Are Oral Tick Preventatives Safe For Your Pet?

As a pet lover and client (or follower) of The Natural Vets, we know your pet’s health and safety are your primary concerns.  When it comes to deciding how to protect them against tick paralysis, the quagmire of information to wade through can become quite scary. Which products are safe? Which are more likely to cause reactions? How severe can the reactions be? Which products do we recommend?  This article will answer these questions and provide you with a guideline to make a choice for your pet that protects them from ticks without damaging their health.

In September 2018 The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the isoxazoline family of flea and tick products – which includes fluralaner for dogs and cats (Bravecto®), afoxalaner for dogs (Nexgard®), and saroloner for dogs (Simparica®).  As of May 4, 2018, 420 reports of worldwide adverse reactions to these pesticides in humans have been given to the European Medical Agencies (EMA). These reactions include breathing problems, skin conditions, and even seizures, and the onset occurred after handling the chewable or spot-on treatment of fluralaner (Bravecto®).  Of these reports, a causal link was probable in nearly 9% of cases, possible in 3%.  1% were unclassifiable, <1% inconclusive, and the rest have not yet been assessed for causality. While the FDA is not pulling these preventatives off the market at this time, they now all have to carry an FDA warning on their packaging relating to the potential side effects.

For a number of years now many reports have been lodged about reported adverse reactions to these synthetic pesticides.  Dogs and cats with no known prior medical history of muscle tremors, ataxia, and seizures have experienced these as adverse reactions after administration of these flea and tick preventatives.   Many studies are currently percolating about these reported adverse reactions and this is a topic we are following closely.

Usually when adverse reactions such as these occur, we can point to certain breed characteristics, age, drug interactions, pre-existing conditions, or genetic mutations as a causal factor that has resulted in the adverse reaction. For instance, dogs that are epileptic or prone to seizures should not have spinosads – a natural substance made by a soil bacterium that can be toxic to insects – that is also for treatment or prevention of fleas in the product Comfortis®.  Another example is the MDR1 gene mutation that is most commonly found in dog breeds of herding ancestry, especially Collie breeds.  This gene mutation allows a higher absorption of drugs and toxic substances to enter the central nervous system and can result in adverse reactions to certain drugs.

The scary part about the isoxazoline class of drugs is that so far we cannot identify breed characteristics, age group, drug interactions, pre-existing conditions or genetic mutations as contributing factors to these reactions – they appear to be affecting pets randomly.  Some reactions are mild, such as itching at the time of dosage which passes within a few days or weeks, to more severe, such as seizures.

Given that the safety of these products is in question for BOTH humans and our companion pets, it is recommended that their use be reconsidered to determine whether you are comfortable continuing or would prefer to try an alternative.

So how can you protect your pet against ticks, without risking potentially damaging side effects?

  • Tick clip your dog’s coat short during tick season, and tick search them daily.  Know that ‘tick season’ varies from year to year, with the peak season being August to April, but depending on seasonal climate factors can extend beyond this.  Ticks usually attach from the shoulders forwards, so ensure you do a comprehensive tick search over the head, neck and shoulder region of your pet daily, whilst also checking all other areas of the body.  If you cannot search your pet effectively and on a daily basis, then you need to consider using regular tick prevention.
  • Talk to us about a natural remedy you can add to their water which will prime their immune system to respond to a tick bite, and slow down the progression of symptoms so that you have a better chance of identifying paralysis signs early and getting your pet to the Vet.  If treatment is needed the recovery is usually smooth and uneventful when this remedy is being used.  We also stock a coat slicker, which stops ticks from being able to crawl up your dog’s coat and attach to the skin, and an essential oil product to repel ticks.
  • Weigh up the risks vs benefits of all the tick products on the market to decide which best suits your pet and your lifestyle.  One of our preferred products is the Seresto® Flea & Tick prevention collar. Seresto® contains two active ingredients: imidacloprid which kills adult fleas, flea larvae and lice, and flumethrin, which repels and kills adult ticks, larvae and nymphs. These are slowly and continuously released in low concentrations from the collar and spread over the entire skin of your pet. The actives in the skin and hair of your pet kills fleas and ticks on contact, not relying on biting to be killed.  The hair and dead skin that your pet sheds naturally each day contain small amounts of actives, killing flea larvae that may live in pets’ surroundings and so providing some environmental control to break the flea life cycle too. The insecticide contained within the collar only gets released on the lipid layer of the dog. It does not come off onto the furniture or onto human hands, and so does not pose a risk to children or pregnant women. And if your animal has a reaction to this product there is little to no systemic absorption, and so you simply need to remove the collar!

Come and visit us at The Natural Vets soon to discuss which tick preventatives are best suited to your pet.  Or if you need products posted, visit our online shop or phone the clinic on 07 54767674 and talk to our nursing team.

If your companion dog or cat is not prone to fleas and you do not live in a tick-infested area, there is no need to give flea and tick medications as preventatives. If your pet has cancer, then it is best to minimise as many chemicals as you can.  If you are in a tick-risk zone, however, then you need to weigh up all the risks for your pet to determine what is the best choice for them.  Tick paralysis can be a life-threatening condition, especially if not picked up and treated early.  As soon as you note any signs of tick paralysis in your pet, such as lethargy, wobbliness of the back legs, changes in the breathing pattern, respiratory noise, or changes to their bark or meow, check for a tick and take them straight to your Vet.