Posts filed under ‘health’

Delta sells its soul to Purina

When my friend Sharon forwarded this PSA from The Truth About Pet Food on the Delta Society’s recent decision to eliminate all pets on raw diets from their program my interest was piqued:

To recap this entire nutty situation, out of the blue the Delta Society (a non-profit organization that organizes and trains dog owners for volunteer visitations to nursing homes, hospitals, and similar) made the decision to ban all Pet Partners (certified pet owner/dog volunteer teams) from feeding their pet a raw meat diet. The decision, according to Delta Society, was based on scientific evidence that a raw meat diet causes the pet to shed (in feces) bacteria (such as Salmonella) that could put patients (those visited by Pet Partner teams) at risk. The Delta Society provided some clinical evidence (emphasizing the word some) to support their decision. Shocked and bewildered existing Pet Partners provided the Delta Society with a vast amount of opposing clinical evidence that showed dogs fed a kibble or can diet as well sheds (in feces) potentially risky bacteria (such as Salmonella). This opposing clinical evidence was ignored by the Delta Society. During the shocked and bewildered stage of this dilemma, it was discovered that a Purina Pet Food executive sits on the board of directors of Delta Society and the same Purina executive is applying for a patent that appears to seek control over all pet businesses involvement with pet charities. The Delta Society, despite the suspected connection, steadfastly denies that Purina Pet Food had any input into their decision to ban Pet Partners from feeding a raw meet diet.

Just when you think this situation couldn’t become more blatant bought and sold pet charity, I received an email from a former Pet Partner (an intelligent pet owner that made the educated decision to feed their pet a raw diet then ultimately decided the health of her pet was more important to her than her than following Delta Society’s new ban) sharing a nutty piece of information. She informed me that the new Delta Society Pet Partner banner (the harness type clothing that the dogs wear indicating they are a trained volunteer) now includes a Purina Pet Food logo. In other words, every Pet Partner will now be a walking advertisement for Purina Pet Food.

I understand that pets fed a raw (generally noncommercial) diet can shed bacteria such as Salmonella in their feces – but so do pets fed regular kibble diets. I would also hazard a guess that it is not uncommon for humans fed “normal” diets to shed potentially dangerous bacteria in their feces. Last time I checked – this is one of the reasons all hospitals require all staff and volunteers to practice good hygiene.

Given this information, one wonders why Delta has chosen to ban all dogs fed raw meat products from their program. But in an odd bit of inconvenient coincidence we find that Delta’s decision to ban raw diets occurred at about the same time that Purina – a major manufacturer of kibble diets signed on as a major financial sponsor of the group. Purina features an anti-raw diet “public service announcement” on their website. But Delta assures us that this had nothing at all to do with their decision.

Even though all Delta Pet Partners will now sport prominent Purina logos…

If that connection wasn’t eyebrow-raising enough, a new update from The Truth About Pet Food explains that Delta appears to be collaborating with Purina on the design of a particularly sleazy form of subliminal marketing cum social engineering:

Brenda Bax, Marketing Director for Purina Pet Food and Delta Society Board of Directors member has applied for a very unusual patent; “Methods for marketing corporate brands”.  The patent Ms. Bax is seeking is basically a means for Big Corporations to work through animal charities (use animal charities) to develop a specific marking plan to pitch their products.  Nothing new in marketing really, but what is puzzling and concerning is a pet food company wishing to patent a system where an animal charity works with a corporation for donations.

The Abstract of the patent Ms. Bax of Purina Pet Food…
“Abstract:  Business methods are provided for marketing and increasing sales of corporate products or brands by collecting information about one or more animal welfare organizations, collecting information from one or more consumers about animal welfare, and processing the animal welfare organization information and the consumer information to design a marketing program executable by the corporation that enables the consumer to interact with the animal welfare organization.”


I am confused and concerned.  Why would Purina Pet Food want to patent a marketing method associated with an Animal Welfare Organization?  Is this patent application a concern to all Animal Welfare Organizations that do not currently work with Purina Pet Food?  Does this patent provide Purina Pet Food control over all other corporations working with/donating to an Animal Welfare Organization?

Is/was Delta Society their first test market and the “wherein the animal welfare organization must meet a specified requirement to be a part of the marketing program” was the ban of pets fed a raw diet?

Marketing has become such an integral part of our lives that we tune most of it out. So companies with billion dollar budgets are constantly searching for new ways to sneak their message past our protective radar. In a world that is often characterized as being dominated by sleaziness – Purina and Delta appear to have taken things to an incredibly astounding new low.

Go to The Truth About Pet Food and read the whole, sad series. I’m afraid that this is the kind of thing we’re going to see more of in the future…

July 19, 2010 at 1:40 pm 14 comments

Trouble right here in River City!

