EPA: Some Flea, Tick Control Products Can Harm Pets

Reader Contribution by Brenna Long

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is warning consumers about possible side effects of flea- and tick-control products. Some spot-on treatments (liquid pesticides applied to a pet’s skin between the shoulders) have caused adverse reactions — some fatal — in pets. To prevent further incidents, the EPA is restricting some flea and tick treatments and updating labels.

In recent years, the EPA has received an increasing number of complaints about various flea- and tick-control products on the market. In 2008, the EPA reported 600 pet deaths and about 44,000 cases of non-fatal reactions to these pet products. Most of the incidents resulted from the use of  spot-on products, rather than other treatments such as collars, sprays and shampoos.

In response, the EPA put out an advisory to pet owners urging them to take precautions when using flea and tick products. The agency is also taking action by implementing changes within the industry, beginning with labels. From more precise dosages to color differentiation between cat and dog products, the EPA wants the label to clearly state the directions. To watch for and prevent side effects, the EPA will have additional post-marketing product surveillance and restrictions on inert ingredients

Looking for more preventive action, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in April 2009 against major pet product retailers and manufacturers that sell a flea and tick control product containing propoxur. The suit was filed in California where propoxur is on California’s Proposition 65 list because it is known to the state to cause cancer. NRDC is also petitioning the EPA to ban all uses of tetrachlorvinphos in pet products, citing evidence that the chemical is a carcinogen.

The best way to prevent fleas and ticks and keep your pets safe is to read and follow the directions carefully. The EPA also advises that consumers check with a veterinarian before using any treatments to make sure it is the best option.

After the treatment, pet owners need to watch for side effects. This will ensure the safety of your pet. If any reaction occurs, the EPA encourages consumers to report it. You’ll need to keep the product container and the packaging to do this. Those will have the EPA registration and manufacturer number. Report any side effects to the manufacturer who is required by law to report it to the EPA. Additionally, you can report it to the National Pesticide Information Center and the EPA’s “ask a question” site.

To keep your pet safe from the start, the NRDC has put together a pocket guide for safer flea and tick treatments. Also, check out some of our past stories, Flea and Tick Control and Natural Flea Control.