Flea & Tick

FDA Urges Consumer Caution When Using Spot-On Flea/Tick Preventative

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Flea and tick control is always a hot topic for pet parents. Causing a whole slew of problems ranging from a mild irritation to serious, life-threatening illness, fleas and ticks – and their prevention – are an importance concern.

Flea and tick prevention comes in a variety of forms, from chewables, to collars, sprays, and “spot-on” treatments. The FDA recently released new information for pet parents, particularly those using the spot-on flea & tick treatments, or the small vials of pesticide that are applied to the dog’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades and down the back.

Pet owners need to be cautious about using flea and tick products safely, says Ann Stohlman, V.M.D., a veterinarian in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine. “You need to take the time to carefully read the label, the package insert, and any accompanying literature to make sure you’re using the product correctly.”

The FDA’s most recent caution to consumers says:

Caution with Spot-On Products

In spring 2009, EPA noticed an increase in pet incidents being reported involving spot-on pesticide products for pets. EPA received a large amount of bad pet reaction information reported to the companies that hold registrations for these products. EPA formed a veterinarian team with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to review this information. The team studied incidents involving cats and dogs, looked at the ingredients, studied labeling, and discussed data needs for the future to improve analyses and regulation.

Based on its analysis, EPA determined that some changes need to be made in how spot-on products are regulated, how companies report data on pet incidents, and how packages are labeled for cats, dogs, and size of animals to ensure the safety of these products. Based on reported incidents, EPA also concluded that many but not all pet incidents took place because the products were misused.

In September 2011, EPA required the following actions in response to the analysis of spot-on treatments:

  • Requiring manufacturers of spot-on pesticide products to improve labeling, making instructions clearer to prevent product misuse, including repeating the word “dog” or “cat” and “only” throughout the directions for use and applicator vial, and detailed side effect language.
  • Requiring clear marking to differentiate between dog and cat products and more precise label instructions to ensure proper dosage per pet weight.
  • Restricting the use of any inert ingredients that EPA finds may contribute to incidents.
  • Launching a consumer information campaign to explain new label directions and to help users avoid making medication errors.

Spot-on flea and tick products can be effective treatments, and many people use the products with no harmful effects to their pets. EPA does not advise pet owners to stop using spot-ons, but asks them to use caution and make informed decisions when selecting treatment methods.

EPA advises pet owners to

  • carefully follow label directions and monitor their pets for any signs of a bad reaction after application, particularly when using these products for the first time
  • talk to a veterinarian about responsible and effective use of flea and tick products

When to Treat

It’s best to treat your pet at the beginning of flea and tick season, says Stohlman. The length of flea season, which peaks during warm weather months, varies depending on where you live. “It can last four months in some places, but in other places, like Florida, fleas can live all year long,” says Stohlman. And fleas can live inside a warm house year-round no matter where you live.

Ticks are found in some places year-round. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in most parts of the United States, the greatest chance of infection by a tick bite is spring and summer.

Tips for Using Flea and Tick Products

  • Read the label carefully before use. If you don’t understand the wording, ask your veterinarian or call the manufacturer. “Even if you’ve used the product many times before,” says Stohlman, “read the label because the directions or warnings may have changed.”
  • Follow the directions exactly. If the product is for dogs, don’t use it on cats or other pets. If the label says use weekly, don’t use it daily. If the product is for the house or yard, don’t put it directly on your pet.
  • Keep multiple pets separated after applying a product until it dries to prevent one animal from grooming another and ingesting a drug or pesticide.
  • Talk to your veterinarian before using a product on weak, old, medicated, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to flea or tick products.
  • Monitor your pet for side effects after applying the product, particularly when using the product on your pet for the first time.
  • If your pet experiences a bad reaction from a spot-on product, immediately bathe the pet with mild soap, rinse with large amounts of water, and call your veterinarian.
  • Call your veterinarian if your pet shows symptoms of illness after using a product. Symptoms of poisoning include poor appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive salivation.
  • Do not apply a product to kittens or puppies unless the label specifically allows this treatment. Use flea combs to pick up fleas, flea eggs, and ticks on puppies and kittens that are too young for flea and tick products.
  • Wash your hands immediately with soap and water after applying a product, or use protective gloves while applying.
  • Store products away from food and out of children’s reach.

