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FDA: Flea, tick pills can cause neurological problems in pets

Posted: 4:07 AM, Nov 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-01 12:01:00-04

Dog owners should protect their animals from fleas and be vigilant about keeping them out their homes. Ticks are also predators because of tick-borne disease.

If flea pills or chews or employed, a veterinarian should be consulted. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has put out a warning on certain flea and tick medications.

The FDA is warning pet owners and vets that certain flea and tick medications have the potential to cause stumbling, seizures and other neurological effects in cats and dogs.

“Sometimes after the drugs are on the market, the FDA receives reports from the field that indicate that maybe they need to change the labeling on the package. That is what has happened with the isoxazoline class of insecticides. The ones that the FDA is working with the manufacturer to change the labels on the product are Nexgard, Bravecto,  Simparica and there is one other that is new on the market,” said VCA Oso Creek Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Wallace Graham.

The FDA is not pulling the products off the market.  The warning is intended to alert consumers to a possible risk.

“These are not common; these drugs are still safe according to the FDA,” Graham said. “But if you happen to have a patient that has any kind of neurologic disorder, and your dog or cat are on one of these products, you should have a conversation with your veterinarian about whether or not that is still an appropriate drug for your pet to have.”

These products are approved for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations and the treatment and control of tick infestations.

“Fleas have become very resistant to some of the older very effective insecticides that we have used in the past,” Graham said. “Having these new products has been very beneficial. We do see severe skin disease in dogs with fleas; we see severe diseases transmitted by ticks. We even sometimes see puppies and even adult dogs that get very sick or even die from blood loss due to fleas.”

The FDA is asking the manufacturers to make the changes to the product labeling in order to provide veterinarians and pet owners with the information they need to make treatment decisions for each pet on an individual basis.

The majority of pets treated with the products have suffered no problems, but some dogs and cats have had seizures, muscle tremors and ataxia, which is a loss of coordination, balance, motor function control and sometimes cognitive impairment.

Graham said that these medical conditions are rare and he has not seen any problems in any of his patients.

The neurological issues might be more common in animals with a history of seizures, but they also have occurred in animals with no such history.

There are good reasons to use flea products.

Fleas and ticks carry a range of diseases, including plague and Lyme disease, which can affect animals and their owners.

Pets can develop allergies or sensitivities to the bites, and lose large patches of fur as a result.

They can also become susceptible to worms and other parasites if they suffer allergic reactions to flea bites.

Flea treatments meant for dogs can be deadly if given to cats instead. It is important to use only flea and tick products specifically designed for cats, and to administer the proper dosage.

For more information visit:

https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm620934.htm