Toxic Flea & Tick Pet Meds, EPA Review is In

by Mary Haight on March 24, 2010

hartz_mtnThe long awaited review of toxic flea and tick pet meds is in nearly a year after the EPA initiated it. The catalyst for this review of products the EPA had already approved can be seen in the USA Today report: There was a 53% rise in reported incidents from 2007-08 totaling 44,263; problems ranging from illness to seizures to death for users of flea and tick spot-on type applications made by Hartz, Sergeant’s, and Bio-Spot were reported. 600 deaths occurred in dogs and cats. What about 2009 numbers? Also small breeds, from 10 to 20 lbs, were reported to have the most problems with this product type.

As if to remind us it’s not just a small dog problem, this court case surfaced a few weeks ago from Lisa Wade McCormick at Consumer Affairs: Frank Bowers was going to get justice for his 14 month old, 68 lb. Old English Bulldog dog, Diesel, poisoned by toxic flea and tick meds.  This 72-year-old Texas man took his complaint against Hartz Mountain Corporation to small claims court–maybe he figured he didn’t have the time or money to file a suit with attorneys—but he got a precedent setting ruling to cover the vet costs of $4440.75.  This case dates back to August 7. 2008 when Bowers applied the Hartz Ultra Guard Pro Flea & Tick Drops to Diesel as directed, and the dog died, horribly, less than 35 hours later.

Here’s what I just don’t understand about their process.  If I can get hold of Steve Owens at the EPA for clarification, I’d like to know what guides these decisions:

“Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, said new restrictions will be placed on flea and tick products, with additional changes for specific products likely — including possible changes in some product formulas.”

Given the incident reports and the known facts about the chemicals, why isn’t reformulation the first course of action instead of merely “possible changes…”? It has already taken more than a year to get where we are today.  Pets’ lives have been on the line during that entire period.  And what does “new restrictions” mean? It doesn’t sound like the matter is settled.

It is widely reported that EPA thinks a better label is a viable answer to this problem. While I understand that it is safer to have a picture of a dog or cat on the box or tube to prevent putting wrong meds on animals, they seem to imply that all the victims must have been incompetent, unable to follow directions.  How are “new instructions and warnings” coming soon going to change the facts?  Unless of course, the “new instructions” mean that dosage recommendations will change.  Were they wrong to begin with? 

Have you had any problems with these meds, and if so, did you report it?  What do you think? Are you willing to try products without these toxins?  There are safer alternatives that work; I have tried a few, but I am not in a flea and tick infested area.  Anyone have good luck with less toxic or natural products?  

Non-toxic alternatives linked below.

Related Articles: EPA Approved Meds Killing Dogs and Cats

Flea Collars, A Threat to Human Health  *some non toxic alternatives

New Merck’s Flea and Tick Pill

NRDC: Pesticide Removed from Flea Collars (only one of several)

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7 comments
D. Fistook
D. Fistook

You can combat fleas and ticks naturally on dogs with essential oils. This is safer for your family and your pet!

Edie
Edie

Mary, the Webinar on aging was very good. Some of it was a bit technical -- it was geared towards vets and part of a larger conference on the topic -- but there was lots that I could easily grasp. I need to read over my notes and try to make sense of them; it all went by very quickly.

Jim (Doggybytes.ca)
Jim (Doggybytes.ca)

I've never really worried about ticks or fleas for most of my dog's 15 years, but while writing a related post on my blog, I started wondering if I should "innoculate" my dogs with Revolution. I gotta say, I'm really not all that comfortable putting any chemicals on or in them, in fact I seem to be more concerned with their health than I am with my own. I think with numbers like you've listed in this post, I might just forego the tick/flea medication and just do a physical check on them for ticks.

Edie
Edie

I try to avoid using chemicals like DEET on myself and I don't generally lick my hands and feet so there's no way I'm going to use stuff that can be toxic on my dog. I wish the companies that produce these products and the EPA would take responsibility but hedging your bets allows you to make money before actual lawsuits occur. I've got to disagree with Karen -- many of these products have the sanction of vets; they're not just over the counter.

Karen Friesecke
Karen Friesecke

If I don't get it from the vet, I'm not giving it to my dog. I've always been suspicious of these over the counter meds that you can freely get at any pet store. Not in a safety way, but in an efficacy way. How effecient can an over the counter wormer be?

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