Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Warning! Health Hazards from Flea and Tick Products

We accidentally poisoned our own dog with an over the counter flea control product. She is doing all right now, but I wanted to get this warning out to everyone I know. I will do more research and be able to provide more links and information over the next few days. Here is what happened:

Leny, our four-year old, much loved Lab/Sharpei cross, had four very frightening grand mal seizures yesterday, just two days after we gave her a dose of Biospot. We had administered other doses to her in previous months, at first with no problems. Last month she seemed uneasy and uncomfortable after the dose--I wish we had paid attention to our gut feelings then. 

Beez and I were out, but luckily my sister was here at the house when Leny started seizing. That good, brave Auntie Bucksnort got the pup right to the vet, though she was shaken up for the rest of the day after seeing the seizures. Leny is back from the veterinary hospital now and is doing well. The Biospot should be out of her system in another 3 days; her blood tests all indicated no visible lasting damage at present. She is on Valium for the next couple of days and phenobarbitol for the next month. 

We thought we could save some money with this cheaper alternative to Frontline. We are very, very sorry now and hoping that we have not inadvertently caused lasting damage to our good friend and beloved family member. Oh--and by "saving" on Biospot, we ended up with a $240 vet bill. Not that we hold that against the vet--my point is that sometimes what looks like a savings is far from it!

I found a website, BioSpotVictims.Org that has some great information on the problem. It has many, many firsthand stories from pet owners. The author of the site, James TerBush, has been extremely helpful, and has provided the following links (quotes from the sites are in italics; bolding is mine for emphasis): 

- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Increased Scrutiny for Flea and Tick Control Products for Pets.

This page was last updated 4/20/09 and reports as follows on an increased incidence of reported adverse effects: 

Adverse reactions reported from the spot-on products range from mild effects such as skin irritation to more serious effects such as seizures and in some cases death. Over 44,000 potential incidents associated with registered spot-on products were reported to EPA in 2008. Pesticide registrants are required by law to submit information to EPA on adverse effects resulting from the use of any registered pesticide. The seven products in the table below represent about 80% of that total. 

-National Resources Defense Council: GreenPaws, For People Who Love Their Pets 

Over the last 8 years, NRDC helped remove six of the most dangerous toxics from pet products. But we need your help to get rid of the rest. 

The GreenPaws site has a list of flea and tick products that are harmful to pets, as well as an article on protecting against fleas and ticks without chemicals. 

BioSpot is one of the brands listed by the EPA as containing dangerous ingredients, and I would never go near it again anyway--but so is Frontline, so I'm not sure where we will turn next. I had been worried when I learned that some prairie dog populations are host to infected fleas that carry the plague bacteria. We are surrounded by prairie dogs here in eastern New Mexico, but looking at the Centers for Disease Control plague incidence map has eased my mind, since there haven't been any reported cases in this part of the state (for the reported years 1990-1997). So, I guess we will be trying some non-chemical flea and tick control methods. 

If you have any suggestions or stories about flea and tick control, please share them via the comments section. 


Rain Trueax said...

I forwarded your blog to my daughter. She manages the veterinary clinic where her husband is the veterinarian. Here is what she said:

"Biospot is one of the worst. All the over the counter stuff is pretty toxic. We regularly see animals poisoned by it. My advice to people thinking to save some money on flea products is use it at your own risk and if your animal starts behaving strangely - salivating, nervousness, difficulty standing - immediately wash the animal, especially the place you applied the Biospot or any other flea preventive with Dawn dishwashing soap. Keep washing until you can't smell it anymore and the
oily spot is gone. If the symptoms continue see your veterinarian right

Frontline is on the EPA list, but in our experience has the lowest level of reactions of any of the flea products (that said, Sadie *their elderly cat* couldn't
tolerate it). It is more expensive, but then seeing the vet isn't cheap either. The important thing for pet owners is to weigh the risks. There are many flea- and tick-borne iseases that are very deadly too and the herbal remedies just aren't that effective."

Quiet Paths said...

This happened to a friend of ours (their little dog) last year. I sure hope Leny feels better soon. Don't be too hard on yourself but I can only imagine how you must feel. It's good you are writing about this. Food and drug or EPA needs to stop bending to the will of these chemical companies.... we assume that those products out there are safe. No they are not.

the7msn said...

Thank you for sharing this story - who would have thought that doing the right thing could have such consequences? We're all sending hugs to sweet Leny and Auntie Bucksnort.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for spreading the word on pet toxicities on your blog - so important for pet owners to be aware of the lurking household poisons in (and outside of) their house! As an ER specialist, I see so many toxicities that owners bring in too late (making it more expensive to treat, with a worse prognosis!). When in doubt, it's so important to call a Poison Control for peace of mind! More importantly, if it's a flea or tick product, and you notice a problem in the middle of the night, PLEASE CALL the manufacturer number listed on the back - these companies often have a poison control that can help even in the middle of the night!

I wanted to make you aware of another important resource out there also - Pet Poison Helpline is an additional Animal Poison Control Center, and it's one of the most cost-effective animal poison ($35/case vs. ASPCA's new $60/case) controls out there nowadays. Unfortunately, because animal poison controls are not federal- or state-funded, there is a fee to allow the service to be run 24-7. We provide a similar service, but have the added benefit of veterinary specialists (in internal medicine and emergency and critical care) as part of our staff. You can always call 1-800-213-6680 if you ever have a problem. Thanks for spreading the word!

Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC
Associate Director of Veterinary Services

clairz said...

Dr. Lee, I wonder if your center might have been a little more open-minded about Leny's case... See my post for 4/23 about talking with the BioSpot people and the Animal Poison Control Center they transferred me to.

Northanna said...

I am so sorry to hear about your adorable Leny. ..... Greg and I have lived all over the western U.S. with the Army & Air Force (fed govt)... in every environment, I have researched thoroughly that there are indeed fleas and ticks. I have heard from neighbors and others here that no one is giving their animals flea & tick protection. When we first moved here (as I commented earlier), I got Frontline on the internet through an Australian vet co. Now that I have heard and seen that there is no flea & tick problem here (unless pets run in a field, etc.). Our pets have been at our residence & cars only ~ so have seen no problems whatsoever....

Anonymous said...

Hi Clairz,

So sorry for the late response - I just got back from a business trip! You know, I can say any animal (or person) can have a rare, atypical response from any drug - that said, most of these products aren't typically absorbed systemically (i.e., into the blood stream) - these oils TYPICALLY disperse through the follicles of the hair (not affecting the liver, spleen, internal organs, etc.). That said, some of these chemicals are very toxic to some pets (certain species like cats, and it can cause them to seizure - which is why it's so important to only use CAT product on cats). It's certainly possible that any drug could potentially cause seizures... but without a catscan (CT), MRI or spinal tap, I'm afraid no one will "definitively" know. That said, to be on the safe side, I'd (obviously) avoid the same product in the future... I hope that helps and hope and pray your pooch is recovering!!!

Dr. Justine Lee