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California recently banned unregistered pesticides in pet supplies like shampoos and flea and tick repellent. But in spite of major fines, PetSmart kept the products on its shelves. With suppliers ignoring bans in some states and operating without such restrictions in others, how can pet owners keep from purchasing pet supplies containing potentially harmful pesticides?

There are several major pet supply brands that promise pest control without the toxins. It’s not only important for your critters, but also for your kids (and adults) interacting with the family pet.

What to avoid in pet supplies

Whether in food, chew toys, flea and tick repellent or bathing supplies, toxic chemicals in your pet products can harm your pet and your family. Knowing what to avoid can help you choose the safest products for your pet. The highest toxicity potential lies in pesticides, which are found in pest repellents as well as bathing supplies.

Before heading to the pet store, check the Green Paws Product Guide to determine which flea and tick products are safe to use. The guide, created by the National Resource Defense Council, assesses three levels of risk for the products: A single crossed-out paw advises using only when chemical intervention is necessary; two paws signify sparing use; and three paws designate that the product should be avoided. And whenever possible, steering clear of chemicals in favor of natural remedies is advised.

Flea collars are one of the biggest dangers for pesticide exposure. Some of the more toxic chemicals used include:

  1. Propoxur: toxic to the nervous system and a probable carcinogen.
  2. Tetrachlorvinphos: the last organophosphate pesticide permitted for use in pet products, is a probable carcinogen and endocrine disruptor that is also toxic to the nervous system.
  3. Amitraz: a possible human carcinogen and impacts the central nervous system. The National Institutes of Health calls amitraz poisoning in children an emerging problem due to its widespread use.

When in doubt, look up any ingredients you aren’t familiar with and choose organic or all-natural products for your pets. Use chemicals only if other natural flea solutions are unsuccessful.

Green products to protect your pets

Prevention is key when controlling flea and ticks. The best way to repel pests is to regularly bathe and comb your pets and clean your pets’ living areas. Instead of chemicals, try an essential oil spray before taking your pets outside.

If you already have a pest problem, you can still avoid unnecessary chemicals by using natural products, including:

  1. Diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth is an all-natural, food grade product that can be used for pest control in a variety of ways. It can be used for green pest prevention in your home and flea and tick prevention on your pets. It works by puncturing the exoskeleton of the pest (it’s made of the fossilized remains of phytoplankton called diatoms), which doesn’t cause any harm to mammals. It’s one of many all-natural flea repellents you can use instead of toxic flea collars or sprays.
  2. Wondercide: Wondercide has a variety of all-natural pet supplies, including skin care, flea and tick control, ear care and shampoo.
  3. Pet Naturals of Vermont: Pet Naturals boasts eco-friendly pet supplies and is a member of the National Animal Supplement Council, which requires members to meet higher quality standards.
  4. Pets Head to Tail: Pets Head to Tail has a line of eco-friendly products, including clothing and travel gear, toys, treats, shampoos and pest repellents.
  5. Organic Oscar: Organic Oscar dog grooming products are pesticide-free and organic bathing options.  
  6. Arbico Organics: Arbico sells all-natural, organic pesticides for your home, garden and even farm.

These are just a small sampling of the green pet supply products available today. If you’re as vigilant in reading the labels of your pets’ products as you are with reading the labels for the rest of your family’s products, you can protect your pets and family from unnecessary pesticide exposure.

Keep in touch with Kristi on Twitter @VeggieConverter

Image: jasen miller