Today’s pet owners are actively seeking natural flea and tick control options as they look to avoid some of the chemical ingredients found in common products.
"Traditional products can contain chemicals that potentially harm pets and their people," said James Brandly, associate trade-marketing manager for TropiClean Pet Products, a Wentzville, Mo.-based manufacturer. "Pet parents are seeking products that contain ingredients they trust and understand. They want products that are effective and help rid their house, pet, and yard of fleas and ticks."
Brandly said that TropiClean defines ingredients to be natural or "naturally derived" if they are either naturally occurring raw materials or adapted from plants or mineral-based raw materials.
"TropiClean Natural Flea & Tick products are made with natural active ingredients like but not limited to clove oil, lemongrass oil and cedarwood oil," he said. "All of our active ingredients can be found on the front of the package, letting pet parents know what exact ingredients we use. Our safe, yet effective formula is pyrethrin and permethrin free, with no artificial colors or fragrances."
Pet retailers said that this shift has been occurring for a while now—and they don’t see it slowing down.
"With so many people being conscious of what they’re putting in and on their own bodies, it’s not surprising that this trend has translated over to their pets," said Sophia Grollmus, manager of Al-Joe’s Pet & Garden Centers, a retailer with two locations in Ohio. "There’s a growing interest in more natural solutions, in general."
Of course, sometimes this interest doesn’t manifest until there’s a problem. Luci Amandro, assistant manager for Panhandle Pet Supply in Tallahassee, Fla., said that a lot of the retailer’s natural flea and tick control customers come in after their pet experienced an allergy or an irritation. She said some of their customers have also complained of bald spots where they applied a traditional flea and tick control product.
While pet owners absolutely want something that is safe, they still need a product that is effective.
"In Florida, we do not have cold winters or long freezes to kill off fleas and ticks, and we are often dealing with these pests year-round,"
Amandro said. "So, we need effective products. Pet parents don’t want to feel as though they are sacrificing effectiveness by going natural."
Stephanie Boone, founder and CEO of Austin, Texas-based Wondercide Natural Products, said that this paradox is one that she discovered personally, when her dog Luna suffered pesticide poisoning from a veterinarian-prescribed flea and tick medication and commonly used lawn pest control services.
"I knew there had to be a better way," Boone said. "Luna’s legacy guides Wondercide to protect packs of every kind, everywhere. We’re proud to offer solutions that are truly safe and effective for pets, families and homes. We create our formulas free of artificial colors, fragrances, and harsh chemicals, like pyrethrins and synthetic pesticides. From natural essential oils to soothing vitamin E, we source only quality ingredients from the USA that are powered by nature. Using only naturally derived ingredients gives our customers peace of mind."
A Variety of Formats
Though there was a time when natural flea and tick control options were limited, today, there is not only a variety of products, but also a variety of formats that these products are available in. These include sprays, squeeze-on products, powders, shampoos, wipes, collars and chewable tablets.
"The spot-on [squeeze-on] treatments are popular with pet owners who are transitioning from conventional chemical-based treatments using the spot-on delivery method to a more natural version," said Regina Flight, Now pets category manager for Now Health Group, a manufacturer in Bloomingdale, Ill. "However, the downside is the much higher cost you pay for the convenience. This is why the natural sprays are still pet owners’ primary choice."
Flight said that Now Pets Flea & Tick Spray is a repellent that uses essential oils as the primary active ingredients. It does not contain DEET, synthetic pesticides or pyrethrin.
"Our product does not have any artificial colors or fragrances and contains the same high-quality essential oils that humans use themselves," she added.
Boone said that there’s no question some product formats are preferable over others. Pet owners generally look for ease of use and effectiveness in whatever format they’re choosing.
"At Wondercide, we offer sprays and wipes in addition to a first-step shampoo bar because they’re the most effective and fastest at getting rid of pesky pests," Boone said. "What’s trending for pets is what’s trending for people. Our pets are members of the family, and we want the best for them. Health, safety and convenience are top of the list—and that’s exactly what Wondercide offers."
Although pet owners have a growing level of awareness about the natural flea and tick control options on the market, many pet specialty retailers and manufacturers say that additional consumer education is essential.
"It is important that retailers themselves are familiar with the products so they can recommend products that will work and clearly communicate how to use them," said Regina Flight, Now pets category manager for Now Health Group, a manufacturer in Bloomingdale, Ill.
"We have clear instructions on our label, but if a staff member walks customers through those instructions, compliance is enhanced. It may also help the customer realize they should pick up a flea comb while at the store."
Denise Strong, owner of Pawz on Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., said that her customers specifically come to her for information, and she doesn’t take that lightly.
"I find it really important to speak one-on-one with my customers and share my research and knowledge with them," Strong said. "Retailers must be knowledgeable and educated on the products that they are selling. Honestly, I spend hours every day researching products, but that’s also why people come to me instead of big-box stores—and it’s no different with natural flea and tick control products. Customers want to know what’s safe—and what works."
For retailers looking to offer customers convenience when it comes to flea and tick control, new sprays are available.
TropiClean Pet Products, a Wentzville, Mo.-based manufacturer, recently introduced its Natural Flea & Tick Bite Relief Spray.
"Our TropiClean Natural Flea & Tick Bite Relief Spray is a medicated solution formulated to stop itching and irritation from flea and tick bites quickly," said James Brandly, associate trade-marketing manager. "This relief spray is specially formulated to penetrate lowermost levels of the pet’s skin, cleaning out their pores, and promoting healthy cell exfoliation and replenishment. It’s safe when used as directed for dogs and cats of all ages."
Regina Flight, Now pets category manager for Now Health Group, a manufacturer in Bloomingdale, Ill., reported that the company has released its Now Pets Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs.
"Now Pets New Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs is an essential oil-based repellent to defend against pests, and it’s free of DEET, synthetic pesticides and other harsh chemicals," Flight said.