For local readers an important bulletin just in from Fox 9 News:

Police in Red Wing, Minnesota are warning dog owners and residents of an outbreak of canine distemper.

Red Wing Police Chief Tim Sletten said the department has had to kill several fox and raccoons reported to be sick. A local veterinarian told police they are almost positive the sickness was caused by canine distemper.

Fox and raccoon are regular visitors to homes in the area. Stay smart, keep trash, pet food and other things that may attract the attention of wildlife secured from their attention. Keep your dog on leash, in your fenced yard or under your supervision – and make sure that his vaccinations are up to date. Be especially careful with puppies who are more susceptible to the disease.

If you see a wild animal that’s behaving oddly – STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM IT. And don’t let your pets harass or get near it. Or eat its feces. Don’t let dogs feed on carrion and if you find a dead animal, especially a coon or fox, wrap it securely in trash bags then throw it in the trash or bury it deeply where it’s not likely to be dug up and eaten or rolled in. Be sure to wear glovesnever touch a dead animal with your bare hands.

Because of the outbreak, the city is currently allowing citizens to dispose of animal carcasses at the incinerator at no cost.

Video (including shots of a city park where I sometimes walk the dogs) at the link.

July 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

EPA Takes a Closer Look at Flea and Tick Treatments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it will increase restrictions on topically flea and tick products because they recently documented “a significant increase” in the number of cats and dogs suffering adverse reactions to these products. Dermal, gastrointestinal and neurological effects were the reactions most commonly reported.

Over the last five years, the deaths of at least 1,600 pets related to topical flea and tick treatments were reported to the EPA. Because this was a dramatic increase in such events, the EPA recently conducted an intensive review of these products.

The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) collaborated with EPA. The combined group studied incidents involving cats and dogs, looked at active and inert ingredients and evaluated product labeling. Data was collected from the manufacturers (or registrants) and other available sources.

The evaluation was somewhat problematic because each company collected different data on adverse reactions and information reported by pet owners was sometimes inconsistent. Incidents that weren’t included in the EPA’s evaluation were those from products without EPA registration numbers (I assume these are herbal products, but I’m not sure about this); those from other countries; reports that were considered to be  ambiguous; those that involved other pesticides or drugs (because the reaction couldn’t be definitively tied to the product); and incidents that involved multiple animals (because many of these included ambiguous data).

EPA stated that their evaluation indicated that additional restrictions should be applied to these products, though they didn’t provide much information on what these restrictions might be and they didn’t state whether restrictions will apply to over-the-counter products, prescription products or both.

They reported that small breed dogs were affected more often than medium and large breed dogs. This effect was especially pronounced in products containing cyphenothrin (the active ingredient in TriForce, Sentry Pro and Sargeants Gold) and permethrin (the active ingredient in K9 Advantix, Bio-Spot On and Vectra3D ).

They noted that thinner skin and a larger skin area to body volume in small dogs may be a factor in these reactions. However, EPA also stated that dosage ranges for many products appear to be too broadly defined on the lower end of the scale. They noted that pet owners who overestimate their dog’s weight and subsequently overdose their dogs may also be a factor. Attempts to save money by purchasing large doses to split between small dogs were believed to cause some problems as well. EPA emphasized the importance of following the manufacturer’s directions carefully, as misapplication may have been related to many incidents.

I was frustrated to see that while the EPA stated that they believe that the “inert” ingredients in these products are an important factor in adverse reactions – they aren’t discussed in the report because most of them are proprietary ingredients.

It was also disappointing to see that the EPA stated that the data currently required to assess the safety of these products don’t provide an adequate picture of the potential risks they pose to pets and pet owners. Apparently we should be a bit more cynical about the trust we put in the agency to protect us from chemical hazards.

Because most reactions occurred in dogs that were less than three years old, EPA encouraged pet owners to monitor their pets carefully for adverse reactions the first time a product is used. This is likely a factor, but I wonder if the fact that there are more young than old dogs and the strong possibility that young dogs are more often out in places where they’re exposed to pests and are therefore get treated more often, may be important too.

EPA notes that “a comparison of the absolute numbers of incidents among the different spot-on products in this report are not appropriate.” Ironically, they do not provide information on the number of incidents for each product – so I guess we just won’t worry about that (after all, we don’t want to stress out manufacturers). Problems in direct comparison include the fact that some products are used more frequently than others; some products have different market niches (which may affect usage and reporting); the relative ease of product use may affect incidents; data were collected and recorded by different entities; negative publicity about a product can have an effect on reporting; and as noted above, some incidents were not evaluated. While these are valid points I think that the consumer’s right to see this data outweighs the potential harm to manufacturers and vendors.

I couldn’t review the data but EPA noted that deaths and adverse incidents were reported for all the products included in the study.

