Beware: No flea remedy for your dog or cat is “100 percent safe”

Q: I just got yelled at by my vet. She says the natural flea protection spray I’m using on my kitten Stormy is toxic (it has essential oils). But the website and the packaging says it’s 100 percent safe and I’m leery of the powerful products veterinarians prescribe. They have a vested interest in selling them, don’t they? Why shouldn’t I buy something online if it seems to work just fine?

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Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami.

A: You’re right to be skeptical of the EPA-approved products your veterinarian carries. It’s even OK to question her financial motivations. Doing so shows you’re smart and you care about getting what’s best for Stormy. However, you raise several issues here I feel the need to address:

Insecticide safety

Anyone who tells you that insecticides and insect repellents are 100 percent safe, whether it’s a website, a product’s packaging, or your veterinarian, should earn your suspicion. Nothing in this category is perfectly safe. Nothing. All products have their cautions, particularly for pediatric patients like Stormy.

Essential oils

These may be natural but that doesn’t mean they’re nontoxic. Essential oils are, in fact, way more poisonous to cats than for dogs or humans. And since cats clean themselves with their tongues, the risk of ingestion and illness is very high.

When to use insecticides

Does your kitten have fleas? Is she consistently exposed to them? Does she show evidence of flea-related diseases like anemia or flea allergies? As with any other product or medication, the risks of treatment or prevention should be weighed against their potential rewards. If fleas are not a significant problem for Stormy, you might just want to consider not using any flea products.

Beware product claims

I always ask myself five questions when I consider online health products: Has it been tested? Have medical professionals put their names behind it? Is the source of information trying to sell you something? Is there any discussion about adverse effects? What does my personal medical professional have to say about it?


If you don’t trust that your veterinarian is recommending a product because it’s safer and more effective than other products and not just to line her pockets, then you might want to find another veterinarian. But if you have a hard time finding a veterinarian who agrees with all your choices, you might just want to reconsider your own biases.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is Send questions to