ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Warns Pet Owners About the Dangers of Summer Pesticides

Statistics compiled by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center confirm that July and August are the most dangerous time of year for companion animals. According to 2001 data, the Center received approximately 7,000 calls in July, making it the month with the highest volume of cases for the year. The data found that over 3,000 (48%) of the cases involved animals being exposed to pesticides. This includes commonly used insecticides (flea and tick products), rodenticides (mouse and rat baits) and herbicides (weed killers).

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center consulted on over 920 cases in July 2001 involving flea and tick products. While there are many safe products available, caution must always be used when choosing and appropriately applying them on pets. "The misuse of flea and tick products is extremely harmful and can even be deadly to our companion animals," comments Dr. Steven Hansen, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. "By taking the time to read a product label carefully a pet owner could save their animal's life." The ASPCA also warns that products that are safely used on dogs can be deadly to cats, even in small amounts. For example, there are over 18 brands of permethrin insecticide spot-on products for flea and tick control that are labeled for "use on dogs only." These permethrin products have a good margin of safety when used on dogs, but even a few drops of concentrated permethrin could be lethal to a cat. Cats are most commonly exposed to these products through
inappropriate or accidental application by their owners.

It is important to consult with a veterinarian before using a flea and tick product on a very young, pregnant or elderly animal. As an alternative to using flea products directly on such pets, the ASPCA recommends owners use a flea comb. This would be a good option for pets that enjoy being groomed, but violently refuse baths or the application of a spray. Also, after using a flea and tick product, it is necessary to observe an animal closely. If a pet exhibits unusual behavior or becomes depressed, weak, or uncoordinated the owner should seek veterinary advice immediately.

The second most serious type of cases involved rodenticides. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center handled over 260 cases about rodenticides in July 2001. The most dangerous forms include zinc phosphide, strychnine and commercial rat and mouse bait. Some bait contains inert ingredients that can attract an animal. If a pet ingests a rodenticide, there is a chance that it could cause a seizure, bleeding or possibly result in death. When using any rodenticide it is important to place the product in areas that are inaccessible to your companion animals.

Last summer the Center received over 560 calls about herbicides. A large number of those calls were owners concerned about letting their pets walk in an area that was treated with weed killers. While some weed killers are safe for pet traffic once dry, the Center urges pet owners to contact the manufacturer for specific recommendations about using herbicides around pets. Additionally, it is important to always store pesticides in areas that are inaccessible to pets.

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