Newsletters -> Safety Concerns with Popular Flea and Tick Products
Distributed to our Pet Portals members on February 11, 2012.
In This Issue:
Overcoming Scare Tactics
Addressing misinformation and safety concerns with popular flea and tick control products
Free Dental Screenings, Toothbrushes, and Toothpaste in February: To help promote Pet Dental Health Month, Healing Springs is offering FREE DENTAL SCREENINGS all month. Valid between 2PM and 5PM, Monday through Friday. We will evaluate your dogs’ and cats’ teeth, gums, and mouths and give specific recommendations. One on one training in teeth brushing will be available. We now have C.E.T., dog/cat ergonomic toothbrushes and enzymatic toothpaste to give away as part of our educational promotion. Tell a friend.Unfortunately, you may be in communication with an outfit that has resorted to using scare tactics and misleading statements to sell one particular brand of flea and tick control. The latest tactic has been to cite anecdotes of adverse reactions to an ingredient called permethrin. Vectra 3D (which we recommend), Advantix, and several other flea and tick products contain permethrin. Frontline does not. Here’s the main thing you need to know about the permethrin in Vectra 3D and other products for dogs:
Permethrin has been tested for safety in dogs. The National Pesticide Information Center reports that groups of dogs had to be fed 500mg per kilogram of weight for more than three months before even transient signs of toxicity appeared. This means that in 35 pound dogs, researchers actually fed the dogs 7,935 mg of permethrin per day for 96 days before even transient signs of adverse reaction appeared. Permethrin has been proven safe in dogs and humans, and that is why, even with the increased scrutiny from the EPA in 2010 and 2011, it has been EPA approved in so many products for dogs and humans.
Permethrin is not just an insecticide in products for dogs. Permethrin has been around for years and is an active ingredient in all kinds of products you have probably used happily including the tick repellent you spray on your clothes, house plant sprays, medicated shampoos for kids with scalp infections, etc.
So if permethrin is safe, why was this local outfit using scare tactics to sell product able to share those frightening stories and photos of skin reactions? The rational answer to that question is two-fold. But first, let’s talk about the product this other outfit is holding out as so safe: Frontline. I spent less than ten minutes looking for anecdotes of adverse reactions to and negative health effects of Frontline, and I found more than I would care to count. Here’s a few of the horrible, heart wrenching stories people have about what happened when they put Frontline on their dogs and cats:
So with all these horrible stories about Frontline, will a responsible veterinarian still tell you Frontline is safe? YES. Responsible doctors understand that anecdotes don’t make the case for or against a treatment.
Anecdotal evidence means you didn't get a group of dogs and do the same thing to the whole group as the government must do in real safety studies. Anecdotal evidence means individuals are simply sharing the story of what happened to them. One of the main problems with anecdotal evidence is the connection between cause and effect can be confused. Let’s say, hypothetically, a dog was going to have a seizure at 3:00 today. Coincidentally, you give the dog a treat at 2:58. One might assume the treat caused the seizure, but it did not. The timing was just coincidence.
Some of the adverse reactions to permethrin are clearly not misattributed cause and effect. Some are clearly genuine accounts of adverse reactions. And here’s what pet owners have to understand. Any chemical, or even food, you put in or on your body runs the risk of an adverse reaction. This applies to Frontline, Advantix, nicotine patches, most human medicines your doctor gives you, perfume, shellfish, and even peanuts. Dr. Jenkins’ sister-in-law once received an ordinary, retail perfume as a gift at a party at Tlaquepaque. She sprayed it on her hand and quickly started having a horrible skin reaction that looked like a burn – similar to the photos being used as scare tactics by a local source. She ran to the bathroom and washed it off immediately, but the skin lesion was still there and irritating for weeks. Does this mean the product was not safe? Of course not. It means Dr. Jenkins’ sister-in-law needed to figure out what ingredients she as an individual is allergic to.
Where flea and tick control are concerned, the question is “Are the risks small and the benefits large?” The answer that real safety studies have produced for Vectra, Frontline, and Advantix is “yes.” The chances of an adverse reaction to any of these pesticides on a pet’s skin is very real but very small. The risks of serious disease in pets from fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other parasites is very real and quite significant. In Lyme disease alone, the CDC reports a 4% population prevalence among humans in Virginia with an apparent growth of the problem, and that’s just one disease from one parasite. A five year study by the Environmental Protection Agency found the incidence of adverse reactions in pets to topical permethrin was 0.00055%. That study includes any reactions that cats in the same household as the dogs may have had.
So here’s the conclusion. Do not fall for scare tactics and ploys to grab at your emotions. Use science and reason. Frontline is an older product, and as we have said before, it is not as good at protecting your dog from serious disease as Vectra 3D. Pet owners should be cognizant of the potential for adverse reaction any time they apply any pesticide on their pets. Vectra 3D is proven safe in dogs and is a top recommendation of most vets in this area.
For more information on Vectra 3D and how it protects your pet better, you can see our previous correspondence in these places:
Touch a Turtle - Wash Your Hands
Turtles Spread Salmonella
Touch a Turtle – Wash Your Hands: Our Dr. Jenkins is a USDA certified wildlife rehabilitator with a specialty in turtle rehabilitation. We can certainly understand wanting to have one of these amazing animals as pets. Keep salmonella in mind. Turtles (and other reptiles) of all ages and sizes are relatively immune to salmonella, so they are notorious carriers of the disease. That’s the same disease you can get from handling raw chicken without washing your hands. Every time you touch a turtle, pet or wild, wash your hands before touching your face or eating. For a healthy adult, salmonella may result in little more than some very unpleasant stomach symptoms. For very young children and the elderly, the stress on the body can be a serious problem.
In 2007, a four-week old infant died after contracting salmonella from a turtle. Children tend to be the most at risk because they are more vulnerable to the affects, they like to touch pets, and they are quick to put their hands in their mouths before washing their hands. Simple hand washing precautions are enough to keep people safe after touching turtles, so remember to wash those hands.