Flea Control Secrets: Is Pyrethrum Really a Natural Flea Treatment?

Just because a product is made from natural ingredients does not mean that it is safe or less toxic.

This is why confusion arises over the risks of pet flea treatment products made from chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium or Chrysanthemum coccineum).

Many such flea products have come under scrutiny because of a 50% increase in severe reactions to flea treatment products (mostly spot-on) that were reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Misleading advertising claims lead people to believe that pesticides made from chrysanthemum flowers are safer because they are natural. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Pyrethrum is a pyrethrin that comes from flowers found in Australia and Africa. This pesticide alters the nerve function of fleas to cause paralysis and death.

Originally made from dried, crushed flowers of chrysanthemums, current practices extract pyrethrins from the chrysanthemums via solvents.

Initially used as powder (or dust), today this product is manufactured into a variety of solutions.

Affiliated products have an interesting history but most pet owners are only familiar with pyrethrum used for flea control or insect products (where it is combined with other chemicals).

Because there are different forms of this pesticide it can get confusing.

The two flea treatment pesticide distinctions include:

  • Pyrethrins
  • Pyrethroids

Pyrethrins

Pyrethrins, which are derived from pyrethrum, are categorized as a botanical insecticides and are often combined with other chemical agents in order to provide a wider spectrum of control.

Combination products can be used for a variety of insects, but in the pet industry this ingredient is popularly known for its use in flea treatment applications.

In the past, pyrethrum has been considered to be a low toxicity insecticide because it breaks down quickly and was thought to have very little negative environmental impact. Natural pyrethrum breaks down in 12 hours or less when exposed to sunlight.

Pyrethroid

Pyrethroids are synthetic pesticides with a similar chemical structure to the natural pesticide pyrethrum. However, these pyrethroid pesticides are more toxic and last for longer durations in the environment. This means that pyrethroid pesticides are more stable in sunlight in comparison to naturally sourced pyrethrum. In fact, when exposed to sunlight, pyrethroids have been proven to remain effective for up to, and sometimes longer than 30 days.

Permethrin is the form of pyrethroid pesticide used for controlling fleas, ticks and mosquitoes for dogs but is highly toxic to cats and any fish in the environment.

Flea Treatment Pesticide Dangers

Reactions to flea treatment products can vary according to the individual animal and many toxicity cases are thought to be from the inappropriate application (too much of a product or application on cats).

Flea treatment toxicity symptoms for pyrethroids or pyrethrins include:

  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

If any of these symptoms are present after using a flea treatment product, call a veterinarian immediately and transport the animal to a veterinary clinic. Increased scrutiny of these flea treatment products is currently underway with preliminary reports due out in October of 2009.

In addition, the EPA will be reevaluating all pyrethrins, pyrethroids and synergists starting in 2010.

Click here if you want to reprint, Is Pyrethrum Really a Natural Flea Treatment and check out Flea Control Secrets if you want to learn more about flea treatment.

About Ark Lady

+ArkLady is a cyber-jungle trailblazer, author & speaker. Join thecyber-jungle explorer email list or connect via ARKlady website.