Another Spot-On Flea Product Issue Revealed

A poodle stuck in its crate last week had a visit to the vet who traced the problem to the pet’s spot-on flea treatment.

Residue from the product Advantage, applied between the poodle’s shoulders, dissolved the plastic and caused it to adhere to the dog’s belly.

When the dog wouldn’t come out of its crate the next morning, its concerned owner brought the dog, crate and all, to Dr. Tej Dhaliwal of North Town Veterinary Hospital in Ontario, Canada.

Dhaliwal concluded that benzyl alcohol, an inactive ingredient in Advantage, was to blame.

Bayer Animal Health, maker of Advantage, acknowledged that the flea treatment was the likely culprit and offered to pay the owner’s veterinary bill, compensate him for loss of salary and replace the crate, Dhaliwal said.

Read the whole article at the Veterinary Information Network News but check this out:

Dale Kemery, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates pesticides including spot-on pet parasiticides, said the agency is considering a new rule to require that manufacturers disclose pesticides’ inert ingredients.

“This increased transparency will assist consumers and users of pesticides in making informed decisions and will better protect public health and the environment,” Kemery said by e-mail. “The Agency anticipates publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register within the next few months.”

Kemery also encouraged anyone aware of adverse reactions with an EPA-registered product to report the matter to the manufacturer and directly to EPA.

“Manufacturers of pesticide products are required to report to EPA information they receive about potential adverse effects of their products, but reporting to the EPA directly is beneficial because the data we receive from the manufacturers is aggregated by severity category, and the report of an individual incident that we receive directly may provide more details initially that could lead to a follow-up by EPA with the manufacturer,” Kemery said.

Meanwhile, we are still waiting on the EPA to release their findings in the flea product spot-on after this year’s advisories and meetings with flea product manufacturers.

Just a reminder, commercial flea products are pesticides–chemicals that have some pretty scary warnings on the labels. If you haven’t purchased Flea Control Secrets yet, be sure to at least subscribe to the ecourse using the form to your right.

Flea Treatment Options

flea collar toxicity and flea collar injury on catEvery day people seek guidance on flea treatment options and many get bad advice that can be downright deadly to their pet.

Ultimately, the best flea treatment for your dog or cat is the one that works and that fits your budget AND is non-toxic to your household.

People still have odd ideas about the best flea control products so if you have not purchased Flea Control Secrets, here is a list of different options to consider when seeking the best flea treatment for your animal.

Flea Collars

Contrary to popular beliefs, flea collars can help repel fleas but are not recommended as flea killers–and they can be downright toxic.

Most pet owners today use herbal collars as repellents instead of the commercial toxic products first developed by Robert Goulding Jr., an entomologist whose research into time-release pesticides led to the introduction and popularization of the flea collar in 1964.

Consumer Reports covered this method some time ago and found them to be ineffective. Recent concerns reveal toxicity issues for children and the households with animals wearing them–not to mention the issues for the animals themselves.

Flea collars concentrate flea treatment around a pet’s neck and head. There have been a variety of reports of injury to animals wearing commercial flea collars that include burns to the neck (and other areas that the collar has touched–such as paws). Other reactions such as seizures are also issues. You can read the story of TJ the cat and see flea collar injury photos here.

Topical Flea Treatment (aka Spot-On Flea Treatments)

Topical flea treatments (known as spot-on flea treatments) are currently the most popular flea control because they are easy for the owner. Topical flea control is simply applied once a month on the pet’s shoulders and protects a pet for about a month.

The EPA launched an investigation into spot-on flea control products in April of 2009 after an increase in reported severe reactions and deaths of pets from these topical products. An update on this issue is expected in October of 2009.

Three of the most popular flea control spot-on products include Frontline, Revolution and Advantage. The best source for topical flea control products is your veterinarian since reactions to over the counter (OTC) products are an issue and counterfeit flea products are suspected to be contributors to the rise in flea control product reactions.

Oral Flea Control

Oral flea treatment products are used in conjunction with other flea control methods and usually are given in pill or liquid form. The adult fleas ingesting the chemicals in a pet’s system lay infertile eggs and so stop the cycle but do not kill adult fleas. The most popular product currently on the market is called Capstar.

Flea Shampoos

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to use toxic flea shampoos on a pet since any pet shampoo will work to kill fleas if you leave the suds in for about 15 minutes.

Ideally the shampoo will be an oatmeal pet shampoo in conditioner so that it also helps give the pet relief from itchy skin.

Dish soap (dish detergents) such as Dawn or Ivory are not recommended for use on pets for flea control since they are very harsh and very drying.

Flea Dips

Flea dips are potent, chemical rinses that are very toxic. Using any concentrated chemical should be a concern and this method has traditioinally been used only for the most severe cases and administered by a professional groomer or veterinary service.

Today there are also herbal dips on the market but water dips also can be very effective as we discussed in Flea Control Secrets.

Flea Powders and Flea Sprays

Flea powders and flea sprays are not as popular as they once were. Today most people avoid the toxic chemical flea powders or chemical flea sprays and select lesser toxic home flea remedies such as apple cider vinegar sprays or parasite dust using diatomaceous earth.

Natural Flea Treatment

Natural flea treatments are gaining popularity as alternatives for flea control. However, many people are not aware that “natural” does not always mean less toxic. Some natural herbs or essential oils can be toxic to pets so care must be used when selecting these flea control products.

