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EPA takes steps to improve safety of flea and tick treatments

Consumer Reports News: April 14, 2010 02:47 PM

Each year family pets are harmed or die as a result of flea and tick treatments. As a result,  the Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to make these products safer through stricter testing and evaluation requirements

Complaints about topical tick and flea treatments are on the rise. In 2008, the EPA logged some 600 pet deaths and about 44,000 reports of harmful reactions, including skin irritation, vomiting, and seizures. In 2007, the total reports of incidents numbered just under 29,000.

Small dogs and cats seem particularly vulnerable, especially if given products meant for larger animals. Sometimes pets are sickened because of misapplication. There have also been reports that these products need stronger and clearer labeling statements. The EPA plans to check labels to see which products might need clearer instructions.

Pet owners are advised to follow these tips when using flea and tick treatments:
  • Carefully read the label. If you don't understand it, ask your veterinarian or call the manufacturer.
  • Use protective gloves when applying.
  • Follow the directions exactly. If the product is for dogs, don't use it on cats or other pets. If it says use weekly, don't use it daily. And follow weight requirements, don’t use a product meant for a medium-to-large dog on a small dog.
  • After applying the product watch for side effects. Symptoms like poor appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive salivation are signs of poisoning.
  • If your pet has a bad reaction immediately give your pet a bath using mild soap and lots of water. Then call the vet.
  • Keep pets separated from one anther after applying a product, so that it has time to dry. You don’t want pets to ingest the topical treatment when grooming each other.
  • If your pet is older, medicated, weak, sick, pregnant, or nursing, talk to your vet before using a flea and tick product.
  • Do not apply a product on kittens or puppies unless the label allows for it. For pets too young for flea and tick products use a flea comb to pick up fleas, flea eggs, and ticks.
For more information on what you can do to protect your pet visit the EPA’s Pesticides: Health and Safety Web site.
—Maggie Shader

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