Misusing flea treatments can be deadly for your pet

Misusing flea treatments can be deadly for your pet »Play Video
The warm weather means we're heading into flea season. Those little buggers can really make your pet miserable. There are all sorts of products you can use on your pet. This story has to do with what are called spot-on products.

The topical flea and tick drops that come in little vials. Recently the environmental protection agency, which regulates these products, has seen an dramatic increase in reported problems -- everything from skin rashes to seizures and, in some rare cases, death.

The alarm was sounded in April, when EPA said it was "intensifying" its efforts to figure out what is causing the up tick in these severe reactions.

Applied properly, these spots on products are supposed to be deadly for ticks and fleas while safe for your pet. That's not what happened when Forest Desmond treated his five dogs.

"Within a half hour, all five of them were sick, agitated, throwing up and coughing," he said.

Desmond was lucky. All of his dogs survived.

A new report from the ASPCA says most of the problems they see are caused by misuse, for example pet owners who use a flea killer for dogs on their cat.

The ASPCA bases that conclusion on the hundreds of calls that come in to its pet poison control center every day.

The report says "cats are more susceptible to illness and death as a result of the misuse of spot-on flea and tick control products."

The reports also says "the overwhelming majority" of problems associated with proper use of these products are
"mild."

"So the take-home message is that flea and tick products, when they are used appropriately, are generally not a problem, but inappropriate use on cats can be very serious," said Dr. Steven Hansen.

Hansen says any time you use a flea or tick treatment, there's the chance of a slight reaction.

"So the mild reactions that occur are typically skin reactions, such as redness or itchiness at the point of application, or maybe stomach upset. So some of those are going to occur and we can deal with those because the diseases that fleas cause can be very serious," he said.

Before you use any of these products on your pets, read the directions. If it says "not for cats," don't use it on a cat. The results could be devastating. If it says "for large dogs," don't use on small dogs.

Even if the label says "for cats and kittens," check the back of the box. Chances are those kittens must be at least 8 weeks or older.

The bottom line: don't stop using these flea and tick drops. In general, they have a positive safety record -- much better than the poisons we used to use. And let's not forget -- your pet can die from a serous flea infestation.

Just use properly. And if you have a puppy or kitten, older animal or one with health issues, talk to your vet before you use any flea treatment.

For more information:

ASPCA® Releases New Data Concerning Spot-On Flea and Tick Control

Increased Scrutiny of Flea and Tick Control Products for Pets

Vets: Report an Adverse Pesticide Reaction

Consumers: Report an Adverse Pesticide Reaction