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The difference between chemical and natural anti-flea and tick products

Difference in effect on fleas and ticks

Effect of chemical anti-flea products

Chemical anti-flea products usually contain one of the following chemicals: fipronil, fluralaner, sarolaner, flumethrin or permethrin. These substances are given to dogs via a spray, neck drops or via a tablet, allowing them to enter the bloodstream. Thus, a flea or tick must first bite the dog before it comes into contact with these chemical acting substances. Then the flea or tick is poisoned with this substance and dies. Fluralaner (and also sister sarolaner) acts on the nervous system of fleas and ticks (neurotoxic) and fipronil causes hyperstimulation in fleas. In both cases, the flea and tick dies after ingesting the chemicals). On top of that, fleas can develop resistance to chemicals. The tick and flea must first suck blood before these substances work, they have no repellent effect.

Effect of natural anti-flea products

Most natural anti-flea products are based on herbs and essential oils and are sprayed externally on the dog and therefore have a repellent effect. The fleas and ticks do not like the smell, stop eating and then starve. In addition, there are also natural anti-flea products to be given through the food, which are based on herbs and essential oils (fenugreek, brewer’s yeast, sepiolite, thymus, echinacea, curcuma, astragalus, citronellol, citronellal). These, like the external products, also act as repellents but are additionally absorbed into the bloodstream. This ensures that when a flea or tick does bite the dog, it gets clogged up and cannot lay new eggs. This does not kill them but interrupts the cycle. However, this cannot be scientifically proven. Because there is no method to prove this yet. Besides, science always researches the working substance of a product. Because natural herbal mixtures, unlike chemical remedies, consist of a mixture of substances, there is no single substance that can be designated as the working substance. And in addition, ticks and fleas do not die from natural products but their reproduction is interrupted. Science says of this “without a working substance, we cannot do any research, because the substances by themselves have no insecticidal effect.” This is why natural products are not allowed to put this on their labels while chemical products are.

Impact on dog health

As you have read above, the effect of chemical and natural remedies on fleas is very different. Chemical products kill the flea and natural products provide a repellent effect and/or prevent fleas from reproducing. There is a lot of fuss about chemical products in the media these days. Are they or are they not harmful to the health of dogs? The scientific studies conducted by the pharmaceutical companies themselves say not, provided the correct dosage is applied. Still, these chemicals have health risks. The following can be read about fipronil on the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) website:

“The harmfulness of Fipronil has been described by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), among others. It is mainly based on animal studies. After short-term exposure in laboratory animals, adverse effects on the nervous system have been observed. Long-term exposure to fipronil can also result in damage to the liver, thyroid and kidneys. In addition, effects on the nervous system have been observed in the form of seizures. Fipronil is not a carcinogen. No adverse effects on reproduction or the unborn are known from Fipronil. From the few poisoning cases described in humans, such as deliberate overdoses, it is known that Fipronil can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and seizures. In general, these symptoms disappear again. With long-term exposure to Fipronil, accumulation of the substance increases the risk of health damage.”

Because of this, many dog lovers believe that if it is not necessary, they do not want to administer chemicals to their dogs. Because the dosage of these chemicals comes very close. Overdose and long-term use are both risky.

In addition to fipronil, the chemical insecticide fluralaner has been in the news a lot.

Environmental impact

You may have caught the news report that in late May 2018 (after the fipronil scare in 2017) fipronil was again found in eggs after a spot check at the supermarket. The chicken farmer in question had treated the barn with Chickfriend’s “wonder drug” a year ago, but had everything cleaned afterward. His farm was approved for new chickens. How could it be that now there was too high a level of fipronil in the eggs again? It looks like it was because the manure containing the fipronil from the previous chickens had soaked into the bottom of the pasture. The new chickens walked around there during the day and pecked at the soil looking for worms. In this way, the fipronil got back into the eggs of the new chickens.

From this you can say that it takes a long time for fipronil to break down in nature and that this may also have an impact on the environment relative to bees, for example. This makes us wonder how the feces of dogs and cats treated with fipronil or fluralaner affect the environment. If in chickens it gives excessive levels in eggs even a year later, what happens to all the dog and cat feces in the environment?

100% protection never possible

For both chemical and natural products, 100% protection against ticks and fleas is impossible. In fact, the percentage is around 90% for both. So most natural products do not have a lower percentage than chemical anti-flea products. However, chemical insecticides have no repellent effect while natural products do. So don’t expect your dog to have no fleas or ticks on him at all, because that is impossible in either case.


If you use a chemical product, the flea that has already bitten your dog will die after 48 hours because of the poison the flea ingests through the dog’s blood. But it has no repellent effect, the fleas and ticks will have to bite the dog first before it has any effect. Natural products do have this repellent effect.

In addition, chemical products have an impact on the dog’s resistance with various health risks involved and impact via the feces on the environment. It is up to you whether you want to burden your dog and thus the environment with this or whether you choose natural protection. Keep in mind that with both chemical and natural anti-flea products 100% protection is never possible. In both cases there will still be the occasional tick on the dog.

Due to laws and regulations we are not allowed to mention which products are involved. We can always be contacted for questions.





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