Acupuncture Continuing Education

EPA Protects Dogs and Cats Using Flea & Tick Pesticides

The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) is tightening controls over flea and tick “spot-on” pesticides for pets to prevent adverse reactions. Spot-on pesticides are liquids that are usually squeezed onto a dog or cat’s skin between the shoulder blades or on the back. The EPA is moving to require improved labeling to ensure that cats do not receive spot-on flea and tick pesticides intended for dogs and that smaller dogs do not receive spot-on dosages that are only appropriate for larger, heavier dogs. The EPA notes that using the improper type of spot-on product or an excessive dosage may lead to skin disorders, digestion issues, vomiting, diarrhea, and nervous system disorders such as trembling and seizures. Also at risk are pets that are weak, old, medicated, ill, pregnant or are nursing. In these circumstances, the FDA notes that pet owners are advised to consult with veterinarians concerning the application of flea and tick pesticides.

The EPA states that “flea and tick products can be appropriate treatments for protecting pets and public health because fleas and ticks can transmit disease to animals and humans.” Dogs and cats exposed to fleas may suffer from hair loss, skin disorders such as dermatitis, anemia, and in some cases the pets may become seriously ill. Ticks may transmit serious bacterial infections such as Lyme’s disease to pets. Pets may also shed ticks in the home potentially exposing humans to Lyme’s disease and other dangerous infectious diseases such as Ehrlichiosis and Bebesia. Transmitted by tick bites, these infections require immediate medical attention to prevent potentially life-threatening illness. In balance, the EPA supports the use of flea and tick pesticides to prevent disease while urging pet owners to pay careful attention to their proper application in order to prevent adverse side-effects to animals.

In the majority of cases, adverse effects do not occur as a result of using spot-on products. However, the EPA’s analysis finds that improvements in packaging and labeling will significantly lower the risk of adverse side effects. Smaller dog breeds are at risk because they often receive dosages intended for larger dogs. In many cases, the EPA notes that consumers are applying spot-on dog products to cats thereby increasing the probability of adverse effects. The EPA adds that children are protected from exposure to spot-on pesticide treated pets based on dermal assessment reviews of exposures due to hugging and coming into contact with pesticide treated pets. Inhalation of spot-on pesticides remains a case-by-case exposure issue.