Dangers Of Over The Counter Flea Treatments

 |  Feb 2nd 2009  |   15 Contributions


In April of '08 Joy posted a message on the danger of Sergeants Gold Flea Medication, and the story of what happened to Dogster members Lucky and Nala. There have been 150 comments on that post, many sharing horror stories of what happened to their dogs when this, or a similar, product was used.

I came across a very interesting article today, Pesticides In Pet Products, and the debate about the safety of the pyrethroid family of chemicals. These over the counter products are readily available at grocery stores, pet stores, and even hardware stores. The manufacturers and distributors claim their products are safe, as long as used properly and the pet has no acute sensitivity or pre-existing condition. That warning is a bit of a double entendre.

These products are approved for sale by the EPA, yet they have been linked to over 1,500 pet deaths. Those are only the ones that have been reported, I suspect it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Pyrethroid spot ons also account for more than half of "major" pesticide pet reactions reported to EPA over the last five years -- that is, those incidents involving serious medical reactions such as brain damage, heart attacks, and violent seizures. In contrast, non-pyrethroid spot on treatments accounted for only about 6 percent of all major incidents.

In the last five years, the EPA received a total of more than 25,000 reports of pet pesticide reactions of every sort -- fatal, major, moderate, and minor -- to over-the-counter pyrethroid spot on products. This compares to 10,500 reports of all pet incidents related to shampoos, powders, sprays, collars, dips, mousses, lotions, and towels. This analysis does not take into account how much of each product was used over the last five years as the EPA does not have that information.

Since there are other treatments available you have to wonder why the EPA doesn't pull these products. I think it can be summed up in one word, money. If this was something that was used on children I have a feeling the outcome would be much different.

Of course the manufacturers cast blame on the owners, claiming they misused the product. User error, so to speak. Even if some of the issues are due to the owners, it's hard to believe with the incredibly high report of incidents that it doesn't come back to the safety of the product.

The concentrations of pyrethroids in over-the-counter spot on pet treatments range from a 40 percent to an 85 percent solution, eight to 17 times stronger than the strongest pyrethroid product currently approved for use on humans.

Neither the EPA, which generally regulates topically applied products, nor the Food and Drug Administration, which generally regulates orally applied pet products, has a product registered for human application containing a pyrethroid concentration above 5 percent, and that FDA-approved product requires a doctor's prescription.

In fact, the Sergeant's Gold Squeeze-On for Dogs warning reads: "Harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin," while the application portion of the label directs people to apply the treatment "to the dog's skin."

The EPA is working on a better system to track the incidents that are reported to veterinarians. They are starting to analyze the pet incidents to see if a pattern can be identified, which may one day lead to a change in labeling regulations. Or potentially, further regulatory action concerning these products.

There is a lot more information contained in this article, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to finish it.

* Kozmo, who has since been treated for fleas, and was adopted into his forever home on Jan. 3rd, 2008. Congrats on your one year adoption day!

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