Flea product putting cats in danger

via Houston’s
KHOU
video included

05/13/2002 
By Jeremy Desel / 11 News 

There is no doubt that many pet owners love to pamper their animals. But could you be putting you pet in peril by trying to help keep them comfortable? For months, 11 News has been looking into a product that is pushed by the largest pet product company in America. It’s a product that may be in your home right now. 

Spring is the time of year that fleas and ticks start to pester our pets and people look for ways to protect them. One of the hottest products is also one of the newest. And some say it’s potentially dangerous, even deadly. 

Kiser and Stryker are two important feline members of the Hiatt family. 

Brian Hiatt likes to think he looks out for his animals and takes good care of them, “They’re very special, they are a part of our lives,” Brian says. 

That’s why he decided, two weeks ago, to get them set up for spring with an anti-flea treatment. But not long after he applied the product, Hiatt says Stryker started acting strange. 

“It looked like the cat was almost drunk. If it tried to walk, it was really unstable, and then it would just drop and fall, and fall on his side. And all throughout his muscles, through his side, and his back, would just sit there and convulse,” says Brian. 

Then Kiser began to exhibit the same symptoms. Hiatt says he was worried for his cats’ lives. He rushed both Stryker and Keiser to Dr. Cindy McCauley’s emergency clinic in Sugar Land 

In the animal hospital, they received anti-seizure drugs and were cleaned with dishwashing soap. But even hours later, the cats still exhibited muscle tremors. 

Brian says he applied Hartz Advanced Care Plus to both of his cats. Tens of millions doses of the product have been sold nationwide. The active ingredients are Phenothrin and S-Methoprene; they’re both pesticides. 

Dr. McCaully’s report shows the Hiatt’s cats had a reaction to flea meds, acute Phenothrin toxicity. 

According to vets consulted by 11 News, what happened to Keiser and Stryker is not an isolated incident. Dr. Angela Rose saw enough cats come through her Arkansas office that she started to videotape them. 

She taped two-year-old Punkin, who’s owner says she applied Hartz Advanced Care Plus to her pet in July of last year. Hours later, the vet reported extreme muscle tremors, and grand mal seizures. Dr. Rose says the cat suffered a toxic reaction to a topical synthetic pyrethrin. 

“If you look at all of the flea and tick products, there is always that very small possibility that they may have an adverse event associated with them,” says Dr. Albert Ahn, Chief Scientific Officer for the Hartz Mountain Corporation. 

New Jersey- based Hartz Mountain is the world’s largest manufacturer of pet products and the maker of Advanced Care Plus. 

“We have done a whole battery of tests and each time we do we get the same result. That these are safe products,” says Dr. Ahn. “These are effective products.” 

But the Environmental Protection Agency reports some of Hartz’s testing is unacceptable. 

That’s not the only finding of the EPA’s staff review of the Advanced Care Plus product line for cats in 2001. The report continues to say, “It is recommended that the product be re-evaluated for its safety in cats,” because “a margin of safety has not been established in the studies.” 

The EPA reports include 35 cat deaths and 64 life-threatening episodes that may be associated with the product. In addition, the company reported thousands of minor incidents. 

The EPA stresses that in many cases it did not have sufficient information for cause of death. 

The vast majority of the complaints registered with the EPA about the Advanced Care product actually came from the Hartz Mountain Company itself. Calls came in to its customer service center and were then forwarded to the federal agency. 

Dr. Bill Plaff thinks he may know why some cats get sick. For much of his 25-year career at Texas A&M, Plaff studied the family of pesticides used in the Hartz products. He says it’s the mixture of S-Methoprene and Phenothrin that is causing trouble. He compares the reaction to the kind patients would have when taking two different medications together. 

Dr. Plaff said, “Often when you take a combination, one drug interferes with the metabolism of the other, so the combination is much more toxic than you would expect it to be alone.” 

Dr. Plaff says the mixture of Phenothrin and S-Methoprene increases the toxicity by 10 times. Dr. Ahn from the Hartz says he’s never heard of anything like that. 

“The data that we have supports that this is a safe and effective product. The data that we have that we shared with the EPA,” says Dr. Ahn. 

Reminded that the EPA found the Hartz testing unacceptable, Dr. Ahn says, “Well, again, as I said, this is a matter of discussion.” 

After watching his cats suffer, discussion is not enough for Brian Hiatt. “I’d have to believe they understand what is going on with their product and what the chances are.” 

While, the product label meets federal regulations, Hiatt and his vet say pet owners should be warned about these incidents. 

“No mention anywhere that this product could cause reactions to the central nervous system or potentially kill your pet,” says Dr. McCaully. 

Hiatt says, “There’s no indication of anything that severe even in a small percentage of cases.” 

