ASPCA Supports New Regulations for Flea and Tick Medication

New labeling protocol could save cats’ lives
March 23, 2010

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today announced its support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to increase the safety of spot-on flea and tick treatments for cats and dogs.

Last summer, the EPA, which regulates topical pet treatments, reported a 50 percent increase in the number of adverse incidents from the use of spot-on flea and tick products. As a result, the agency is reviewing current labels to ensure that instructions are clear, and developing stronger evaluation procedures for existing and new products.

In addition, after analyzing data from public calls managed by the ASPCA regarding flea and tick products, ASPCA epidemiologist Dr. Margaret Slater discovered that when cats are treated inappropriately (not per label directions) they are significantly more likely to experience discernible reactions in 83 percent of cases, including mild illness (17 percent), moderate illness (45 percent), major illness (19 percent) and death (2 percent).

“The ASPCA supports the EPA's focus on clear labeling to distinguish dog products from cat products,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA’s Animal Health Services. “This alone could save cats' lives. Products labeled for dogs must never be used on cats--doing so can result in serious illness and even death. Furthermore, improving the precision of the amount of product applied will also increase the margin of safety for very small pets.”

According to the EPA, the agency’s new protocol will require clear markings to differentiate between dog and cat products, disallow similar brand names for dog and cat products, and require more precise label instructions to ensure proper dosage per pet weight. Manufactures of spot-on pesticides will also be required to improve labeling to make instructions clearer to prevent product misuse.

In addition to these new regulations, the EPA will be launching a consumer information campaign to explain new label directions and to help users avoid making medication errors. “Post marketing surveillance and public education will help, but veterinary advice is still key when using these products on older, debilitated, sick or pregnant pets,” Dr. Hansen added.

Using products as directed and making necessary adjustments based on health will greatly reduce adverse reactions from flea and tick products. Fleas cause anemia (low blood counts), carry tapeworms, and can transmit infections such as Bartonella; ticks transmit many diseases including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The risk to pets from these diseases is greater than the risk of adverse reactions when products are use appropriately.