EPA States Flea and Tick Products Safe, But Labels Weak


Fleas and ticks can make our pets ill, but so can the misuse of the spot-on pesticide products used to control the fleas and ticks. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received 44,000 reports of adverse events from these products, a 53% increase from the prior year.

This dramatic increase in adverse incidents spurred the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the spot-on pesticide products. The EPA has concluded that the products are safe to use when used correctly and only when used for the intended animal (ie don’t use dog products on your cat or vice versa).

The EPA plans to immediately begin reviewing labels to determine which ones need stronger and clearer labeling statements. There are also plans to develop more stringent testing and evaluation requirements for both existing and new products.

The adverse reactions to the spot-on pesticide products in dogs and cats can include skin effects, such as irritation, redness, or gastrointestinal problems that include vomiting or diarrhea, or effects to the nervous system, such as trembling, appearing depressed or seizures.

EPA recommends that owners consult a veterinarian about the best way to protect their pets from fleas and ticks or whether pesticides are needed, especially before using any product on weak, aged, medicated, sick, pregnant or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to pesticide products.

EPA is coordinating these actions with Health Canada as Canada also identified similar concerns about the use of spot-on flea and tick products last year, and with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.


If you use spot-on pesticide products on your pets, be sure to read the label and follow the instructions. Be sure to only use the product on the intended animal, either dog or cat. The products are weight-dependent so don’t use the dose for a large dog on your small dog.

Be sure to wash your hands after applying the product so you don’t put your own health at risk. Make sure that you and your family do not pet or cuddle the animal for 24-48 hours after the application so the pesticide is not transferred from the pet to the human. If it is, wash it off as soon as possible with soap and water.

EPA’s report on the evaluation of products and incidents is available at: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/petproductseval.html

EPA recommends that veterinarians use the National Pesticide Information Center’s Veterinary Pesticide Adverse Effects Portal to report incidents: http://npic.orst.edu/vet

More information on pet products and safety tips: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/pets.htm

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Environmental Protection Agency