Pet owners need to be informed

2009-04-02 00:00

In February The Witness published a story about a flea product for dogs and cats being linked with adverse reactions in dogs. Maritzburg vets denied having seen any cases of these side effects but the article prompted two local dog owners to send in their stories of adverse reactions to a different brand. We are running their stories as a warning that owners should make informed decisions about the products they use on their pets.

Clare Van Daele

In response to your article of February 18, “Are flea-product safety concerns valid?” I believe that it is quite possible for flea-control medication to have serious side effects — even where they have FDA approval. The pharmaceutical manufacturers will not, of course, admit any blame.

My story began just on a year ago when I changed my dogs’ flea topical medication to another brand, as the regular one did not seem to be working. Both dogs (a Great Dane x lab and pedigree long-haired dachshund) initially responded by scratching furiously. The larger dog soon settled down but within a day or two the little one experienced loss of co-ordination, dragging his back legs and unable to get up our back kitchen step. His personality changed too, from lively to extremely lethargic and drooling. I had also dipped my dogs three or four days prior to giving the medication but only later discovered that both the dip and medication had the same active ingredients, permethrin. Nowhere on the packaging of the dip nor of the topical flea medication did it say that it should not be used alongside anything else.

At the vet, none of us made the connection with the flea medication. The dog was treated for arthritis, and when he did not improve on an anti-inflammatory, X-rays were taken and showed that a wire from an old hip injury could be the problem. Removing this under anaesthetic made no difference and a second anti-inflammatory was prescribed but with no improvement. He then had blood tests which showed no disease apart from that he might now be suffering from ulcers from the anti-inflammatory medication. Over a period of a month I watched my perfectly healthy six-year-old dog go from 7,9 kilograms to around six kilograms as he gradually lost the fight and finally stopped eating and drinking.

With no other diagnosis confirmed, I am absolutely certain that the flea-medication/dip was the initial culprit with a double whammy in the form of ulcers from the anti-inflammatories. After my dog died, a local breeder and showgoer contacted me and said that her show-dog had got severe burns on its back as a result of being given a

permethrin spot treatment.

I would like to encourage readers to go to sites such as:





and read some heart-rending stories from distraught pet

owners and some sound advice on possible side effects and alternative treatments.


Some time ago I used a flea-control product purchased from my local vet on my dog. I chose to use this particular product over the one I usually use, hoping it would have the effect on fleas that it was supposed to. To cut a long story short, I applied the product and minutes later my dog was running around the house screaming and whining — in fact the poor dog was restless the whole night.

Little did I know that the product had burnt into her flesh so badly that the skin was raw and had been burnt almost to charcoal by the product. I took her to the vet who had to give her anaesthetic to be able to examine her properly and shave her to investigate the problem. He was shocked at what he saw. Later I took her to a specialist vet as well as a specialist in Gauteng, and they couldn’t believe the damage the product had caused to the dog. Both agreed it was the product and not the dog.

I phoned the representative of the product who was quite happy to tell me that this was clearly not their problem. The strangest events started happening after that, too numerous to mention. However, the bottom line is that flea control products are more dangerous than one would imagine. I find that some of the flea-control companies are not informing the public of the consequences of using their products.

I would urge dog owners to take careful note of when “hotspots” actually occur. Very often it can be after an application of one of the top spot’or pour on type products. These highly concentrated products which are applied to one spot can be lethal to a dog. In my dog’s case, it was not an over dosing of any specific chemical since this particular dog of mine had not been washed for sometime before I applied the flea-control product. The dog did not suffer from having a sensitive skin and had an excellent health record. Her pigment was grey skin and pitch-black points.

To watch a dog suffer as mine did for days and not be able to go into the sun for weeks afterwards was unbearable and I do not wish the same fate for any other dog.

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