Keep pets safe from fleas and ticks without hazardous chemicals.


Flea and tick treatments may contain toxic chemicals that can poison pets and harm people. Even when applied as instructed on the box, these chemicals are not safe. Avoid toxic chemicals by taking care of your pet:

* Regularly combing pets can help reduce fleas and also helps monitor the success of a flea-control program. Fleas caught in the comb should be drowned in soapy water.

* Weekly baths and washing pet bedding in hot water can help get rid of existing fleas and their eggs.

* Vacuuming picks up fleas and eggs from carpets, floors, crevices and furniture. Immediately after vacuuming, throw vacuum bags away to prevent fleas from escaping and reinfesting the area. Severe infestations may call for professional carpet cleaning with steam.

* Keeping grass and shrubbery clipped short in areas where your pet spends time will increase dryness and sunlight, which will help reduce the flea problem. Nematodes, available at garden supply stores, can be used as a non-chemical, biological aid to help control fleas in these areas.

When chemical control is necessary, choose a safer treatment and avoid the most toxic chemicals. All pesticides should be used with caution and in consultation with a veterinarian. Ask your vet about one of the products or treatments marked with a two crossed-out paws in NRDC's GreenPaws Flea and Tick Product Directory.

Note that not all essential oils used to treat pet pests are safe for pets or people. Herbal or natural products containing citrus, cinnamon, clove, d-limonene, geranium, tea tree, lavender, linalool, bay, eucalyptus and rue oils should be used sparingly because they can cause allergic reactions in people, and severe reactions in cats and dogs have been reported. Avoid the use of any flea or tick product containing pennyroyal oil. It can cause seizures, coma, and even death in animals. Herbal or natural products that contain cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and thyme are likely safer. Learn more by visiting NRDC's GreenPaws Flea and Tick Product Directory and looking under "oils."