Professional Flea Services

Professional flea control is often an overlooked option. Busy people appreciate the help and many of the better services will offer a service guarantee for a specific amount of time.

Flea Control Strategies that Work

Treating the interior and exterior areas of your home along with the pet are critical pieces to getting rid of fleas. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, it was covered in the triangle of successful flea control video.

Simple, consistent steps to get rid of fleas include daily dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and cleaning of bedding as well as mowing the lawn and cutting back foliage are part of this effective strategy.

Using alternative methods for flea control such as parasitic nematode and other less toxic flea product methods work together to help you get rid of fleas and keep them away.

How long will it take to get rid of fleas?

Plan on daily action for several weeks. If you use the techniques and products recommended in the triangle of successful flea control–fleas should be gone within eight weeks and then it is simply a matter of maintenance.

EPA Flea Advisory Update Imminent

If you have been following this issue for any amount of time, you know that the EPA issued a flea product advisory back in April 2009 related to the spot-on flea products.

Reported negative reactions from topical flea products increased 50% from the previous year which resulted in 44,000 severe reactions and even deaths from selected products.

Then in May an update was made to the EPA website followed by a meeting with representatives of some of the major flea product manufacturers, veterinarians, and other officials.

An update on the issue is to be released this October but in the meantime you can check on the EPA flea and tick scrutiny here.

How to Avoid Counterfeit Flea Treatment Products

Counterfeit flea treatment products are suspected to be contributing to the adverse reactions being reported by pet owners after using flea treatment products.

In the first post in this series I listed the most commonly counterfeited products along with their registration numbers.

But the question on most people’s minds is, Just how do you identify a fake flea treatment product?

Foreign sources are the main suppliers of these flea control products that could endanger, or even kill, your pet(s).

Here is a short list of tips to avoid (or identify) counterfeit flea treatment products:

1. Don’t purchase flea products from foreign suppliers.
2. Be suspicious of any flea control products that are missing the inserts with directions for the safe use of the product.
3. Beware of flea treatment products that are not sold in child proof packaging.
4. Check to see that the lot number of the insert and applicator(s) match the lot number on the outside of the package.
5. Make sure all the label information matched the requirements of the EPA.
6. Avoid cheap flea products sold on the Internet.
7. Report any counterfeit products to the right sources.
8. Safely dispose of fake flea treatment products and don’t use them on your pets.

What do counterfeit flea products look like?

Most counterfeit flea products really look similar and the differences are harder to identify. Opening the package is usually a good way to get a look to verify.

Here is a slide show of some of the counterfeit products:

Compare to this slide show of legitimate products:

Those who distribute, import, or sell counterfeit pesticides such as Advantage and Frontline are subject to civil or criminal penalties up to $27,500 per sale, one year imprisonment, or both.

Recommended Resources

Do you have a resource that you would like to share? Please leave a comment and check out this kennel’s blog post and the photos on fake Frontline.

Consumer Affairs Investigates Flea Treatment

On August 10, 2009 an extensive series on flea treatment and adverse reactions was posted on

Based on reported incidents involving flea treatment products, ConsumerAffairs.Com contacted three of the leading topical flea and tick product manufacturers to discuss the EPA’s “intensified scrutiny” of these treatments and any complaints they had received from pet owners.

ConsumerAffairs.Com contacted Sergeant’s, Central Life Sciences/Farnam Pet Products (Bio Spot brand), and The Hartz Mountain Corporation.

Hartz was the only company that responded.

Click here to find the ConsumerAffairs.Com and Hartz flea treatment discussion.

Flea Treatments & The EPA

epa spot-on flea controlAfter a May 5th meeting to discuss reported adverse effects on pets associated with flea and tick products, ongoing agency actions related to the reported incidents, and additional information needs, the EPA still has not come forward with any determinations.

It is expected that the EPA will complete its analysis of risk this fall (October) and discuss mitigation measures following that assessment.

Attending the May meeting were representatives from the EPA, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, Health Canada, flea control producers including Summit Vet Pharm, Central Life Sciences, Hartz Mountain Corporation, MGK, TSG, Exponent, Fort Doge Animal Health, Bayer Animal Health, Sergeant’s Pet Care, Merial Limited, AHI, Pillsbury Law, and Intervet.

Additional information will be collected so that data is more accurate and the EPA expects that to be completed this month (July).

To date the actual spot-on flea control incidents triggering this advisory included:

Death 560
Major 610
Minor/Moderate/Unspecified 21,000
Moderate 1,600
Minor 1,500
Unspecified 140

Death 640
Major 740
Minor/Moderate/Unspecified 8,500
Moderate 6,700
Minor 27,000
Unspecified 130

Cats & Spot On Treatments (ASPCA Animal Poison Control)

The ASPCA receives more than 700 calls daily from veterinarians and pet parents, resulting in over 150,000 annual cases involving medications, insecticides, plants and foods. ASPCA epidemiologist Dr. Margaret Slater analyzed data from public calls managed by the ASPCA regarding flea and tick products. The data identified two key findings. When cats were treated inappropriately (not per label directions), they are significantly more likely to experience severe reactions: no illness despite a call to the ASPCA (7%), mild illness (69%), moderate illness (22%), major illness (2%), and death (0.1%). no illness despite a call to the ASPCA (18 percent), mild illness (17 percent), moderate illness (45 percent), major illness (19 percent) and death (2 percent). Read the whole ASPCA release here.

The EPA is supposed to release their findings this month but has not yet made any recall announcements.