In the end, the EPA recommended that pet owners get a veterinarian’s advice before using any product — especially if you are treating a weak, geriatric, sick, pregnant or nursing pet; a pet that is on prescription medication; or a pet that has previously had  a reaction to similar products.

The agency is inviting public comment on how to implement new measures to safeguard our pets from these products. A Federal Register notice announcing the opening of a docket was published on March 19, 2010. The docket number is EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0229. Go here to comment.

Tips for safe use of topical flea and tick treatments

Weigh your pet before applying any treatment. Especially if you have a small dog. Overdosing is preventable!

Keep records of the products you use and the dates you treat your pet. This helps prevent over-dosing and can also be helpful information to your vet (and the reporting agency) in the event of an adverse reaction.

Read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Pay attention to prohibitions against using a product on weak, elderly, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets. Follow all age restrictions. Only use a product on the species it is listed for (i.e. don’t put a product made for dogs on your cat and vice-versa).

Don’t put a product on your pet right before you leave for work or at bedtime – especially if this is the first time you’ve used this product on your pet or if the pet has had adverse reactions to products before. Keep an eye on your pet for a few hours so you can catch an adverse reaction quickly if it happens.

Keep the package the product came in. Don’t throw it out after you use it. Lot numbers and other product data are vital information if your pet has an adverse reaction.

Consult your veterinarian before using any product on a weak, elderly, sick, pregnant, or nursing pet; on a pet that has had adverse reactions to flea and tick products; or a pet that is on a prescription medication.

If your pet has an adverse reaction – call your vet immediately. If your regular clinic is closed, call an emergency clinic or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. Have the product information ready and keep your pet in a quiet area where you can watch him.

Reporting adverse reactions

EPA recommends that veterinarians use the National Pesticide Information Center’s Veterinary Pesticide Adverse Effects Reporting portal to report incidents. This page is ONLY accessible by vet clinic staff. Please encourage your vet to use this service.

You can report adverse reactions to the company that manufactured the product. When you do, they are required to report it to the EPA. You should be able to find contact information on the product package.

You can also report adverse reactions to the EPA via their “ask a question” page. To do this go to the Pesticides Frequent Questions Web page and select “flea and tick” in the drop-down box. Then click on the “ask a question” tab and use the fields there to submit information on the product and reaction instead of asking a question.

March 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm 5 comments

Old Saw New Science

A article recently published by William Marshall, Herman Hazewinkel, Dermot Mullen, Geert De Meyer, Katrien Baert and Stuart Carmichael (Marshall et al) in Veterinary Research Communications provides us with the not-so-startling news that weight loss causes a significant decrease in lameness in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis and other orthopedic problems.

Obesity and osteoarthritis are two of the most common health problems in dogs. The literature indicates that 20% of dogs suffer from osteoarthritis and 24–41% of all dogs are clinically obese. Marshall et al’s goal was to provide subjective and objective measures of the effect of weight loss alone on lameness in obese dogs with osteoarthritis.

Fourteen adult dogs of various large, medium and small breeds with clinical signs of lameness were included in the study. Intact and neutered dogs of both sexes participated, and all the dogs included in the study were clinically obese. The dogs ranged in age from 10 months to 13 years.

By the end of the 18-week study period the dogs had lost an average of almost 9% of their initial body weight and 82% of them showed decreased evidence of lameness.

Surprising news? Hardly. In a time when prescription diet pills for dogs are hot sellers, the idea that excess weight exacerbates joint problems is hardly controversial. The more interesting (and depressing) part of the story is the small number of dog owners that participated in the study. As Marshall et al. put it: “Stimulating and maintaining client interest in canine weight loss programs can be challenging and this hindered recruitment of cases.”

Fat is the new norm. I’m disturbed by the number of people who tell me they think my dogs are too thin. Apparently they’ve gotten so used to seeing fat dogs that a lean, fit dog looks weirdly out of place.

via ihasaHOTDOG

It’s a common misconception. A recent study conducted by Pfizer Animal Health found that while veterinarians believe that 47% of their canine patients are overweight or obese — only 17% of dog owners agree with them. Deep in denial, pet owners argue that their dog is big-boned, that he’s solid, and that he can’t possibly be fat because they feed him exactly what it says to on the package.  Or they say that it isn’t a problem because the dog is only a few pounds overweight. While being ten pounds overweight may not be a problem for you or your Saint Bernard – that same ten pounds represents 20% of a 50 pound dog’s weight and 50% of a 20 pound dog’s weight. That’s the difference between a healthy weight and morbid obesity!

Adding to the problem is that fact that veterinarians aren’t always comfortable telling people that their dogs are fat. Some pet owners feel insulted when they’re told that their pet is overweight and when the owner is obese too, discussing a weight problem can be uncomfortable for both parties. A recent study published by Nijland et al. that found a strong correlation between the body mass index of dog and its owner indicates that this is often the case.