It goes no further than saying that some animals may be sensitive to flea and tick products. According to Dr. Ahn, “That is correct.” But It doesn’t mention that animals may suffer muscle tremors and full body seizures and potentially die. “Well…” says Dr. Ahn, “we are always looking for ways to improve our products.” 

Hartz is adamant that the EPA’s findings are simply preliminary and are open to discussion. But 11 News has learned that in addition to the product review, the EPA is also conducting an investigation into the specific Advanced Care Products for cats. 

A spokesperson for Hartz told 11 News that they are unaware of any additional EPA investigation and “are confident in the safety and efficacy of our product.” 

In the meantime the product is still registered with the EPA and on store shelves.

Federal investigation into Hartz products complete

Via News
8 Austin
video included

3/7/2002 5:32 PM
By: Kelly Kyle

The year-long federal investigation into Hartz flea and tick products has been completed by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Thousands of cats and dogs became ill after using some of Hartz flea and tick drops raising a red flag with the EPA. They released information that gives specific reasons for the review into the Hartz Mountain Corporation that lead to the investigation. 

All four of the Hartz products in question will remain on store shelves until the EPA decides what kind of action to take. 

Among several of the findings, permethrin toxicosis was the cause of death in the majority of nearly 300 cases involving cats. It is an ingredient found in Control One Spot for Dogs. Most of those deaths were cats treated directly with that product or cats exposed to dogs treated with that product. 

The OPP found evidence of a possible packaging mix-up. 

“I can’t really comment on that aspect of this document except to say when I look at the wording, they use the word possible,” said Dr. Albert Ahn of Hartz Mountain Corp.

The OPP criticized Hartz Mountain Corporation for five of their animal safety studies. Three of those studies were found completely unacceptable. 

“The studies that they’re refering to, again, I’d really like to see what their interpretation is,” said Dr. Ahn.

The review listed several recommendations to the EPA on what actions should be taken to prevent further deaths or illnesses of cats and dogs. 

Recommendations include:
The EPA’s Office of Enforcement should sample products from markets around the country. 
The packaging problems between the different cat and dog products should be thoroughly explored. 
The Advanced Care Flea & Tick Drops for Cats should be re-evaluated for safety. 
There should be label revisions for permethrin products to warn pet owners of possible side effects. 

The Hartz Mountain Corp. maintains the review is a preliminary internal document and that this is a regular post-marketing survelliance all flea and tick companies go through to continue registering their product with the EPA. 

Since September, the EPA began an investigation into whether federal laws were broken. It is unknown what that investigation found or what actions may be required of the Hartz Mountain Corporation.

EPA ready to release report on flea products

Via News
8 Austin

9/28/2001 9:55 PM
By: Kelly Kyle and Web Staff

For the last two months, Environmental Protection Agency scientists have reviewed nearly 4,000 pages of information on Hartz flea and tick products. 

Now their report is ready and has been sent to an EPA regulatory committee that will decide what action to take. In the last two years there have been thousands of reported cases of cats and dogs getting sick from certain Hartz Mountain Corp. products. 

“I’ve actually had one of my own patients die after application of over-the-counter flea product,” said Dr. Christine Duvall, an Austin veterinarian.

“He was shaking pretty much uncontrollably,” said Josh Janicek, speaking of his cat. “He was acting really weird, like he was freezing to death.” 

“He was dizzy. He was nauseous. He was throwing up, uh, he wouldn’t eat. He was so weak he couldn’t hardly stand up,” said Barbara Warfield, speaking of his dog.

“He got on the bed and he was like twitching and had violent tremors and he looked like he was disillusioned, like he was kind of swatting at weird things and his whole body was shaking,” said Ileen Thar, a cat owner. 

Each of these pet owners incurred not only large veterinarian bills, but a lot of worry and anguish over the possibility of losing their pet.

“We came so close to losing him when he was little and I was just scared to death this was going to be it,” said Warfield. “You just don’t know how sick that baby was.” 

The EPA has a few options after reviewing the products. They can decide to have the products re-labled, recalled or decide no action is necessary. 

Dr. Albert Ahn, a veterinarian for Hartz, said this was the first 

time he heard that the report was finally completed by the EPA. 

“We are looking forward to receiving the report from the Environmental Protection Agency and as Hartz has done in the past, we will continue to work with them in a cooperative manner,” said Ahn. 

Ahn also said millions of these products are used everyday without incident. But local veterinarians still hope the product will be taken out of stores. 

“You would think that after so many reports they would want to take the product off the shelf, but they are making so much money that they’re not,” said Dr. Duvall. 

News 8 Austin has requested a copy of the EPA’s 20-page report under the federal freedom of information act. 

The EPA has 20 working days to respond to our request. As soon as we receive that report, we will pass along the findings.

