Pets in Peril
Special Report: Pets in Peril
From the minute you bring them home, pets are a part of your family.
"She’s really a sweet, sweet, sweet dog, she loves attention, she sleeps in our bed at night," said Renee Nevitt, Dog Owner.
You watch them grow.
"I got them at 9 weeks," said Jennifer Conway, Dog Owner.
And you take care of them.
"You try to protect them," said Conway.
But some pet owners say the flea and tick treatments they used to protect their pets, actually hurt them.
"We were very, very concerned to the point where we were just holding her," said Nevitt.
Nevitt of Wareham says her 3 year old pit bull became very sick after she applied a "spot on" flea product.
"I really thought my dog was dying from it. She was shaking, she was lethargic, she just was not herself at all, she looked really ill," said Nevitt.
The same story for Conway of West Newbury. She says her mini-schnauzer Murdoch would shake for hours after she used flea drops on him.
"It was very involuntary. It would just keep twitching and twitching," said Conway.
Eventually Murdoch had a seizure and developed epilepsy.
"That continual application really kind of messed up the nervous system. It’s really scary," said Conway.
And it's not just scary for Jennifer and Renee.
The Environmental Protection Agency tells us so far they've received more than 100 thousand complaints for the last three years from pet owners who say the flea treatments hurt their animals.
"Drooling to skin irritation, to tremors, seizures, and even deaths," said Marty Monell, Deputy Director of the Office of Pesticide Programs, Environmental Protection Agency.
One thing people may not realize is how this flea treatment is classified. It's not actually considered animal medication.
"Be mindful, these are pesticides," said Monell.
Despite the complaints, the EPA has not blocked the products from being sold, but owners say they had no idea they could make their pets sick.
"Why would you think that if the vet sells it?" said Nevitt.
Veterinarians say the problem is very real, but that some of it stems from how the treatment is applied.
"People applying K9 products on their cat, taking and splitting doses, we run into trouble there. If used improperly it can kill animals," said Dr. Joel Kaye, MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center.
In the pet owners’ defense, the EPA admits the product labels are not always clear. For example, flea treatment that is labeled for a small dog has a weight range of five to 22 pounds.
Put it on a 15 or 20-pound dog and its fine. Put the same amount on a 5-pound dog and you might have a problem.
Pet owners are not always told that, so the EPA tells 7News they are considering changing labels to reduce that weight range on a case-by-case basis.
"Maybe it's more appropriate to have 20-22 and then 22-25, something like that," said Monell.
Animal experts say you should be very careful about applying these treatments, but they do believe flea and tick prevention is important for pets.
"Used properly, it's more important that a pet get a topical product for flea and tick prevention to prevent diseases that these parasites can bring," said Kaye.
Jennifer and Renee are still protecting their dogs, but are being much more cautious because they don't ever want to put their pets in peril again.
"I thought I was doing the best thing that I could for them. You really have to be careful, especially, I think, the smaller dogs that are right on the edge of that weight," said Conway.
"I have to be real careful of it because it was just, it was just a very scary experience," said Nevitt.
The EPA is working with companies to implement their safety plan and say that because of those new requirements, some products will come off store shelves.
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