Vets: Avoid Over-The-Counter Flea & Tick Medicine

CHICAGO (CBS) — Veterinarians have warned pet owners to think twice before treating their dogs or cats with over-the-counter medication for fleas and ticks, as CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports.

Aundria Arlandson was forced to put down her family cat, Oliver, a few months after he was treated with Sergeant’s Flea and Tick Powder.

“We called him jungle kitty. He just loved to play back there in the wooded area back there,” Arlandson said.

After taking Oliver on a trip outside, she spotted a tick on his back to get medication for him.

“You go to the store and you buy something; you see a name you’ve grown up with and trusted,” she said.

She picked out Sergeant’s Flea and Tick Powder, but within hours of using it on Oliver, the tremors started. Within a few months, her family was forced to put Oliver down.

“I told him that I wasn’t going to let it happen to another kitty and another animal ever,” Arlandson said.

Dr. Lisa Powell, a veterinarian, said, “This is why we don’t recommend using it.”

For years, Powell has told her patients not to buy such over-the-counter products after seeing some serious side effects.

“It can cause salivation, lethargy, vomiting, and then in the worst case scenario you can see seizures and even death,” she said.

Pyrethrins are the active ingredients in most of these products. They’re derived from chrysanthemums and research shows they can be toxic to cats.

Last year alone, 39,000 complaints poured into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“These are pesticides. These are designed to kill things. So they’re to be taken very seriously,” said Marty Montell with the EPA.

The EPA told Arlandson that they’ve already been working on finding a fix for months.

“We’re on top of it. We certainly sympathize with those that have lost pets,” Montell said.

The EPA believes the real problem is people misusing the products – either putting too much on, or using products intended for dogs on cats.

Arlandson insisted she followed the directions.

Her family has a new cat now, but Arlandson said she doesn’t want other families to suffer such a loss.

“All I want is for it to stop. You know, Oliver died; he didn’t have to. If I hadn’t put that product on him he’d be here right now. I know that,” she said.

The EPA said it’s considering changes in regulations which could include new labeling and requiring products to be registered for just two years and re-evaluated.

The companies mentioned in this story said that safety is their number one priority and that the products are safe when used properly.

For other treatment options and to find out what to do if your pet has an adverse reaction to these products, click here.

  • Aundria Arlandson

    Oliver died because of the permethrin in the Sergeants product used on him. Had I known at the time that I was poisoning him, I never would have purchased that product. When myself and two of my closest supporters met with the EPA, they were awe struck not only at the information that we presented them with, but also the passion and fervor of the now 50,000 supporters we have from all over the world.

    There does not have to be another loss like that of my sweet Oliver. Please visit his facebook page to see our journey and that of Tiny Timmy, who is living with neurological effects of these terrible products.

    Thank you to Liz Collin at WCCO Minneapolis for having the courage to air this piece and to Mary Kay Kleist for sharing it with our Chicago friends!

    Not One More Like Him. Ever.

    Aundria Arlandson!/TinyTimmysHealingJourney

  • Donna Rail

    Thank you for airing this story. It’s important for people to learn about the dangers of these products, and to find safer alternatives.

  • Tiny Timmy

    Thank you for airing this story about Oliver. It is very important. However, despite the discounting of “owner error”, only 12% of cases involve the wrong dose, wrong product or misapplication according to the EPA report of 2008 incidences for spot on products. They have yet to review other application methods. This leaves a whopping 88% incidences NOT due to misapplication, user error or failure to read the label.

  • D. Petty

    After seeing so many pets permanently damaged by the OTC flea and tick products, I count myself grateful to have had “minor” damage – minor only in that it healed and doesn’t seem to have come back. My cats had lesions and hair loss, and I was very lucky that’s all they had. I followed the directions – different medicine for the dogs than for the cats, different doses for radically different sized cats – and I thought it was allergies so I never used them again.

    Thank you for airing this story, and opening people’s eyes to the dangers these products present.

  • leslie palleria

    Thank you for airing Oliver’s story and for helping spread the word about the dangers amd toxic affects of these otc flea and tick products
    Thank You for sharing this important story and helping people to know about this problem and how to keep their pets safe

  • Karen Galmiche

    Thank you for airing this story. It is so important that pet owners be aware of these dangerous products. I had no idea they were so unsafe until I started reading about Oliver and Tiny Timmy on Facebook. I just thought they were cheap products that didn’t really work. Little did I know they were TOXIC!

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