So now there is some scientific basis to the old saying that “if your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise!”

March 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm 11 comments

Unintended Consequences

The earth’s vegetation is part of a web of life in which there are intimate and essential relations between plants and animals. Sometimes we have no choice but to disturb these relationships, but we should do so thoughtfully, with full awareness that what we do may have consequences remote in time and place.
— Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

There are widespread reports that Merial’s topical flea and tick treatment Frontline has become ineffective in a disturbingly short period of time. The active ingredient in Frontline is fipronil, an insecticide in the phenyl pyrazole family. Fipronil blocks g-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and interferes chloride passing through GABA-gated channels in non-mammalian species. At low concentrations, it disrupts nervous system function and at higher doses causes death.

Fipronil has been used in flea and tick preparations around the world since the mid-1990’s. As Heather noted in comments to the previous post, widespread problems with counterfeit Frontline have been documented.  (So much so that I strongly recommend you go to this link to an EPA page that provides information on how to identify counterfeit Frontline.) While I’m sure that the sale of counterfeit product is part of the issue with Frontline, I’m not convinced that it’s the only problem — or even the most troubling one.

Pesticide resistance occurs when a species adapts over a series of generations to have a decreased susceptibility to a specific chemical. Since no pesticide is completely effective in the natural environment, there will always be some organisms that survive exposure. Organisms can receive sublethal doses for a variety of reasons, but because only the most resistant organisms survive to pass their genes on to offspring, resistance can increase exponentially in a population. As Rachel Carson predicted in Silent Spring, problems related to pesticide resistance are increasing all over the world.

My friend Heather quite understandably professed skepticism that exposure to fipronil products applied to our pets would be sufficient to create an environment where widespread resistance could occur. If this was the only route of exposure, I suspect she would be right. But pet products only represent a very small percentage of fipronil use.

Fipronil is active against a wide array of pests other than fleas and ticks, and it is used in a number of different applications. Products containing fipronil were first marketed in 1993 and they are sold under a variety of brand names including Frontline, Regent, Termidor, Combat and Maxforce and they are used:

  • As flea and tick sprays for indoor and outdoor use.
  • In turfgrass management programs at parks and golfcourses.
  • As a termite preventative in some plywood products.
  • To control parasites on livestock in South and Central America.
  • As a replacement for the pesticide Dursban which was de-listed for on lawns and public areas.
  • In baits and other ant control products.
  • As a termite treatment.
  • As a cockroach treatment.
  • As a seed coating
  • As a broad spectrum insecticide treatment on potatoes, corn, cotton, sweet potatoes, bulb onions, cotton and vegetables.

As you can see, there are a lot of places where fleas and ticks can be exposed to fipronil. And in many cases, they’re inadvertently exposed to ineffectively low doses of the compound.

Not only is fipronil used in a wide range of environments, it also has an unfortunate tendency to stick around the environment for a long time. Pesticides like fipronil that break down slowly and remain on soil or vegetation can contribute to selection for resistant organisms for a long time after they are applied. Fipronil degrades slowly on vegetation and relatively slowly in soil. It is listed as being highly persistent on land with a terrestrial field test half life of 75 days.

Fipronil is phototransformed to a variety of breakdown products. One of these breakdown products, fipronil-desulfinyl, is more toxic and more persistent than fipronil.  The persistence of this breakdown product and its high neuroactivity, suggest that it may be a significant contributor to the effectiveness of fipronil. Unfortunately, it’s probably also a significant contributor to the development of fipronil resistance.

It’s possible that less effective (diluted) couterfeit fipronil containing products (especially those that are land applied) may be part of the problem as well. As we see in antibiotic resistance, exposing target organisms to ineffective doses of an pesticide will wipe out some, but not all, of the organisms. The surviving organisms may then become more resistant to the product and spread increased resistance to their offspring.

The low-dose effect may be a problem even when products are used at full potency because pests are exposed to lower doses of the product at the boundaries of the application area. Dilution, diffusion and breakdown effects also create situations where lower doses of persistent products can remain in and adjacent to sprayed areas for weeks or months after application.

I’m not the only one who believes that the indiscriminate use of acaricides (tick-killing agents) all over the world is leading to the selection of acaricide resistant tick strains. And fleas and ticks aren’t the only species that fipronil has had a significant effect on. Regent (a fipronil containing pesticide listed for agricultural use) is effective against a variety of pests, but there are increasing concerns about its environmental and human health effects. It was demonstrated to be responsible for a precipitous drop in bee populations in France. This occurred because fipronil causes bees to become disoriented and unable to return to their hives.

Fipronil provides us with a rather sobering example of the law of unintended consequences — the hubristic belief that humans can control the environment around us. It’s a reminder that management will always eventually fail — and Mother Nature will always bat last.

