FDA issues alert about some flea and tick products for dogs and cats

Published: Sep. 24, 2018 at 4:58 PM EDT
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If you own a dog or cat, you may be surprised to learn that the worst time of the year for fleas is now through November. A lot of you use flea and tick medicine to make sure the creatures don't end up on your pets or in your home. But concerns have been raised about some of those medicines.

Dr. Bob Esplin has been a vet for decades. He says while there are risks, he believes the benefits far outweigh those risks for most dogs when it comes to protecting them from fleas and ticks. Dr. Esplin started Sylvania Vet Hospital in 1974, "There is no medication without the potential of side effects."

Having said that, in most cases Dr. Esplin is a firm believer in the monthly chewables to keep your pets flea and tick free, "The drugs are in the isoxazoline class. The brand names are Simparica, Bravecto and Nexgard. The FDA also just approved another product in this class called Credelio."

The side effects of the medicines can include vomiting, lethargy and diarrhea. Seizures are also a possibility, but Dr Esplin says that's only in certain cases. He says these medicines are safe to use in the vast majority of dogs, "They will not take a perfectly healthy dog and then cause them to have a seizure. But if a dog has epilepsy or seizures for other reasons, the medicine could enhance that risk."

Dr. Esplin and his staff make sure the dog has a clean bill of health before prescribing a flea and tick medication, "We've had no fatalities or any side effects of serious consequence at our clinic. We are diligent about not prescribing these medications to known seizure dogs."

As for the timing of giving your dog flea and tick prevention, Dr. Esplin says it's now an every month prescription, "Last year and the year before we had dogs come in with ticks in February. Our weather has changed, and the insects are adapting to that, so we want you to use the products year-round."

The products have all received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. However, the FDA has just released a report alerting pet owners and vets to be aware of the potential for neurological events in some dogs and cats using Bravecto, Simparica and Nexgard. The neurological events include muscle tremors, ataxia and seizures.

The FDA is working with the manufacturers to include new label information to highlight the possibility of those events. However, the report goes on to say the products continue to be safe and effective for the majority of animals.

If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your vet. We've posted a link to the entire FDA alert