EPA Plans to Enforce Stricter Testing of Flea and Tick ProductsPublished March 30, 2010
Image source: SatyrTNLoving and responsible pet pawrents do all they can to keep their fur kids healthy. We feed them the most nutritious and appropriate food, have our veterinarians provide regular health and dental checkups, and of course we use the safest and most effective flea and tick prevention products to protect them from these pesky insects. So I was rather perplexed and disturbed when reading an article on the Internet the other day on the Environmental Protection website which discussed the dangers inherent in these prevention products intended to treat cats and dogs. According to the article these products annually injure thousands of pets and kill hundreds more. Thankfully, the EPA is taking action to carefully scrutinize these products to ensure greater their greater safety. In the outline of their plan, the EPA said it will "develop stricter testing and evaluation requirements for flea and tick treatments that are applied to a pet's skin. The agency will also begin reviewing labels to determine which ones need to say more clearly how to use the products." The EPA is responding to the many increasing complaints coming from pet owners about the "spot-on" products that they have been using, which range from skin irritations to neurological disorders and even some that have resulted in the death of pets. The assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, Steve Owens, said, "These are poisons. These are products that designed to kill fleas and ticks - and they do their jobs." In an effort to make these fleas and ticks prevention applications safer, the EPA will be providing new restrictions on these products with additional changes which may alter product formulas. Mr. Owens added that the EPA is "committed to better protecting the health and safety of pets and families". However he cautioned that pet owners "need to carefully read and follow all labeling before exposing your pet to a pesticide." According to the EPA, in 2008, it received 44,263 reports of adverse reactions from the use of topical flea and tick prevention products, however it did not have a breakdown of the number of deaths caused by these products occurring in dogs or cats. Symptoms described by pet owners to the EPA included excessive drooling, uncontrollable shaking, loss of control of the legs and other neurological problems as well as welts on the skin, following the use of flea and tick prevention treatments. In a report following a 2009 study made by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it was found that the majority of reactions that were connected with the proper use of these products tended to be mild. Cats were more likely to be affected than dogs to serious illness and deaths resulting from the improper use of the products. However, Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA veterinary toxicologist and Senior Vice President for animal health services advised pet owners to continue using the products as directed when faced with an infestation of fleas. He said, "The important take-home message is that although adverse reactions can occur with all flea and tick products, most effects are relatively mild and include skin irritation and stomach upset". Disputing the EPA data, Merial Ltd, the Georgia-based company which manufactures Frontline tick and flea treatment countered in a statement to reporters, "The number of adverse events reported for Frontline has remained consistently low since the product's introduction in 1996." The EPA's 29-page report stated that most of the problems encountered occurred in smaller dogs weighing 10-20 pounds and when the product intended for larger dogs was used on smaller animals. At the same time, problems occurred mainly when cat owners used products designed for dogs instead of using the appropriate product intended for cats. According to Mr. Owens, The EPA is likely to require companies to redesign their labels to clearly indicate the species for which their product is intended, and to caution that cat owners must never use products intended for dogs. For more information about these products and tips to prevent injury to pets, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/petproductseval.html http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/flea-tick.htm#tips What are your experiences with topical flea and tick prevention products? Leave a comment and share.