Source: FDA and CDC

Reporting Problems

Keep the product package after use in case side effects occur. You will want to have the instructions available, as well as contact information for the manufacturer.

  • To report problems with spot-on flea or tick products, contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378.
  • To report problems with FDA approved flea or tick drug products, contact the drug manufacturer directly (see contact information on product labeling) or report to FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine on a Form FDA 1932a.
  • If your pet needs immediate medical care, call your local veterinarian, a local animal emergency clinic, or the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. The NAPCC charges a fee for consultation.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

For the full consumer caution from the FDA, click here.

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  1. Avatar Of Paula Crawford

    Paula Crawford


    My blind cocerspanial was put to sleep yesterday tomer in chest an stomach..he used advantage.every one i know that used spots there animal have died from tumers

    • Avatar Of Velma



      Mine too. I put her to sleep on 7/13/17. She developed lipnomas ( look like tumors) all over her little body. We had switched from Frontline to Advantix II or III. All these treatments made her sick for about a week. I think she built up an intolerance of some kind for them and the liver could not longer clean out the toxins…..thus these tumor like lumps, some quite large. I will never give this stuff or heart worm rx to my dogs again.

  2. Avatar Of Victor Victor says:

    After applying one of the name brand flea/tick meds to back of my dog’s neck, he had a spell of vomiting accompanied by diarrhea. He seems fine now, as this was just a couple of days ago. With no apparent changes in his diet (can’t account for things he may have sniped while out and about), I’m led to assume that his apparent sickness was the result of the medication. My question is, should I be concerned in light of the FDA’s warning message?

  3. Avatar Of Kathleen



    I am grateful I found this website and the many comments of concerned pet owners. My cat, DSH, 10yrs, developed some type of a “twitch” as he would lay near me, sometimes asleep, sometimes awake. Sort of like when as a human you start to fall asleep sometimes and then suddenly catch yourself and wake up a little startled. At first I thought he was dreaming but then dismissed that as it would happen when he was awake too. It appeared it was a full body twitch. I reported it to my vet and we have been monitoring. (really don’t want to subject kitty to complete neurological work up at specialist if at all possible.) Come to think of it, I started using Advantage II for large cats a couple years ago. This twitching started sometime after that. Not sure its related, but some food for thought. Kitty was also diagnosed with asthma couple years ago at was treated with FLO Vent, an inhaler, and now on a Prednisone pill every other day for that. Not sure what may or may not have contributed. The twitching seems to have calmed down from what it originally presented. I hope whatever it is/was was not a precursor to a seizure. Anyone with any similar issue, sure would appreciate comments.

  4. Avatar Of Annran



    We’ve used Frontline for years with no problems, as I’ve been more concerned about problems from tick-borne diseases than issues with Frontline. However, I’ve stopped using it after reading about adverse reactions and deaths in dogs from Certifect (also a Merial product) which contains Amitraz. Note that Frontline does NOT contain Amitraz, but I just don’t want to take the risk with a topical chemical any longer. We’re using Evolv cedar spray now with decent success, although it smells pretty strongly after first applied – at least it’s not a toxic chemical.

    Read this review and the comments about Certifect – it’s frightening. Amitraz is also in Preventic collars – so please be aware!

  5. Avatar Of Hollyzee



    SO the FDA wants you to use caution using this flea treatment you put on the outside of your dog…but finds it totally ok to poison your dog with food they allow from China that has been proven to kill? sure…that makes total sense.

  6. Avatar Of Bobbimarie BobbiMarie says:

    I’ve used Advantix in all of my dogs (including my Addisonian) ever since it first came out, with no adverse effects. This year I switched to the new Seresto collars –not because I had a problem with Advantix but because spot-on products are so MESSY on a short haired dog! Seresto collars are made by Bayer and they’re effective for eight months, so the initial expense is well worth it. My vet uses them on his Border Collies.

  7. Avatar Of Laura



    My question is, why in the world is this product on the market???????? Seems the EPA just can’t say NO to the DRUG LOBBY! Get a backbone!