Austin woman gets compensation from Hartz

Via News
8 Austin

8/30/2001 9:32 PM
By: Kelly Kyle

Hartz Flea and Tick drops remain under review by the Environmental Protection Agency, but since News 8 Austin brought you this story two months ago, we have received more reports about dogs and cats having reactions to the product. 

A local pet owner who complained to Hartz has received a check from the Hartz Mountain Corporation after her cat survived a bad reaction. Hartz said their product is safe, but leaves the question: Why is the company now reimbursing some customers for their veterinarian bills?

When Ileen Thar’s cat, Hogan, began itching from fleas, she thought she was doing the right thing by applying Hartz Advanced Care Flea and Tick Drops. Later that day, she noticed Hogan acting strangely. 

“I noticed that Hogan had thrown up and I didn’t know if it was a hair ball, or what, so I kind of cleaned it up and ignored it and then he got on the bed and he was like twitching and had violent tremors and he looked like he was disillusioned … like he was kind of swatting at weird things, and his whole body was shaking,” Thar said.

Thar’s veterinarian told her that Hogan had been poisoned by the drops and they would need to keep him overnight. Several vet bills later, Thar was out more than $300. She decided to write to the Hartz Mountain Corporation and tell them of Hogan’s reaction to their product. A month later a reimbursement check was delivered to Thar in the mail. 

“I was happy, but the letter was just like, ‘Sorry about your pet, but we’ve been in business and we know what we’re doing. We’re following our guildelines, and you know, here’s a check,'” said Thar. 

Hogan is not the only one who experienced such extreme reactions to Hartz Products. The EPA is currently reviewing more than a thousand separate incident reports concerning four of Hartz pet care products. 

In the letter to Thar, Hartz said, “As a gesture of goodwill …” they are enclosing a check to assist in veterinary expenses. 

Hartz veterinarian Gwen Fernich said the company reviews each situation on an individual basis. “I don’t think that Hartz is saying that the product caused the cat to have this kind of reaction,” Fernich said through a phone interview. “I think that cats are very, very sensitive animals. There is an investigation that is going on and there’s nothing that has been found that has proven that the product is indeed dangerous and all of the ingredients in the product are safe to use on both dogs and cats.” 

Thar said she is not sure she will cash the check because she would have to give up any further legal claims. She did say she will never buy her pet products from anywhere else but her vet. She believes if Hartz products remain on the shelves, they should be relabeled. 

“There should be something that says, ‘Possible side effects could be,’ and had I known that, I probably would have put that package right back and that’s probably why they don’t want that on the shelves,” Thar said. 

The EPA said they should complete their review into Hartz products by mid-September. They are still going through 4,000 pages of information.

Review of Hartz products continues

8/1/2001 8:36 PM
By: News 8 Austin Staff

See below for a complete list of products.
In last two years, Hartz brand flea control drops have been accused of making a number of cats and dogs sick. In some cases the drops were thought to be the cause of a pet’s death.

An Austin family had a scare themselves after applying a treatment of Hartz Advanced Care flea drops to their 5-year-old dog.

“He was just … kept bleeding uncontrollably; he was dizzy; he was nautious; he was throwing up,” said Barbara Warfield of her Gordon Setter named Zach. “He wouldn’t eat. He was so weak he couldn’t hardly stand up, and the little baby, I don’t think he would have lasted another two or three hours.”

After a trip to an emergency clinic and several trips to the veterinarian, Zach was still very ill. Shortly thereafter Frank Warfield, Barbara’s husband, saw a News 8 Austin report concerning the drops and realized the possible cause of his pet’s sickness.

The Warfields with their now healthy dog Zach.
“Channel 8 was on and I hadn’t sat in my chair 30 seconds until a veterinarian came on and said the dogs were experiencing nausea and vomiting and, you know, had all the symptoms he had,” said Frank. “And then she started saying that it was this Hartz medicine, and that was the first time I had remembered that I had given him that bath and I had put Hartz medicine on him.”

The Warfields gave Zach a bath and said they noticed an immediate difference. Afterward they called the Hartz Mountain Corporation and were surprised at the reaction they got. “They just kind of sluffed it off like they didn’t care or they weren’t interested,” Barbara said.

Environmental Protection Agency officials requested all reported incidents of cat and dog illnesses from Hartz in March. Currently they are reviewing that data and said it’s too soon to announce the possibility of a recall.

“It’s a question of trying to make sure that the label instructions are clear and there may be some changes in that regard, but I think that it would be premature to guess the outcome of this,” said Kate Bouve of the EPA, through a phone interview. “Our goal is to do an assessment of the best information available to us and to make the best scientific and regulatory decision
that we can based on that information.”

Hartz continues to stand by their products as effective flea control methods until there is scientific data from the EPA to prove otherwise.

