Spring has (finally) arrived and fleas have returned along with it. You may have heard recently in the news that there has been an increase of the number of adverse reactions to over-the-counter “spot on” flea and tick treatments. The EPA has taken notice and they are starting to take action.
What was the problem?
Flea and tick preventative maintenance is an important part of your pet’s health. It’s important to safe guard your pet against pests that can carry deadly diseases like Lyme disease. However, it is also important to remember that these medications are still pesticides and should be handled with care. The EPA found that some dogs, usually smaller breeds, and cats could have potentially harmful reactions to spot-on flea and tick treatments. Reactions ranged from skin irritation to more severe medical conditions like seizures, and in a few cases, even death. Most of the reactions were caused by “overdose” or using too much of the topical product for the size of the pet. Reactions in cats were typically the result of exposure to a dog- specific formula, either accidentally or through incorrect usage of the product. While the EPA mainly investigated “spot-on” flea and tick treatments, they recommend using caution with all flea and tick products, including shampoos, collars, and sprays/powders.
What are they going to do to solve it?
To reduce the number of reactions and eliminate misuse of the products, the EPA is now enforcing tighter restrictions on ingredients and pursuing labeling changes and guidelines. The most significant change they are suggesting is making more dose sizes available. Instead of 3 different sizes of the medication, there might be 5, introducing a narrower pet weight range per medication. They are also pushing to make the packaging vastly different on dog and cat products to eliminate confusion, and other labeling changes to eliminate confusion. The EPA is also going to start requiring clinical trials and observations on new formulas.
What can I do to ensure my pets’ safety?
Consult your vet. Find out which brand they recommend for your pets and situation. This is extremely important if your pet is weak, elderly, sick, on medication, pregnant or nursing. You should also carefully read all instructions before applying flea and tick treatments, especially if you have not used the product before. When purchasing a flea and tick treatments be sure to know the current weight of your pets to select the correct product.
There are some precautions you can take to help control your pet’s exposure to fleas and ticks, too. Vacuuming regularly and washing both you and your pet’s bedding regularly can help to prevent populations from establishing in your house. You can alter your yard to be less tick-friendly and discourage deer from visiting.
See the EPA’s article on taking care of fleas and ticks on your pet for more information on safety and what to do if you suspect your pet is having a reaction to flea and tick medication.