  8. it might help is you all YOUTUBED ADVERSE REACTIONS TO FLEA & TICK CONTROL on CATS AND DOGS .. see for yourself what these products do. Frontline itself has killed over 3,500 dogs ..they are stats for 2011 … that number has risen exponentially since then. The numbers are only reported cases .. that figure would more than quadruple if the EPA and FDA had better reaction reporting systems in place ,and also if all people were not so grief stricken
    to make it known.

  9. Ok .. it’s NOT PP … the information i have quoted and actually stated as such in m text the humane society … a Veterinary journal I had privy to because my brother is a vet and he uses and recommends this product. He has done for the past two yrs on so many pets he can’t recall. I am also a a scientist and have a Bsc. I work with CSIRO in Australia. Scalar waves DO in fact exist. My text is not about trying to sell anybody anything .. its about trying to get chemical products originally developed to kill cockroaches off our pets and away from the people who love them. I would NOT endorse and nor would my brother (VET) of over 30 yrs any product that causes harm to pets or people. The vets recommend and sell the chemical products because they get paid good money to do so.
    I take a strong dislike to people putting words into my mouth . it is not and I reiterate PP or any other network marketing, and scalar waves have existed and recognized by scientists .. Google Tesla, Lenz Law and other related topics. the discs do work and are safe to use on all pets.

  10. Avatar Of Kristin



    What does everyone use that works that’s not a chemical? I looked at the pet proctor and I have a hard time believing that it works.

  11. Avatar Of Lisa



    We’ve switched to a combo pill for our dogs. It is a heartworm preventative, plus flea treatment. Some of these treat ticks, some do not. We use Trifexis for our German Shepherd, but have heard bad things about it with small dogs, so we give Sentinil (sp?) to our small mixed breed. Both are chewables, but Trifexis obviously tastes horrible. The only problem with Sentinil is that it doesn’t repel or kill ticks. I think it may be the same for Trifexis, but we feel the combo pills are safer than the spot-on products.

    We do still use spot-on treatment for our cats. It’s Advantage II. They had problems with the cheaper brands and they didn’t always work either. Some are just dangerous. Does anyone here use something other than a spot-on treatment for their cat(s), and it’s just as effective? I’m just curious. We do like the Advantage brand. It’s always worked well, and our cat with lots of allergies also tolerates it well.

    • Avatar Of Helen Buchanan

      helen buchanan


      I have not heard anything good about Trifexus at all. I have head about it causing seizures. The only brand I trust is Merial-which is Frontline. I just starting using their pill form because I trust the company and my dog has dermatitis which is nice to not use something on his skin. I still remember too many negative things related to Advantage products to ever use them either.Frontline is the most expensive line,but compared to my dog being sick or to high vet bills from a bad reaction-no comparison.

      • Avatar Of Lisa



        Several people in our area have noticed Frontline not working as well as it used to. We tried it with our cats, and I was surprised to find an occasional flea on them. A theory is that fleas here may be developing a resistance to Frontline. Sounds strange, I know, but Advantage is the only product that has worked 100% with no side effects for our 3 cats. I haven’t heard the negatives of Advantage. What is it that’s bad?

      • Avatar Of Stephanie



        I’m surprised the FDA is talking just about the topicals when Trifexis is having so many more bad reactions. Check out the facebook page ‘does trifexis kill dogs’ and decide for yourself.

    • Avatar Of Kathy Hume Kathy Hume says:

      I have a small Poodle & our vet has changed her to Trifexis. You mentioned problems for small dogs using Trifexis. May I ask what the problem (s) were/are. Thank you so much, Kathy Hume.

      • Avatar Of Lisa



        I don’t know how or why, but many small dogs have had seizures and some have even had a deadly reaction to it. Since it’s worked so well with no side effects for our large dog, we continue it, but prefer the Sentinel for our small dog. Our new vet said it’s the safest. Our old vet didn’t say anything about its safety because he didn’t sell Sentinel & wanted the profit from the Trifexis. I’m thankful we switched.