These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes — nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the “good” and the “bad,” to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil — all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called “insecticides,” but “biocides.”
— Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

March 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm 8 comments

Tick Season Already?

With daytime temperatures rising into the 40’s, spring has been on my mind. There’s still more than a foot of snow on the ground but the creek is filled with meltwater and the birds’ spring migration is just beginning. Life was great — until this article from The Culpeper, Virginia Star-Exponent ruined my day…

Robins and many other songbirds are often the heralds of springtime and warmer weather just around the corner. Unfortunately, a new report is stating these welcome spring visitors are quite possibly spreading a serious disease of humans and pets … Lyme Disease.

Ticks are the primary vector for spreading Lyme Disease to people, dogs, and horses. Most ticks acquire the disease-causing bacteria by feeding on infected rodents. Deer also play an important role as expanding populations import large numbers of ticks into new areas of the country.

But now, researchers at Yale have found that robins, blue jays and other common birds are also reservoirs of this illness. Furthermore, the nymph and larval stages of the tick life cycle can be carried by the birds across distances and into the yards where pets and people often roam. What this means is that the heralded robin of spring could be leaving their parasite passengers and Lyme Disease in your backyard.

I hate ticks. I really hate ticks. If I could wave a magic wand and make every last one of the evil eight-legged bastards disappear – I’d say damn the environmental torpedoes, full speed ahead!

Sadly, I don’t have a magic wand. And – if robins and jays are dropping evil arachnid invaders into our midst, they could already be active during the day. Deer ticks typically become active at temperatures above 45° F.

This means it’s time to get off my duff and figure out what kind of preventative to use on the dogs this year. Here are the options:

Revolution/Stronghold (Pfizer)
These are monthly spot treatments typically applied between the shoulder blades. They enter your dog’s bloodstream through his skin and then are selectively distributed from the blood to the skin where they provide protection against a wide range of pests. The active ingredient in these products is selamectin.  Revolution and Stronghold are listed as being active against fleas, American dog ticks, ear mites, sarcoptic mange and heartworm in United States and fleas, ear mites, sarcoptic Mange, heartworm and roundworm in Europe.  Selamectin kills parasites by blocking nerve signal transmission. These products are absorbed through the skin and travel to the bloodstream and gastrointestinal tract where some of the pesticide action occurs. The products eventually migrate out to the hair and skin where they provide some external protection against fleas, mites and ticks. There have been scattered reports of adverse reactions to these products.

Frontline Top Spot (Merial)
Another monthly topical spot treatment with the active ingredient Fipronil. It is listed as being effective against fleas for 90 days and ticks for 30 days. Frontline used to be the treatment of choice here for ticks, but studies suggest that fleas and ticks are quickly becoming resistant to it. Frontline only protects against fleas, ticks and biting lice.  The fipronil is mixed with an oil carrier that allows it to collect in the sebaceous glands of the skin where it is released over time. This product offers some water resistance and it acts by blocking chlorine in the insect’s nervous system which causes paralysis and death. It doesn’t contain permethrins that are toxic to cats. There have been some reports of adverse reactions in dogs.

Frontline Plus (Merial)
Frontline Plus contains fipronil and methoprene, an insect growth regulator. Methoprene mimics juvenile growth hormones and keeps immature fleas from developing by preventing them from molting. The main advantage of this product over regular Frontline is that it provides extra protection against fleas.

K-9 Advantix (Bayer)
Advantix is a topical treatment marketed as preventing heartworm by repelling and killing mosquitoes before they bite your dog. Like Frontline, it collects in the sebaceous glands of the skin and is released over time. Active ingredients are the pyrethroids imidacloprid and permethrin. Imidacloprid acts by blocking insects’ nerve receptors. Imidacloprid kills fleas but doesn’t affect ticks so permethrin is added to provide protection against them. Pyrethroids may offer some environmental advantage because they are highly biodegradable, but permethrin is extremely toxic to cats, so you may not want to use this product if your household includes cats (or ferrets). There have been some reports of adverse effects related to Advantix.

Advantage Multi/Advocate (Bayer)
A  monthly topical treatment that protects against fleas, ear mites, sarcoptic mange, heartworm, roundworm, and hookworm. Advantage and Advocate provide NO TICK PROTECTION. The active ingredient in both products is imidacloprid. A poodle in Canada was reportedly glued to the bottom of his crate after application of Advantage. Benzyl alcohol, one of the inactive ingredients in the product, is a common organic solvent. Benzyl alcohol can be used to extract and dissolve many kinds of plastics. It is used as a preservative, solvent, anesthetic, and viscosity-decreasing agent in many products for human use. It is probably an ingredient in other topical antiparasitics as well. Be sure these products are fully dried and/or absorbed before putting your pet in a crate, car seat or other potentially adhesive environment.

