Flea Medications Injure 44,000 Pets

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dog scratches fleasAccording to a new (scary) report from the Environmental Protection Agency, topical and on-spot flea and tick medications injured 44,000 pets last year.

The study looked at EPA-registered pet products, commonly found at drug stores or on supermarket shelves in 2008. Sprays, collars, and shampoos – anything topical or on-spot to treat ticks and fleas - were included.

Most of the potential incident reports involved spot-on treatments, like the ones sold in tubes or vials and used on a specific part of your pet's body. Reactions included rashes, seizures, and, in some cases, death.

To play it safe, you may want to skip the grocery aisle for your flea and tick products. "Stick with a product you're getting from a veterinarian," advises Dr. Matthew Cooper. Side effects caused by over-the-counter medications don't come as a surprise to veterinarians, who often urge pet owners to stick with doctor-recommended products.

To see if you've been using one of the EPA-products in question, look at the EPA Registration Number on the label and check its web site. The seven products, which pet owners can identify using the label, accounted for about 80 percent of the incidents, the agency said.

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