CBS46 investigates safety of flea and tick drops - CBS46 News

CBS46 investigates safety of flea and tick drops

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Rhonda Dodds found her cat between two logs outside her Luthersville home several weeks ago. He was clinging to life.

"He was almost dead. I mean he was limp, trying to meow," she said.

The 3-year-old cat had disappeared into the woods after Dodds applied Sergeant's Silver Flea and Tick drops for cats.

When she found him the next day, Dodds gave Chester a bath and rushed him to the vet, but it was too late.

"The cat was lethargic, had some tremors, possible seizure activity. But later that night, when I came back to check on him, he was in full seizure activity," said Dr. Nicole Andrews at Moreland Animal Hospital.

Without an animal autopsy, it's impossible to know exactly what killed Chester, but Andrews is confident that the cat was poisoned.

"DNA makes certain cats more sensitive to products, just like in humans," Andrews explained.

CBS46 spoke with a couple of veterinary toxicologists and both said that the active ingredient in Sergeant's product, etofenprox, is generally safe for cats. It is possible that some cats might have a mild skin reaction. But in their experience, both said most adverse reactions are caused by human error - putting a product that's meant for dogs on a cat or not using the product as directed.

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency announced stricter labeling requirements to prevent mix ups. And the number of reported pet incidents has dropped significantly since 2008, but there were still more than 29,600 reported claims last year.

And Dodds is sticking by her story - she says she applied the right product as directed on the label.

"I didn't think anything like it would kill my cat. And they keep it on the market? I can't believe that," she said.

CBS46 found page after page of complaints from both cat and dog owners online, saying their animals were harmed by over-the-counter flea and tick products. And Sergeant's isn't the only company under fire.

A variety of brands, and even prescription products, have been linked to adverse reactions. And even though they're regulated by the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration, Andrews said that doesn't mean they're safe for all cats and dogs.

In fact, some breeds are more likely to react than others. Your vet can suggest alternatives if needed or safer ways to test the product.

If you're buying over-the-counter flea and tick medications to save money, keep in mind, vet bills can run into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars if your pet has a reaction. But whatever you do, don't stop fighting the pests - the benefits far outweigh the risks.

"You have to understand that whole concept, they are insects. So just like the plague, you don't want to have that sort of situation going on, so we want to make sure that we're not living with those fleas in our house," said Andrews.

Sergeant's sent Dodds a sympathy card and offered to pay for the vet bill. And she has since adopted two baby kittens, but said there's no replacing Chester.

"He was a big part of our life, he really was," Dodds said.

Regardless of the product you use, read the label very carefully before applying and keep a close eye on your pet for at least an hour afterwards. If your pet does have a reaction, bathe them twice with a mild soap and then get them to the vet as soon as possible.

Better yet, apply the medication in the presence of your vet.

Read statement from Sergeant's.

Read statement from Dollar General (where Dodds purchased the product.)

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