Bio-Spot On (Farnam)
This monthly topical treatment contains imidacloprid and permethrin like Advantix and adds insect growth regulators and insect growth inhibitors. Insect growth regulators include methoprene, pyriproxyfen and fenoxycarb. Insect growth inhibitors include lufenuron and diflubenzuron. Bio-Spot On is listed as being active against fleas, ticks and mosquitoes and, like K-9 Advantix, should provide some repellent action. There are scattered reports of adverse reactions to this product. Like Frontline and Advantix it collects in the sebaceous glands where it is released over time.

Preventic and ProMeris (Fort Dodge)
Preventic is a collar, ProMeris is a monthly topical treatment. Both products contain amitraz. ProMeris also contains metaflumizone which targets synaptic sodium channels and blocks nerve impulses resulting in the paralysis and death of fleas. Amitraz kills ticks by disrupting nerve function leading to reduced feeding and attachment, paralysis and death. ProMeris is listed as controlling fleas, ticks and mange. Preventic is a tick collar. There have been several reports of adverse affects related to ProMeris. Both products have a very strong, eucalyptus odor that many people (and pets) find offensive.

Program and Sentinel (Novartis)
Program and Sentinel are monthly oral treatments containing the insect development inhibitor lufenuron. Lufenuron is stored in the animal’s body fat and transferred to adult fleas through their bite. It acts by inhibiting chitin production in larval fleas and is NOT EFFECTIVE AGAINST TICKS OR ADULT FLEAS. Sentinel also contains milbemycin oxime, a microfilariacide which disrupts nerve transmission in parasites leading to their death. Milbemycin oxime is active against immature heartworm larvae and adult hookworms, roundworms and whipworms.  It is not listed for use against ticks.

Capstar (Novartis)
Capstar is an oral treatment containing nitenpyram. Nitenpyram blocks fleas’ nerve receptors. It enters your pet’s blood stream in about twenty minutes and when the fleas bite they’re killed very quickly. Capstar can reportedly be used as frequently as on a daily basis. It is listed for use on pregnant or nursing dogs and cats, and puppies and kittens 4 weeks and older. Capstar can wipe out an ugly infestation but it provides no long-term pest control because it passes through your pet’s system in just 24 hours. Capstar also provides NO TICK PROTECTION.

Comfortis (Elanco)
Comfortis is a monthly oral flea treatment. The active ingredient is spinosad, a tetracyclic macrolide that activates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the fleas’ nervous systems and makes it seize until it dies. FDA has warned that it has received adverse reaction reports on spinosad that are consistent with ivermectin toxicity, so use caution in treating dogs with known or potential ivermectin sensitivity. Because Comfortis acts by triggering lethal seizures in the flea, I would not use this product on an epileptic dog.  Comfortis is NOT EFFECTIVE AGAINST TICKS.

Vectra 3D (Summit)
Vectra 3D is a quick-acting monthly topical treatment that repels and kills fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, lice, sand flies and mites. The active ingredients in Vectra 3D are dinotefuran, pyriproxyfen and permethrin. Dinotefuran is based on acetycholine, other flea control products are based on nicotine.The manufacturer states that the differing lead compound makes it less problematic with respect to . Dinotefuran also binds to different nerve synapse receptor sites than other products and it kills pests by contact, not ingestion. Unlike other products, it is reportedly spread through a dog’s hair. Because it contains permethrin, it is highly toxic to cats.

TriForce (Agri Laboratories Ltd.)
TriForce is a fast-acting monthly topical flea and tick treatment for dogs. The manufacturer states that it also repels ticks and mosquitoes. The active ingredients are etofenprox and pyriproxyfen. Etofenprox is a pyrethroid, so it cannot be used on cats. Pyriproxyfen prevents larvae from developing into adulthood and reproducing.

We don’t have a significant problem with fleas, ticks are our primary concern. So Program, Sentinel, Capstar, Advantage, Comfortis and Advocate are easy to eliminate. Like many other people, I’ve noticed that Frontline doesn’t seem to be as effective as it used to be, so I’ll nix Frontline and Frontline Plus as well. I’m not comfortable with the number of reports of adverse effects I’ve seen with ProMeris so it’s off the list too.

That leaves me with Advantix, Bio-Spot On, Revolution and Preventic. Since we don’t have cats, I’m more comfortable with pyrethroids than growth inhibitors and regulators (on a purely subjective level, neurotoxins don’t seem as nasty to me as compounds that interfere with the growth and development of organisms). So the current plan is to use Preventic collars (we’ll try them on top of bandannas) when we’re out hiking in the brush and have some Advantix on hand for any infestations the collars don’t prevent. The dogs are already on Heartguard, so they don’t need the extra protection (and chemicals) in Revolution. If we have significant tick problems this year, I may try Revolution next summer.

