Pet Owners Warn About Flea & Tick Treatments

By Ginger Allen, CBS 11 News

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Aundria Arlandson remembers the day she noticed a tick on her cat’s back. She picked up Sergeant’s Flea and Tick Powder at the store. “I looked at the can and brought it home and applied it to my cat not thinking anything was going to happen to him. I thought it was completely safe,” she said.

Arlandson claims her cat had a seizure, his health deteriorated and he died. Now, she’s one of dozens of people across the country taking some well-known pet companies to court.

The lawsuits are against Sergeant’s Pet Care, Hartz Mountain Corporation and Summit VetPharm. Last year alone, the environmental protection agency got more than 39,000 complaints about some of the products.

Pet owners all over the country are claiming over-the-counter flea and tick products have hurt or killed their dogs and cats.

Dr. Wendy Dearixon has practiced veterinary medicine in Dallas for 20 years, and she’s seen these products misused many times. “I would say it’s been a problem for at least the last ten year, both with over the county products that were intended for cats and also with people misusing products that were intended for dogs.”

Pyrethrins are the active ingredients in many of these products. The insecticides are derived from chrysanthemums, and research shows they can be toxic to cats.

“It’s just ridiculous that no one has stepped in to really do anything about this,” said Arlandsom, who went to Washington D.C. for a meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Scientist told her they’re already studying the products. “These are pesticides, and these are designed to kill things so they’re to be taken very seriously,” explained Marty Monell with the EPA, who believes most problems are caused when pet owners don’t read the directions or use products designed for dogs on cats.

Aundria Arlandson insists she followed the directions on the box and has vowed to continue to tell her story and push the EPA to take action. “I told him I wasn’t going to let it happen to another kitty, another animal, ever. I said there will never be another animal like you, ever,” she aid adamantly.

Arlandson says the goal of her lawsuit is to get the active ingredient in many over-the-counter flea and tick treatments changed. The companies mentioned in this story said that safety is their number one priority and that the products are safe when used properly.

CBS 11 received the following statement from Sergeant’s:

“Sergeant’s flea and tick products are safe and effective when used as directed. Earlier this year, an EPA study concluded that out of the 270 million doses sold in 2008, 16 out of 100,000 doses resulted in an alleged incident being reported, so 99.9984 percent of the users had no incident. The EPA study also concluded that the vast majority of adverse reactions to flea and tick squeeze-on products were caused by misapplication or misuse of the products. For example, a product specified for dogs should never be applied to cats, and products specified for larger animals should not be used on smaller ones.

It is important for the safety of pets that their owners know how to properly use flea and tick products. Consumers need to read the directions for all flea and tick products carefully before applying them to their pets. Sergeant’s agrees the number one cause of pets’ adverse reactions to flea and tick products is misuse or misapplication, and has been working to educate consumers with their “look at the label” campaign since 2005.

Sergeant’s has already taken steps to make its labels easier for all consumers to read and understand. Sergeant’s continues to innovate through product development and increase consumer awareness in order to improve the lives of pets and their families.
Sergeant’s makes it a practice to not comment on specific facts relating to pending litigation.”

  • pip possum

    please do something to legislate against these products!!! How many unsuspecting pet owners are harming their best friends because these products are available???

  • Julie G.

    Great article, and I extend my deepest sympathy to Aundria, her cat, and everyone else who has become a victim of these dangerous products. Why are these products still being sold? I just can’t understand it.

  • Judy S

    Please, please do not use Over the counter flea & tick meds on your pets! Always consult your vet prior to using any medication! These are very harmful & are killing our pets! There are other treatments for fleas & ticks your vet can help you with! Dont let these companies go without punishment or the removal of their products from store shelves! Please warn all your friends with pets NOT to use OTC flea & tick meds!! Spread the word yourself & save our pets, because the companies sure are not helping them!

  • Judy S

    Check out all the You Tube videos on OTC flea & tick meds & see what happens to our pets when applied. Yes applied per the package instructions! Its sick! Please make legislation do something about this!

