Monday, March 22, 2010

Warning on pet medication

In millions of U.S. households, dogs and cats are treasured members of the family. Less loved are the noxious fleas and ticks that ride in with them.

Troubling news on that front arrived last week, with word from the Environmental Protection Agency of safety concerns connected to popular anti-flea and tick medications that are applied to pets' skin.

The EPA has been looking into the matter since last spring, prompted by a surge in reports of adverse reactions among pets dosed with these products.

Reported symptoms include skin and gastrointestinal problems, trembling, seizures or worse, though most side effects are mild, studies indicate. A high percentage of the reports seem to stem from product misuse.

In a summary Wednesday, the EPA did not advise halting use of these so-called spot-ons. Instead, the agency noted that they can be effective but urged caution, particularly when they are applied to small dogs and cats. The EPA also advised consumers to consult their veterinarian. The EPA's attention to this issue is necessary and welcome, because these products are in such wide use on cherished pets.

But veterans of Florida's flea wars -- the pests multiply like crazy in the state's climate -- may find the news daunting. These products, after all, have freed countless pets and households from the scourge of harmful, irritating, disease-carrying insects.

Small dogs at risk In its national announcement, the EPA emphasized that most of the reported problems in pets were mild, and many adverse reactions were caused by misuse (such as applying a dog dose on a cat). But notably, small dogs were disproportionately affected.


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