Hartz Mountain Disputes The Center for Public Integrity’s Story on Pets and Pesticides

Please read the full article here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/blog/entry/1400/

Earlier this month, the Center received a five-page “open letter” from Hartz Mountain Corporation alleging that our 12/16/08 story, Pets and Pesticides: Let’s Be Careful Out There, contained inaccurate and misleading information about spot on flea and tick treatments for pets.

Marta Draper, vice president of research and development for Hartz, contends in her letter that Hartz spot on products are as safe or safer than the more expensive products sold by veterinarians. And she asserts that the Center made pyrethroid-based spot on treatments seem especially dangerous by misquoting — or quoting only selectively — from an article published in The Veterinary Journal in June 2008.

We’ve provided the full text of Ms. Draper’s letter: We respectfully disagree, though, with Ms. Draper’s contentions, and would like to take this opportunity to respond.

Ms. Draper says we incorrectly characterized The Veterinary Journal piece by saying in our story that “dermal exposure by application to the skin or coat is the most common route of toxic exposure, potentially causing hyperexcitability, tremors, profuse salivation, and seizures.” We believe we accurately reflected The Veterinary Journal piece; that piece said that “dermal exposure by the skin and hair coat is the most frequent route that leads to intoxication” and then went on to say that signs of pyrethroid intoxication include “salivation, hyperexcitability, hyperaesthesia, tremor and seizures, dyspnoea, prostration.” Ms. Draper also labels as a “gross mischaracterization” our contention that pyrethroid toxicity targets nerve and muscles in pets. That contention relied on The Veterinary Journal piece, which stated that “Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids affect the voltage-dependant chloride channels found in the brain, nerves, muscle tissue, and salivary glands.”

Ms. Draper also asserts in her letter that we left out important information that was included in The Veterinary Journal report. We disagree. Listed below are the alleged omissions she cites, and quotes from our story:

* Pyrethrin and pyrethroid pesticides are less toxic than the organophosphate products they replaced. Our story says organophosphate products were replaced by pyrethroids, “which are generally thought to be less acutely toxic.”
* In most cases misuse of these pesticides by pet owners is what causes bad reactions. Our story says, “The authors of the study in The Veterinary Journal agree that misuse of pyrethroid products is often the cause of illnesses…”
* The best way to avoid problems is by educating pet owners. Our story directly quotes The Veterinary Journal piece, in stating that,“ ‘The best way to avoid serious problems is by educating pet owners to use products strictly according to label directions.’ ”
* Veterinarians need to advise clients to read directions before using products. Again, we quoted directly from The Veterinary Journal story, in saying that “‘Veterinarians must advise clients using flea care products to read and follow label instructions completely before applying them on or around their pets.’”
* Products labeled for dogs should never be used on cats. Our story says, product labels contain “multiple warnings not to it use on cats,” and later, “Common misapplications include applying more powerful dog products to cats.”

One Reply to “Hartz Mountain Disputes The Center for Public Integrity’s Story on Pets and Pesticides”

  1. These corporations prey on pet owners need for flea removal products, by supplying a product they know is lethal but they excuse themselves by saying it used in small amounts or if you use a dog flea drop on a cat, that it is your fault.

    Since cats and dogs are pets, furry, mammals, 4 legged and usually affectionate to their owners and since both can and do eat similar foods, often including table scraps~ many owners do not understand the ramifications of the easy to assume improper usages.

    I had been under the impression that the only difference was that cat products were weaker than dog products so that you could actually buy a dog product to use if you had several pets and then divide it up into smaller doses, like buying the label for a big dog and dividing it over several smaller dogs in an attempt to treat each and save money. Ignorant I know but I know many people that do this with the same misunderstanding. I even know one person in particular that says the only difference is in the pacakaging so that you have to pay more by buying it under the cat or dog names, that the manufacturers only do that to make more money – which is a sense is true, but unbeknown to most is that there are things in these products that are as dangerous as they really are!

    Just as in many human meds, if you take too many aspirin it can be lethal~ it isnt commonly assumed that it really is, as when you might have a bad headache, some people will pop an extra pill, usually it helps and they have no side effects other than a possible upset stomach..

    Even human meds now come with pamphlets with all sorts of medical information, that most people dont read beyond the dosage and possible signs of what a bad reaction is.

    Many still dont realize that the use of flea removal products is different for each type of pet, since you can get some pet products, for example, cheap de-wormer that has capsules, measured by approximate weight of the pets and so it seems safe enough to estimate how much to use, whether it comes from a doggie dose or cat dose.

    Many pet owners would assume, like I did too, that it is merely a way for manufacturers to get you to buy more of the product, buying a dog dose and a cat dose, but from all accounts, many people will instead want to save money and buy a large dog dose and divide it up over their pets.

    Frontline and Advantix cost more and yet they make their’s safer, where the vet told me that one of them actually can be used on either a cat or dog – but I forget which one he said was safe to do that with, but it only goes to show you that as manufacturers they are aware of the common practices of alot of people and they at least made their product safe enough to not be lethal if misapplied.

    Harts, Sergeants and others meanwhile portray their products as being as good as Frontline and so people often assume that they are safe and the only difference is that they are cheaper to get from a Walmart than to go to a Vet office and pay double. I spoke with people that thought the price difference was just the Vet wanting to make a profit, so they would instead, shop for a bargain like most do nowadays in this economy, looking for cheaper product, not even considering that it is dangerous, only that it is cheaper and that leads to many animal’s deaths.

    Not that the owner shouldnt have a pet or that the owner is really intentionally negligent, that isnt the case, since the owner is actually going out and buying a product that it is assumed will remove the fleas and make their pet comfortable, while also keeping the fleas out of their homes. True, some owners only act when the bugs begin to infest their homes or bite them too, but that doesnt mean they dont care about their pets.

    However the pet owner arrives at the point where they are looking to buy a flea killing product, they are not thinking of the product being dangerous to their pet, they are thinking of getting rid of the fleas. If the owner didnt care, they would get rid of the pet instead or lock them outdoors [ I have seen some pet owners that never let their pets indoors]

    So when the pet owner is out there buying a flea killing product to apply to their pet, they might glance over the instructions, but their interest is getting it onto the pet and getting rid of the fleas and they arent about to assume their cat or dog is the 1 in a million that the manufacturer disclaimers may have a reaction. They assume the disclaimers are just there as a requirement and really dont pay attention to them, just like a warning on cigarette boxes fail to deter a smoker from using them~ they still are going to put the product on their pet, once they have purchased it, regardless to the warnings on the labels, once the product is chosen and purchased, its as good as used.

    Reading the labels for example for the de-wormers that are sold side by side with the flea products, many of the ingredients look the same, have the same numbers looking like the same stuff… Well that is for the de-wormer stuff…

    Anyway, many people have both cats and dogs and often the animals themselves will eat out of each others bowls or lick and groom one another. That should be enough to have to make manufacturers provide safer products rather than placing the blame back on the owners, since my vet said, just to use the same bedding or to lick one another can cause a toxic reaction even if applied according to directions~

    The products need to be banned and the selling of them should be illegal. Manufacturers should be held responsible for all reactions, just as recalled human meds are held accountable, pet meds should be accountable too~

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