Pyrethroids are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms at part per trillion concentrations, so I’ll make sure I apply Advantix on a day when the dogs aren’t going to be in or near the water. Because it’s safe to assume that benzyl alcohol or other organic solvents are probably a part of all topical formulas, I’ll make sure they’re completely absorbed before I put the beasties in crates or let them wrestle on the rubber mats in the training room. And because there is some risk of adverse reactions to all drugs and treatments, I’ll treat the dogs when I’ll be home with them for a least a few hours after applying the product.

The usual caveats apply: I’m not a veterinarian, your experience may be different than mine and your pets may have sensitivities and problems not mentioned here. This information is incomplete and simply represents the process I went through to decide what products to use for my own dogs. In other words – your mileage may vary.

Ideas? Opinions? Anecdotes? – Put them in the comments!

March 7, 2010 at 7:48 pm 36 comments

Charlie, Heal

Charlie had his right knee surgically repaired yesterday. He had a grade four medial luxating patella.

A dog’s patella, also known as his kneecap, normally rides in the trochlear groove at the bottom of the femur. The femoropatellar (above) and patellar (below) ligaments hold the patella in the trochlear groove. It’s usually a congenital problem (though it can also arise from blunt force trauma injuries) and is most common in small and toy dogs.

There are four diagnostic grades of patellar luxation, each more severe than the previous:

  • In a grade I luxation the patella can be manually pushed out of place but it returns to the normal position when released;
  • The patella can also spontaneously luxate in a grade II injury and the patella remains luxated until it is either manually reduced (put back into place) or popped back into place by the animal.
  • In grade III luxations the patella stays luxated most of the time. It can only be put back into place when the knee is extended.
  • Grade IV luxations like Charlie’s are the most severe. The patella is permanently out of place and can’t be manually repositioned. The trochlear groove is shallow or absent, and there is the quadriceps muscles are displaced in the direction of luxation.

Patellar luxations are typically caused by congenital abnormalities of the femur that result in abnormal forces on the kneecap that cause it to ride outside the groove. The groove may be to shallow to hold the patella and the ligaments may be positioned incorrectly on the tibia. It they’re not repaired, patellar luxations in young animals can cause the tibia and femur bones to become twisted.

When the trochlear groove is shallow, it is surgically deepened to create a deeper groove for the patella to ride in. If the tibial crest where the patellar ligament connects to the tibia is in the wrong position, it is surgically repositioned. The bony crest is cut away and then reattached in a position so that the patella can ride in the trochlear groove. Pins fasten the bone in place.

One of Charlie’s many nick-names is Chuckie Ray. Even though he’s turning into a sweet, snuggly puppy, the name fits him pretty well this week. His skinny, shaved, betadiene-stained leg earned him another charming moniker: Chucky Chicken Leg.

The clinic let me take Charlie home late the afternoon of this surgery. They typically keep dogs overnight after this surgery, but he was stressed by the clinic environment and they knew I’d keep a close eye on him. I *heart* that clinic.

He’s been very good – so far. I’m sure that post-surgical pain and the after effects of the anesthesia have a lot to do with this and I expect him to turn into a major pain in the ass in the next week or so.

Charlie and I will have to endure eight weeks of restricted activity. He’s on strict crate / leash rest and I’ve got a physical therapy regimen to follow with him. He’s a very bright, athletic, driven little dog and I’ll have to be creative to keep his mind busy while his body heals. Once he starts to feel better I plan to teach him some stationary tricks and maybe work on teaching him the names of some of his body parts using Kayce Cover’s methods.

January 19, 2010 at 5:02 pm 13 comments

Linky Goodness

Pet Connection has important information on “a series of veterinary drug recalls that have been going on quietly, without public notice or so much as a letter to America’s veterinarians.” Apparently dangerous problems with two different drugs manufactured by Teva (ketamine and butorphanol – marketed under several different brand names) were discovered months before a public recall was issued. Go read the post. If theres’ any chance that your pet is going to be tranquilized or anesthetized, you need this information.

YesBiscuit posts an excellent summary of places to donate to help earthquake victims in Haiti.

Lassie, Get Help presents a most excellent summary on The Trouble with Temperament Tests.

There are updates on the Murder Hollow Basset case from Terrierman and NeverYetMelted, again presenting wildly different viewpoints. I don’t see corroboration in any new stories that, as Terrierman alleges, the judge expressed opinions of any type regarding the conditions at Ms. Willard’s kennel. He’s simply requiring her to obey the law – as he should. Even though many would like us to see laws like most of those written regarding animal care as black and white issues – they aren’t. The most astute commentary on the case I’ve seen is still YesBiscuit’s posts on confessions of a dog abuser and the number’s game. Go – read them, and be sure to read the comments from ‘abusers’.

