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Dr. Fox: Stop routinely using insecticides on dogs and cats

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Dear Dr. Fox: At our police dog kennel, we sell 300 to 400 police service dogs annually. We get many calls from our clients about dogs (whether purchased from us or not) becoming aggressive for no reason after being given flea and tick treatments, while others report dogs vomiting, having diarrhea or having seizures. One dog had to be euthanized for aggression and seizures.

These problems are becoming so common that we send flyers out with the dogs to warn handlers of the dangers of these drugs.

The problem is with the veterinarians, my own included, who say these drugs do not cause aggressive behavior and only cause seizures in dogs with underlying issues. I find this hard to believe, as I have seen and heard too many stories over the years about young, healthy animals having serious problems with these pesticides.

Why do the veterinarians refuse to believe these stories? Why are these side effects not being reported to the FDA, or even the manufacturers of these products? It's like banging your head against the wall. The FDA approved these products, that's the most common rebuttal, as well as the excuse to continue using them and causing harm. L.B., Sharpsville, Pennsylvania

Dear L.B.: I appreciate your concerns on this issue, which I have written about many times in recent years. It is patently obvious that the Big Pharma manufacturers and profit-making providers are ignoring the many well-documented adverse reactions. After much pressure from informed veterinarians and other experts, they simply add a warning on the product label.

I have long called for the prohibition of these substances and the adoption of safer flea and tick control measures. Now, with climate change, people are finding ticks and fleas on their dogs year-round, leading to "panic buying" of these insecticides over the counter in drugstores, hardware stores and from veterinary clinics. Unregulated marketing of these items leads to dogs, their owners and the environment being contaminated with their chemicals. But these products are convenient, and appeal to those who do not wish to take the time and effort to practice safer methods of pest control and prevention.

Another problem is that oral insecticides and parasiticides are regulated by the FDA, while the EPA deals with externally applied insecticides. A unified drug regulation authority is needed, one independent of the USDA's agribusiness alliance and wholesale marketing of insecticides to various crop producers and to the agroforestry, livestock, poultry and fish farming industries. 

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