On April 15th we got a 12 week old purebred black lab puppy from a local breeder and took her home. Knowing from prior experience that a lot of new puppies are kept in outside kennels and are very prone to flea infestations (and not wanting to disturb the balance between my other dog and two cats) we purchased the Hartz Advanced Care 3 in 1 Flea & Tick Drops for Dogs and Puppies (16-30lbs) for her from Walmart, which I had been using (a larger version) for two years on my chocolate lab with no issues.
Awhile after applying it we decided to groom her (trying to shave a bouncing baby girl lab is a unique experience) and then give her a bath. We had some events to go to and put her outside in the backyard, and when we came home she had some lesions on her neck and upper back. We thought maybe she had tried to escape under the fence and scraped herself, but a perimeter search of the backyard didn’t reveal any disturbed dirt or gaps big enough for her to try to squeeze through. Over the next few hours the lesions grew, and she began twitching when she laid down. We simply thought she was cold (I keep the thermostat at 72) and put a blanket over her. By the next morning she could barely walk, and would only eat her food out of her bowl while laying down on her side and trying to crane her neck to position herself to eat laying down. Even then she had very little appetite.
We still had no idea what was causing the lesions when we took her to the vet Monday morning. They immediately said that it was a chemical burn, not scraping from a fence. After asking us about products we had applied, the Hartz product was identified as the culprit of the burns. The vet told us she had heard about this before and the product was dangerous and never to use it again. I was shocked, as it hadn’t been an issue with my other dog or the Hartz flea collars on my two cats (I would’ve been heartbroken if some of the stories I’ve read on here had happened to my kitties). They injected some fluids under her skin to keep her hydrated, and told us to apply Vitamin E oil twice a day and keep an eye on the lesions.
*WARNING – NEXT SECTION HAS SOME GRAPHIC DETAILS*
We followed these directions, but by the following weekend her lesions had begun coming off of her (it literally looked like her skin on her back was peeling off). Upon inspection I carefully examined it to try to identify whether it was a new issue or the dog simply itching and scratching the scabs off. Underneath the layer of hard skin that was peeling off was her exposed tissue, covered in a very thick, foul-smelling pale yellow pus. Yep, her wounds had become infected as well. She was rushed back to the vet, who said they would take a look and clean out the wound. About 3 hours later they called me and needed to perform an emergency surgery. It turned out that the flea product had done more widespread damage then initially thought and her much of her back tissue near her spine was infected as well. They needed to remove the layer of skin off her back, scrape out all of the infected tissue, and then staple her back up. Of course, I gave permission. She was a new member of our family, and just like a human child, you don’t put them down just because they’re sick. Graciously, the vet offered to do the surgery for free and just charge us for the bandaging afterwards.
Puppy has now been home for 2 days since the surgery and is doing much better. She is having a hard time moving around due to the staples (they begin towards the base of her neck and extend all the way down her back to about 3 inches in front of her tail). She is wrapped in bandages and then outfitted with a special shirt to cover her and discourage biting/scratching at the staples. She’s also on a strong antibiotic to fight any further infections. She has an energetic look in her eyes again and wags her tail fiercely when my fiance or I bend down to pet her. After reading so many horror stories on this site, I guess my dog is one of the few lucky ones who survived this. The vet told us that if we hadn’t tried to bathe her after applying the flea product that the damage might’ve been irreparable.
We have begun a letter writing campaign (I don’t want any money for the vet bills, I just don’t care. I simply want these products pulled from all retail shelves.) I strongly encourage all of you with these stories to buy a few stamps, and write your state attorney generals (do a google search for ” state attorney general”), your state senators and representatives (every state has a website with their contact information for each congressional district), the EPA, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who’s web address for reporting these incidents is provided below. Do not simply let these memories, painful or lucky, fade into oblivion and allow new generations of dog owners to experience the same heartache that we have. Serious comments about this post (sending me spam once or a hurtful message will simply have you placed on my blocked list so I can forget about you) can be directed towards my email address below.
Contact me at: [email protected]