FWIW I’m still convinced that, as usual, the truth lies in that boundless gray area where all life outside the world of propaganda and hyperbole exists.

January 14, 2010 at 1:46 am 8 comments

Hunte Corp Fined for Chemical Violation

Apparently profits in mass-produced maltipoos and cockadoodles aren’t what they used to be.  According to an EPA administrative consent agreement Hunte willfully acted in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Hunte Kennel Systems and Animal Care will pay nearly $57,000 in fines for putting livestock pesticides in bottles and relabeling mislabeling it to sell as a discontinued flea and tick treatment for dogs.

Prolate/Lintox-HD is used to control flies, mites, mange and ticks on livestock but is not for use on household pets.  Paramite was used to control fleas and ticks on dogs. It was voluntarily taken off the market in 2005 after the Environmental Protection Agency determined its active ingredient was potentially dangerous to animal handlers, groomers and young children, said EPA spokesman Chris Whitley.

Paramite and prolate both contain the same active ingredient, the organophosphate insecticide phosmet.  Organophosphates kill insects by disrupting activity in their brains and nervous systems.  These neurotoxins can also inflict nasty adverse effects on mammals (like humans) – hence their early use as chemical warfare agents.

Toxic or not – what’s the problem if prolate and paramite both have the same active ingredient?  Well… pet products containing phosmet were voluntarily taken off the market back in 2005 after the EPA found they posed an unacceptable risk of dermal toxicity to people who came in contact with treated animals.

Since most of us don’t snuggle or sleep with our pigs and cattle, EPA apparently determined that human dermal toxicity wasn’t an issue in treating livestock, so organophosphates can still legally be used to control fleas, lice and mange on them.

For some reason, the Post-Dispatch seems to think that the mislabeling of the product is the key issue in Hunte’s case.  I think there’s more to it than that, and I can’t help but wonder how many Hunte dogs and puppies were treated with the product.  While it’s currently illegal to produce paramite — it’s not illegal to sell or use it.  I found several places on the web that note that remaining inventories of the product can legally be sold until supplies run out and apparently some veterinarians  still use stockpiled phosmet/paramite to treat severe mite infestations in dogs.

It looks like Hunte found a cheap way to treat their puppies products for fleas and ticks and decided to make a few extra bucks on the side while they were at it.  While they’ve been forced to stop selling illegally relabeled phosmet-containing products to others – the $57,000-dollar question is whether they’ve quit using it to treat their own animals…

The phosmet molecule

December 22, 2009 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

When in Doubt, Best Stay Out

It’s  that time of year again.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued a news release yesterday warning pet owners of toxic blue-green algae blooms in lakes and ponds.

A dog died during the weekend after swimming in Fox Lake in Martin County, apparently as a result of exposure to toxic blue-green algae. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the dog’s owner said the dog swam in the lake on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 13, and was dead within hours.

Blue-green algae “blooms,” like those on Fox Lake and some other lakes around the state, can produce toxins. These toxins can be deadly to dogs or other animals if ingested, particularly when they clean themselves after contact with the water.

Blue-green blooms can occur throughout the summer, but the recent warm weather and lack of rain create ideal conditions for them. The MPCA has confirmed other blue-green blooms this summer but this was the season’s first apparent animal death attributed to them.

Algae are a vital natural part of the aquatic environment and most of them are harmless; but sometimes water conditions (typically in mid- to late-summer when warm, still, nutrient-rich water is common)  favor blooms of algae species that can be harmful to mammals.  Some (not all) blue-green algae produce toxins. 

Because toxic conditions can arise quickly in algal blooms and because laboratory analysis is the only way to determine when a bloom is harmful – all blue-green algae blooms should be considered potentially dangerous.

Blooms are less toxic to people, who typically just develop skin irritation or upper respiratory problems when they’ve been exposed to harmful algal blooms.  But dogs and other animals can die very quickly after ingesting water containing the toxins.  If you suspect your pet has ingested water containing blue-green algae you must get him to a vet immediately.

MPCA offers this advice on identifying blue-green algae blooms:

Research has identified the conditions listed below that tend to occur along with a harmful algal bloom. If you observe these conditions on your lake or pond, it is best to avoid contact with the water and keep pets and children out of the water until the bloom dissipates. 

  • Very low transparency, Secchi often 1.5 foot or less;
  • Very high chlorophyll-a concentrations, generally greater than 30-50 ppb; and
  • Very high pH, generally 9.0 or greater.

For those of you who don’t have a background in hydrology or geochemistry, the page includes several helpful photographs of blue-green algae blooms as well as photographs of harmless species that are often confused with them.  Click photo for link:


Have a pet-related business?  MPCA also offers this free pdf format poster on the dangers of blue-green algae.  I’m getting one printed up in large format for the training room.

September 19, 2009 at 3:26 pm 1 comment

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