  • angela

    i put a hartz flea collar(which i now know are absolutely useless) on my cat about 14 years ago..within five minutes she was wheezing and having a hard time breathing…too it right off her and she was fine…

  • Diane K

    This terrible that the EPA hasn’t been doing their job properly. Tiny Timmy & his owners have worked hard to get him past his medical problems. Now they’re working hard to get the word out about these dangerous products.

    Yes, Tiny Timmy has improved greatly. BUT it shouldn’t never have happened to him or any other animal. There’s no reason for any animal to become sick from something that is supposed to help them.

    Come on EPA do your job.

  • Claudia T

    Thank you for having the courage to air this piece. It is an important topic and pet owners deserve the right to make fully educated pet care decisions. To the Sergeant’s comment on this issue: Regarding the same review the EPA finished this year on spot on products only, 1) No dose numbers were included because manufacturers, industry and registrants stated their sales were confidential trade secrets. Is their number for their products alone? Or for only spot on products? It appears incredibly over-inflated. I would be interested in having more specific information from Sergeant’s on their quote. 2) The EPA stated in a meeting we had with them in DC that it is illegal for a pesticide registrant to claim their product is “safe when used as directed”. Pesticides by their very nature are toxic. 3) According to the same report the EPA completed earlier this year, only 12% of reported incidences for spot on products only, are due to owner error/misuse/misapplication.
    Come on Sergeant’s! We aren’t your ordinary customer still kept in the dark. Your press department should really fact check before you spew out statistics you can’t back up. We are TIRED of manufacturers using loopholes to glean profit at the continued expense of our pets.

  • Tiny Timmy

    Kudos to CBS Dallas & Ginger Allen for covering this story and airing such a fantastic piece! It’s an important issue that all too often gets buried. These issues are not new, but they are getting worse as fleas build an immunity to the same chemicals used for decades. The EPA has been concerned about pet incidences from flea & tick products since the 1980’s. They were alarmed again in 1994, 1996 & 1999 due to the high incidences of adverse reactions and death from these products. When will the public be “trusted” to make educated decisions by actually having all adverse reactions posted on labels?

    Sergeant’s “Look at the Label” website is nothing more than another way to market another one of their products. Yes, owners need to read the labels and follow directions. However, in Timmy’s case, the Sergeant’s flea and tick spray that was used on his had directions so convoluted that it physically could not have been used without breaking the cautions. He suffers neurological damage from his exposure. It also contains both pyrethrin and permethrin. It is well known that permethrin is highly toxic to cats, even in small amounts. This WAS a product stated to be for CATS.

    Currently, all pet owners and lovers need to do independent research before using these products. You can not rely on the label to tell you everything you need to know. And please don’t think it is just Sergeant’s. It is not their issue alone, but an industry wide issue.

  • hamishdad

    Every year, flea and tick products cause unreasonable harm to tens of thousands of dogs and cats – even when used as directed. Most of these incidents are never reported to anyone.

    Sergeant’s claims the number one cause of adverse reactions from flea and tick products is misuse, but an EPA study concluded that product labels are
    often to blame and that more stringent testing and evaluation of these products is needed:


  • Julie Welch

    The companies that make and sell these harmful products must be made to stop. Why are they allowed to keep poisoning our pets? If a company is selling a harmful product, its reasonable to assume they would stop themselves or be compelled to by law.
    We assume we buy safe products in the US. We trust what’s on the shelves. We can’t trust the OTC flea treatments made by Hartz and Sergeant. They cause neurological damage and death.
    Thanks for bringing this subject into the open. We need a champion. Help us.

  • hamishdad

    If flea and tick products are capable of causing permanent neurological damage or death to a pet, what effect do think they have on people – especially pregnant women and toddlers – who have daily contact with treated pets?

    EPA pesticide regulations are suppose to protect us from unreasonable harm. If these regulations fail to protect pets, they fail to protect people, too.

  • kathy jackson

    I wish Aundria the best of luck in her Fight. I whish she would contact me I want to join her law suit and fight i just recentlyy lost 3 possibly 4 pets from the same thing. What upset me most was the vets that treated my dogs says this usualy only happens in small pets my question is why any pet small or large. Also when I went on line after loosing my three in a matter of weeks I found its not just over the counter products its all flea and tick products. Look on line and you will also see none of these products are safe over the counter or from the vet. I will never use them again

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