Flea Control Product Could Poison Pets
Class-Action Lawsuit Filed
POSTED: 10:50 am CST November 22, 2002
UPDATED: 11:03 am CST November 22, 2002
HOUSTON — A product that pet owners use to protect their furry friends may cause serious harm, News2Houston reported Thursday.
A few drops of a flea control product that are administered on a pet’s back may be poisoning them because of the toxins inside, which could be too strong for cats.
Some pet owners and veterinarians are calling for the product, Hartz Care Advanced Flea and Tick Drops Plus, to be pulled from store shelves.
Last May, Bob Murphy applied the drops to his cat, Little Guy. Within days, he said Little Guy became extremely ill.
"Instead of meowing or anything, he just kind of had a guttural-type sound, like he was in pain," Murphy said.
A trip to the emergency room showed that the cat suffered from toxic poisoning, the same kind that caused another cat, Kirby, to have seizures.
The common link — an insecticide named phenothrin, which is the primary ingredient found in some flea and tick products.
"They can’t detoxify it as well so it builds up in their blood stream and when it does that, it causes toxic signs of the nervous system," said Dr. William Folger, a veterinarian with Memorial Cat Hospital.
Folger said the toxins could lead to coma or death.
"Think of this as a human drug and 40 or 50 deaths have been reported, this drug would already be off the market," Folger said.
The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating Hartz due to the number, severity and consistency of adverse reaction to the product. The agency strongly recommends that proposed labeling on the package not be accepted. Officials said that they found it confusing, possibly "causing pet owners to delay treatment of potentially fatal neurological signs of toxicity."
Hartz sent News2Houston the following response.
"We would not expect following package directions and applying the appropriate dosage to cause any adverse reactions."
"We stand firmly behind these products," a Hartz spokesman said.
After months of treatment, Little Guy is on the road to recovery, though he still suffers from lingering neurological problems.
Hartz sent Murphy a reimbursement check of $1,735.50 to cover medical costs.
Hartz is reportedly working on the wording on the back of its product.
More than 350 pet owners have joined together in a class-action lawsuit against Hartz, according to News2Houston.
Experts said that pet owners should look for the following warning signs.
* Loss of appetite
* Facial twitching
* Loss of balance
Any pets that exhibit the warning signs should be taken for treatment immediately.