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FDA Warning about Flea and Tick Medications

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Owning a dog goes beyond licks and playing ball. There are preventative efforts that as a dog owner, need to be on your radar. Flea and tick medication falls under that category and those efforts will protect your dog from the early stages through the senior ages.

As with any medication, there are warnings to pay attention to. If those warnings aren’t on the label, that’s a problem. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently alerted pet owners and veterinarians to potential neurologic adverse effects when treated with certain flea and tick medications that are in the isoxazoline class.

The FDA is asking that the manufacturers of these drugs update their labels with this new information. For many, it’s too late.  The problem with poisoning fleas and ticks is that you have to first poison the host … that’s your dog. What a terrifying thought, right? While you would immediately want to take your dog off the dangerous flea and tick medication, veterinarians say not to, especially if there aren’t any issues.

It’s scary to give your pet preventative medications when those medications end up causing problems that never existed beforehand. If your pet is experiencing seizures, lethargy, vomiting, abnormal appetite, or other symptoms that are not normal, head to your vet immediately.

How it works: 

The FDA shares with us the process that flea and tick medications go through in order to be stocked on the shelves.

  • Flea and tick products for pets are regulated by either FDA or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • FDA is responsible for regulating animal drugs; however, some products to control external parasites come under the jurisdiction of EPA. 
  • FDA and EPA work together to ensure adherence to all applicable laws and regulations. 
  • In general, flea and tick products that are given orally or by injection are regulated by FDA.
  • Before an animal drug is allowed on the market, FDA must “approve” it.
  • Before a pesticide can be marketed, EPA must “register” it.
  • Both agencies base their decision on a thorough review of detailed information on the product’s safety and effectiveness provided by the manufacturer or other product sponsor. 
  • The sponsor must show that the drug or pesticide meets current safety standards to protect the animal and people in contact with the animal and the environment.
  • The sponsor must also show that the drug or pesticide produces the claimed effect, and the product must carry specific labeling so that it can be used according to the directions and precautions.

This all sounds like a full-proof process, however, as we see in this instance, new information can come to light after the approval process. This is why we see so many recalls and warnings from products that as consumers, we believe to be safe, including flea and tick medications.

Let’s explore the world of fleas and ticks including what happens if your pet isn’t protected. If you’re not itchy yet, you’re about to be.

Flea Facts:

  • One female flea can produce as many as 2,000 eggs in her lifetime.
  • Fleas can take in 15 times their own weight in blood.
  • Fleas like your blood too.
  • Fleas most often attach near the head, neck, ears, or paws
  • For every flea you see on your pet, vets estimate there are 100 more in your house.
  • If you wear white socks around the house or outside, you will see black specs attach to them.
  • Fleas are also responsible for transmitting the dog tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum).
  • Fleas burrow into the fur of your dog’s skin, snacking on blood. 
  • Your dog will be scratching and uncomfortable, and you may notice a rash and bumps. 
  • Left untreated, fleas can lead to anemia in your dog.

Tick Truths:

  • After feeding, an engorged female tick falls off to lay 3,000-6,000 eggs.
  • Severe tick infestations can cause anemia, weight loss, paralysis, and even death.
  • There are roughly 900 tick species.
  • Deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease to dogs and people. 
  • Ticks attach to your dog by inserting their mouthparts into your dog’s skin
  • Ticks may appear as small dark specks on your pet’s fur.
  • Use tweezers to remove a tick on your pet instead of your bare hands. 
  • You’ll be able to see a tick on your pet, especially if it’s been feeding and is engorged.
  • Ticks will most often attach near the head, neck, ears, and paws.
  • Look for signs of licking, head shaking, weakness, and even paralysis.

It’s very important to give your pet preventative medication as both fleas and ticks can be dangerous and nuisances. Talk to your veterinarian to understand the risks of each medication and what works for your pet’s health. They will be up on the latest studies, recalls, and FDA warnings. It’s important to note that every pet is going to react differently to flea and tick medicine.

Always ensure you’re following the directions on the package as human error can come into play. Ann Stohlman, V.M.D., a veterinarian in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine says, “You need to take the time to carefully read the label, the package insert, and any accompanying literature to make sure you’re using the product correctly.”

If you belong to pet groups on social media, ask for other pet owner’s experiences with certain medications including side effects.

The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, amongst other things. Regardless of the type of medication and if it’s for you or your dog, there are always going to be warnings, possible reactions, recalls, labeling adjustments, and more. Education can save your pet’s life, so do your research, ask around, and again, always consult your vet.

Hope You Enjoyed the Read! 

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