Veterinarians recommend pet owners purchase flea remedies from clinics and not over the counter. There are many different brands and types of flea drops and veterinarians can help you determine the best treatment for your pet.

EPA reviews flea prevention products

Updated: 7/20/2001 7:03 PM
By: Kelly Kyle

Hartz Mountain Corporation flea protection products are now under scientific review by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Following up on a story News 8 Austin reported last month, the EPA became concerned after reports of several deaths, hundreds of seizures and thousands of minor incidents involving cats and dogs who used Hartz flea control products.

Hartz Control One Spot for dogs and cats and Hartz Advanced Care Flea and Tick Drops are the products the EPA wants more information about.

Local Veterinarian Christine Duvall said she knows first hand the problem with over-the-counter flea drops. “When I heard that the EPA was finally looking into these products, I felt like saying it’s about time because I’ve been calling everytime my patients get sick,” Duvall of the Brodie Animal Hospital said. “Other veterinarians have been calling. Many clients have been calling. We’ve all been calling and complaining for a couple of years. So I was relieved to hear that finally something is being done about it.” 

Hartz said the products are safe when used as directed, but admits some animals may have allergic reactions. The EPA asked for specific information from Hartz to find out why these incidents are happening. The EPA has not recalled the products; they will not make any determination on their safety until the scientific review is over.

Products under review 

Reg. No. 2596-146: Control One-Spot for Dogs
2.9%methoprene and 45% permethrin
Registered 7/29/97 
Reg. No. 2596-147: Control One-Spot for Cats
2.9% methoprene
Registered 5/14/98 
Reg. No. 2596-148: Advanced Care Flea and Tick Drops for Cats
85.7% D-phenothrin and 2.9% methoprene
Registered 12/10/98 
Reg. No. 2596-150: Advanced Care Flea and Tick Drops for Dogs
85.7% D-phenothrin and 2.3% methoprene
Registered 1/23/00 

Our Riley on TV

This is the story that was aired
on Austin’s News 8
. Elise and I contacted News 8 the morning we found
Riley had become ill after having been given the Hartz Advanced Care Flea & Tick Drops
Plus for cats.

Cats can react to flea medication
6/27/2001 8:28 AM
By: Doug Shupe, News 8 Austin

Some cat owners are worried the cure for fleas may be worse than the problem.

Josh Janicek and Elise Boeckman thought their cat Riley would never play like the way he used to.

In fact last Friday morning they didn’t think he would live.

They used an over-the-counter product called Hartz Advanced Care Flea & Tick Drops Plus.

Janicek and Boeckman said they followed the directions and applied the product on Riley’s back. And less than 12 hours later, they said, Riley was acting very strange.

“He was shaking uncontrollably, he was acting really weird like he was freezing to death and he was acting like he was hallucinating, he was swatting at invisible things,? Janicek said.

They immediately called an emergency veterinarian hospital and took him in. Dr. Chris Duvall said that since flea season has started she’s seen other cats with the same kind of problems. Other vets have made similar reports. The vets said the symptoms can be fatal if animals don’t get treatment quickly … like Riley did.

“Cats are very sensitive to drugs because they have very unique livers and they metabolize drugs very poorly so they are very sensitive to a lot of things,? Duvall said.

That’s why Duval recommends pet owners avoid over-the-counter treatments and stick to prescription drugs from veterinarians. Duvall said pet owners should never use a product meant for a dog on a cat. She said if you use an over-the-counter product on your animal and notice a strange reaction, you should wash the animal with a liquid dish detergent and call a veterinarian.

“The newer compounds we are selling at the veterinary products are Midicloprid and Fiprinil and they are very safe they are very new compounds that attack the insect’s nervous system but have no affect on mammals people or animals where the older compounds Pyrethrian is a pesticide that’s been around for 30 years. It’s been around a long time and it’s never really worked well and it’s always caused problems,? Duvall said.

But she warned consumers not to be fooled. Both products look very similar.

“The over-the-counter products you see in the grocery store and pet stores are packaged almost identically to the veterinary products so clients actually think they are buying the veterinary product and are putting it on their cat and it’s a totally different ingredient,? Duvall said.

When asked for a comment The Hartz Mountain Corp. responded in written statement, “In certain cases, cats may have a genuine reaction to a flea and tick product. It’s like people and medicines — some people cannot take certain medicines.”

Janicek and Boeckman are happy to have Riley back to normal. They said they?re not taking any more chances. They’ll read the ingredients first and ask their vet if the product will be safe for Riley.

Flea Control Product Could Poison Pets – Class-Action Lawsuit Filed

Via Houston’s
KPRC
– 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
  • Coma

Any pets that exhibit the warning signs should be taken for treatment immediately.