    • Avatar Of Bonnie Brown Bonnie Brown says:

      Food grade Diatomaceous earth rubbed into a cat’s fur works to kill and prevent fleas. You can do the same with dogs. Sprinkle it around your home, where your animals sleep and it can be used outside as well, it is non-toxic (the food grade kind) and it works!

    • Avatar Of Inclined29



      If you are having trouble with ticks and you use Sentinel/Sentinel Spectrum or Trifexis….You can get a Preventic Collar, it’s good for 3 months.
      As for cats, I use Revolution, it helps prevent fleas, some intestinal parasites as well heartworms.

      • Avatar Of Carolyn Carl

        Carolyn carl


        Please DO NOT use a flea collar. I bought and used Adams. It has my dogs neck so raw it looks like raw hamburger. It has completely changed his whole personality. I don't even believe I have the same dog. Called the manufacturer, they said, sorry, it has been documented, take your dog to the vet. And you can bet they didn't offer to pay the vet bill.

  12. Avatar Of Andrea Addington

    Andrea Addington


    I used frontline for years, and I had a Golden Retriever that had seizures right after use of the spot on TX. My vet said it was unusual, and I don’t think he believed me. I quit using it after that. AA

  13. Avatar Of Traci



    There are many natural ways to repel fleas. You don’t need any nasty pesticides. If it is unsafe for you to touch then it is unsafe for your dog.
    Organic apple cider vinegar, organic virgin coconut oil, food grade diatomaceous earth, essential oils, flea comb, frequent vacuuming and wash your pet bedding often. I have 2 large dogs and have never had a flea problem and have never used one of those “spot-on” or any commercial flea and tick repellent.

    • Avatar Of Karen Karen says:

      You mentioned that you only used ‘natural’ products to prevent fleas and ticks. You mentioned several you use. What I’d like to know is ‘how much’, how often? The size/breed of your dog. I have Giant Schnauzers, one weighs about 78 lbs, and the male 90 lbs.
      Thank you.

    • Avatar Of Gail Daker gail Daker says:

      do I wash them with the vinegar , how much and how often do I give them the coconut oil.do I put it in their food wash them in it?

  14. Avatar Of Peggy Braun

    Peggy Braun


    I use Vectra on my dog and have never noticed any bad reactions. Used Frontline previously but the vet changed her to Vectra because of Frontline not working as well. Any one out there who has had a bad experience with Vectra?

    • Avatar Of Chris Chris says:

      Just because your dog hasn’t had an immediate reaction to Vectra or any other pesticides that kill fleas and ticks, doesn’t mean that it’s not hurting your dog. The pesticides build up in your dog’s system over time, and a few years from now, your dog might be diagnosed with cancer or a nervous system disorder. The warning on the instructions says to be careful not to get it on your skin when applying on your dog. If you do, wash your hands thoroughly for an extended period of time. Now, my common sense tells me that if it’s harmful to people, why wouldn’t it be harmful to your dog?

      • Avatar Of Gill



        Exactly what I think Chris

      • Avatar Of Patty Skupaka

        Patty Skupaka


        That is true, Chris, but what do we do about ticks. I was so afraid to use frontline on my little terrier mix and I used it but only after I found fleas or ticks and then my little baby go lymes. She was only eight when she died and I know it was from Lymes. I hate myself for not using it sooner. I do agree that stuff is poison. My stupid vet told me to put vasiline on it and it would back out and it wouldn’t hurt her but it didn’t work.

  15. Avatar Of Patricia



    Len, how do I find Pet Protector? I would like to know about the injection for flees the vet told me I could get, I wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing. Let me know if you think a shot would be better than spot on protection. The Pet Protecter sounds like it would be better than spot on.
    Thank you
    Patricia from California

  16. Avatar Of Kyle Copeland-Muse

    Kyle Copeland-Muse


    If Marilyn would be so kind as to give the name of the product she’s speaking of? I have German shepherd as well and am looking to not use these poisons anymore.

    • Avatar Of Len Gaskill

      Len Gaskill


      Pet Protector

    • Avatar Of Robert Key, Ii

      Robert Key, II



      I am an affiliate of Pet Protector. You can read more about it here: klick.tkr.me/petprotector
      You can take a chance and see how Pet Protector works with your dog or you can use the manufacturers chemical-cocktail products that have an adverse reaction on your dog’s overall health and wellness.

