Pet Tips 'n' Tales

Pet Nightmare with a Happy Ending

Photo by Mary Ellen "Angel Scribe"
In the photo above you see Cindy, Jerry, with two of their four dogs, Trouble and Meeko,  finally able to smile once more. It was an expensive lesson for Cindy, and it nearly cost her dogs their lives! After work, exhausted and trying to save time and money, Cindy bought an over-the-counter (OTC) flea medication. Suddenly she was in a nightmare, and she had not even gone to bed!


"I hope my story helps other families," explains Cindy. "For years, we have used an OTC flea medication on our pets with no adverse reactions, and we were not expecting one this time.

Two weeks ago, the store was out of our usual brand of flea medication. I purchased another for our 10-year-old Chow, Meeko, and 2-year-old large Husky mix, Kya.  I carefully read the package prior to applying it on the dogs. 

Within an hour, Kya was acting drunk.  When I called her in from outside, my blood ran cold.  She was dragging her hind legs, staggering, she had no balance, and she was violently shaking.  Meeko was vocalizing and howling in pain! She was trying to chew where the flea medication was applied.

I was frantic and phoned the emergency pet clinic.  They advised, "Immediately and thoroughly bathe both dogs with Dawn dish soap to remove all the medication's residue."

So here I am at 10 PM, exhausted, crying, bathing both large long-haired dogs.  During the entire bath, Meeko howled and whimpered in pain. Kya could not stand, so we had to hold her upright.   My stomach churned with guilt; I felt responsible for hurting them.

I was fearful that the OTC chemicals had caused permanent damage to the dogs.  I kept crying; it didn't help the situation, but it gave me some relief.

My husband and I picked up both wet dogs and together lifted them into the back seat of the truck.  Soaking wet in jeans and t-shirts, we made a flying late-night trip to the emergency vet 25 miles away.  They were beginning to have seizures.

Luckily, Kya vomited on the way.  Not so pleasant, but by the time we arrived at the clinic, she was acting near normal.

After an overnight stay at the emergency clinic, three prescriptions, an unexpected $400 hit to our wallet, thankfully, both dogs are fine.

I went back to the store where the OTC flea medication was purchased to tell them what had happened.  They showed no interest in listening. My hope was that they would remove it from the shelf, or at the very least post a warning, or call the FDA or EPA to double-check the product. 

A week later, a TV news program reported that this particular OTC product is under investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Apparently, our experience is not isolated.  The EPA is taking action on OTC flea and tick products. Last year, 44,000 cases of adverse reactions, including sickening or killing pets, were reported. The EPA has documentation on 780 products containing the suspect insecticides."

Cindy read that the product she bought and applied is one of six brands named in seven class action lawsuits.  "We were fortunate that our pets didn't suffer permanent damage. It was a miracle, that I didn't apply it to our smaller pets because I was so tired.  It might have killed our 14-year-old deaf and blind dog, Precious, and her son, Trouble.  The happy ending to our story is that our pets are all still alive."

The Humane Society of the United States has "...aligned itself with the Natural Resources Defense Council to demand that the EPA institute outright bans on pyrethroid-based products. According to the HSUS, more than half of the serious adverse reactions reported since 2005 were caused by products that contained the ingredient."


NEVER use dog flea products on cats!

Research and investigate feed stores, the Internet, etc. for natural flea repellents that don't put an insecticide inside your pet's warm blood system, or yours when you pet them!

B. Hoerter of Eugene's Mad About Organics pet products says, "Our research revealed negative symptoms associated with pyrethroids found in many flea and tick products. We do not use pyrethroids because of their detrimental effects on animals. We enjoy creating safe alternative and effective natural pet flea and tick products."

Alternatives to using products containing pyrethroids:

-Diet, the healthier the food, the fewer fleas.
-Brewers yeast supplements.
-Flea-comb pets daily.
-Vacuum your floors, wait two hours, vacuum again to pick up all the fleas and their eggs.
-Food-grade diatomaceous earth (not the one used for pools and spas) is a natural powdered-rock product, available at feed and grain stores.  Sprinkle it around your yard, pet enclosures, and bedding.  It dries out fleas and their eggs.
-Beneficial nematodes in a yard are an effective alternative; they eat the flea larvae.
-Sprinkle Borax soap on carpets; leave it on for an hour, then vacuum it up.
-Bathe pets in Neem shampoo. It is non-toxic and kills fleas.
-Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum.
Submit your alternative flea tips to help other pets and their guardians:
Report all adverse reactions to pet food/products to the FDA. (425) 483-4949
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