Q. Is there any health risk for small dogs from the organic phosphates found in commercially applied house flea sprays? The instructions given by the companies doing the work are to vacate the house for at least 4 hours after application and to air the house thoroughly on re-entering. They do not instruct that the pet’s bedding should be removed, and we have returned to find our dog’s bed thoroughly dampened by the spray and still damp to the feel after 4 hours.
Four different companies with which we have made inquiry have stated that the chemicals dry and become inert after they are dry. They have also stated that the only thing that contact with the dampened material might do would be to perhaps make people or the dog feel uncomfortable or to induce illness to the point of vomiting.
In your opinion is there any reason to fear permanent damage to the dog’s lungs, eyes, stomach, or other organs from contact with bedding or carpet if still dampened by these sprays?
Jack Dalton, Newport Beach
A. The proper application of insecticides by commercial companies is generally safe and quite effective as long as guidelines and recommendations by the applicators are followed. However, direct contact with any active organophosphate compounds can result in toxic reactions, the severity depending on the amount of contact and the strength of the compound used. As the companies stated, the majority of the products are ineffective when dry and generally cause no problems. Contact with organophosphates generally cause excessive salivation, irritation and vomiting. Severe reactions can result in tremors or convulsions, requiring immediate medical attention. It is always recommended that the pet’s food dishes, litter boxes, and bedding be removed before treatment in order to lessen the potential for contact with the chemicals. If not removed, they should be thoroughly washed and dried before allowing your pet to use them. In most cases, unless the pet contacts a full-strength chemical, there are no residual or permanent effects. These products have antidotes and proper treatment is often very effective.
Q. I have a 3-month-old female cocker spaniel, and during our last visit to the vet’s for vaccinations, he told us that we should have the rear dewclaws removed from our dog when we have her spayed. What exactly are dewclaws and is this really necessary to have done?
Sandra Mears, Irvine
A. Dewclaws generally refers to the first digits on both the front and rear feet of dogs and are often removed when the dog is a very young puppy, especially if the tail has been docked or clipped. “Loose or unattached” rear dewclaws are often removed surgically in order to prevent them from becoming torn or injured since the dog has no control of them as she would with her other digits or toes.