washing bedding, and washing owners’ hands are all significant sources of river pollution, enough to explain much of the pollution seen in rivers. There may be multiple ways these chemicals end up in your drains.

Close-up shot of gray hair, brown mite insect in the center of the shotClose-up shot of gray hair, brown mite insect in the center of the shot

Close-up shot of gray hair, brown mite insect in the center of the shot

If you own a dog or cat, you may be wondering what to do. In my opinion, preventative flea treatment is neither necessary nor desirable in most cases. Most dogs and cats don’t have fleas. Indoor cats are less likely to get fleas. Non-chemical methods such as flea traps, regular high temperature washing of the animal’s bedding to kill flea larvae, and hoovering are effective. Regular flea stripping will help find and remove fleas.

Parasiticides should usually only be used once an infestation is established. Doing this will significantly reduce the use of these pesticides. There are also oral flea and tick treatments such as isoxazoline that quickly eliminate flea infestations. These may be safer for the environment, but we don’t know for sure.

Besides the obvious concerns about river pollution, there are other issues to consider. Research suggests that older spot-on products, especially fipronil, are becoming less and less effective and that fleas are evolving resistance to these chemicals.

Continue with precautions

To keep new classes of parasiticides, such as isoxazolines, as effective as possible, widespread prophylactic use cannot continue. Previous research has also raised concerns for pet owners and veterinarians about the potential health risks of chronic exposure to parasiticides in pets.

Our research confirms these concerns, demonstrating that fipronil and imidacloprid can easily migrate into bedding and onto owners’ hands, making them quickly contaminating the household. This product was found to last at least 28 days on dogs, so monthly application would result in widespread and long-term contamination of the home with these powerful neurotoxins.

Although little research has been conducted on the effects of such exposure, recent studies have found an association between fipronil exposure and both diabetes and hypertension. Fipronil can be passed from mother to fetus via the placenta, and exposure to fipronil sulfone, a toxic breakdown product of fipronil, during pregnancy can cause decreased thyroid function in newborns and It is associated with lower Apgar scores used. Newborn.

Pesticides, including parasiticides, can play a legitimate and important role in pest and disease control, but current approaches to pet parasite control are neither responsible nor sustainable. To achieve a healthier and more environmentally friendly strategy, pesticides should be used cautiously on pets and only when there is a specific, targeted reason.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Dave Goulson receives funding from the Department of Veterinary Medicine. He is a member of the Green Party.

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