First it was melamine in dog food, then Salmonella. Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says some flea and tick products can make your dog sick or kill them. How can anyone use any product with any confidence that it is safe? The EPA cautions that some flea and tick spot on products, the kind you drip onto the dog between the shoulder blades, can cause problems.
The EPA says they are getting increased reports of “adverse reactions.” These include:
- Skin rashes
- Gastrointestinal problems
Most of these effects appear to happen when owners use too high a dose of the spot on product for the weight of their dog or use products intended for dogs on cats. In response, the EPA is auditing all labels for these products to ensure they contain all the required information. In addition, the EPA is taking the following actions:
- Ensure the instructions are clear and easy to understand
- Increase the precision of the dosage per weight instructions
- Making other changes that the audit may bring up for a specific label
- Giving new products a provisional registration contingent on post-marketing surveillance
- Restricting the use of certain inert ingredients that make the reactions worse
- Requiring a more standard post-market surveillance program that requires reporting of total sales as well as adverse reactions
- Launching a consumer education campaign detailing how to safely use spot on flea and tick products.
These are welcome changes but seem to be a case of shutting the barn door after the horse escapes. Agencies should be proactive, not just wait until a pet dies to do something. Yet again, our regulatory system has failed our pets. This is not, however, a reason to avoid using flea and tick products on our pets. Both fleas and ticks carry diseases that can infect our pets and us. Consult with your veterinarian and find out the best treatment for your pet. Follow the instructions on the product to the letter. Watch for any change in behavior or signs of problems. If they occur, promptly consult your veterinarian. Otherwise, enjoy your pet.