Latest Update on the Spot-On Flea & Tick Preventatives

July 9, 2015

It never ceases to amaze me that major manufacturers of the spot-on flea and tick preventatives seem to spout one excuse – that any adverse reactions to their products are caused by the pet owners not following the package directions and administering too high a dose.  Another common excuse is that the higher number of complaints is due to the popularity of their products – that more sales make it logical that there are more complaints.  Merial, maker of Frontline and Frontline Plus, is quoted in an article in the “Bangor Daily News” as saying, “…any adverse reactions usually are mild” and they urged pet owners to follow the directions on the product labels. (

I bed to differ with that assessment.  Our Weimaraner, Gator, was successfully treated for years with Advantage Plus with no side effects.  Last year, we accidentally ordered the wrong product instead of his usual Advantage Plus and applied it to the back of Gator’s neck.  Within 15-20 minutes after the application of Frontline Plus, our big boy was panting, pacing, falling into the walls and could barely stand up.  We gave him a strong dose of Benadryl and watched him carefully as he began to recover.  This was a bad neurological reaction to this product and could well have ended tragically.  Gator recovered and we never again used that brand.

We tried going the natural route for several months but couldn’t find a product or combination of natural products that actually repelled and prevented fleas.  Eventually, we reverted to Advantage Plus, and Gator has suffered no problems with its use.

Obviously, every animal is different, and you will have to see what works best for your pet.  I just want makers of these potentially deadly spot-on products to show more concern for the animals using them.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued new warnings about potential health risks from a variety of spot-on flea and tick preventatives because of the many complaints from pet owners.  The agency is collecting data to help make better decisions to reduce risks.

Health Canada has similar concerns and together with the EPA, they will be meeting with product manufacturers to address the issue and decide if further restrictions are warranted.

Another concern that the EPA will be considering is the many complaints by pet owners about spot-ons losing their effectiveness.  According to Dr. Anne Lictenwalner, a veterinarian at the University of Maine, some less expensive spot-on treatments can be somewhat dangerous and because they are losing their effectiveness, pet owners are using more than one product on their animals.  She urges pet owners to talk to their veterinary professionals before going this route because it could prove dangerous to the animals and should be carefully monitored.

A spokesman for the EPA said their investigation will “center on incidents with spot-on treatments, sprays, collars, and shampoos.”  They caution that “no cause and effect relationship between the spot-on products and any individual adverse reaction or incident has been confirmed.”   They will be evaluating all available data to identify and if necessary, take prompt regulatory action to address risks.

If your pets have experienced any problems with the spot-on products, please notify your veterinarian and follow his or her advice.

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