    • catandogsaustralia.com …… I too have bred and shown & trained GSD’s they are the best. I have studied the fleas and ticks as my profession is a scientist. as I have said in another statement .. I use the product and my brother a vet also uses and recommends to hundreds of ppl every week. He would not do so and nor would i if they didn’t work. i notice those who have the most negative things to say about the tags are those with no education or experience in the field, yet many people are prepared to listen to ill informed people before professionals in the field. i find that interesting and sad. Sad for their poor pets.

  17. Avatar Of Debbie



    I was wondering how many of these reported incidents were from people who have used Bob Martins products?
    There has been an increasing number of animals who have had severe reactions including many deaths after using this particular product, not only the spot on treatments but collars and powders etc.
    Many have complained to the company, to trading standards and to VMD DEFRA but with nothing being done about it. Somebody needs to put a stop to companies selling this type of ‘medication’ that does more harm than good. There are many good products that your vet can recommend.

  18. All chemical flea & tick controls harm pets .. vets are noticing a high incidence of cancers & tumours in dogs at early ages .. between 4 -6yrs old. They have had independent tests carried out ,and found that there is a relationship between the cancers and chemical controls. Surprise too that children are also affected,and also adults to a lesser extent ad they are not as susceptible, as growing children. The pesticides used are carcinogenic to people and to pets. Of course it is , its not a drug, it’s a pesticide and controlled by the EPA as a pesticide. The Humane Society is also carrying out tests with the same findings … I am using a new and revolutionary product that REPELS fleas & ticks in 2 yearly increments. Totally safe for ALL PETS A ND PEOPLE .. as it contains no chemicals to harm anything. I have been using these tags for over 2 years now with no fleas or ticks on my 3 dogs, Golden Retrievers x 2 and German Shepherd, and 2 cats. All rescues. My pets live on a property in a paralysis tick area ..not flea or a tick on them in the entire 2 year period since I made the change.. no behavioral problems or sickness in the pets either. Unlike when I used the chemical controls, I had my pets to the vet often with nondescript vague sickness symptoms. Well no more. I think it’s worth making the change, for the pets sake and those who love them.

  19. Avatar Of Lori Rondyke lori rondyke says:

    Is the Hartz kind safer to use.

    • Avatar Of Lauren



      No, hartz and sargents have the highest incidence of bad reactions. The clinic I work at advises owners not to use over the counter products because the safety testing is non existant.call your vet for guidance related to what topicals you should use.

    • Avatar Of Lisa



      Hartz is not safe!

  20. Avatar Of Lori Rondyke lori rondyke says:

    Is the Hartz kind good and safe.

  21. Avatar Of Jbg



    Used it for years on three different dogs with zero problems. Though we are switching over to a chew medication for fleas and mosquitos when this runs out.

  22. Avatar Of Sylvia



    Do not use Seargeant’s Flea & Tick, my poor dog almost died. She had a bad reaction to this one. She had been on the flea & tick killers prescribed by her Vet and so she was used to it without any adverse affects, but we bought this one during a weekend. It was burning her and she wouldn’t stop going in circles. She became lethargic and wasn’t responding well. I bathed her 3-4 times and finally rushed her to the Emergency Vet. Before buying the products, I recommend doing a Google search for the product name and then add “reviews” after the name. You will get a lot of feedback or comments from people with similar responses.

    • Avatar Of Linda Walker

      Linda Walker


      Your products need to come from the Vet. It maybe cheaper somewhere else, but it may claim your pet’s health.

      • Avatar Of Patty Skupaka

        Patty Skupaka


        That is what I thought,Linda and Sylvia but I took my brother shih tzu in to the vet and he put him on Vectra and he had a terrible reaction on that. He started rolling and trying to scratch his back and started jumping and running from room to room and jumping on my sister-in-law and going to the door. Terrible reaction and it lasted most of the night. I just don’t trust any of it.

  23. Avatar Of H. Soelaeman

    h. soelaeman


    Thanx for this information.

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