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The Ruff Report: Despite pet deaths, flea, tick items use called a must

Pet parents are being urged to continue using flea and tick control products on their dogs and cats - despite a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warning about them causing some animals to become ill or even die - because the benefits of preventing deadly insect-borne disease outweighs the risk of pets having an adverse reaction to the insecticides.

The Hunt of Her Life: A book series about a rescue dog that will touch your heart

Any illness that occurs to pets is normally mild and chances of a fatality are tiny as long as the products are used correctly, according the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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A book series about a rescue dog
that will touch your heart

THE HUNT OF HER LIFE is a nonfiction book series about Samantha, an unwanted rescue dog who the author adopts at age 2. This beautifully designed deluxe full-color book, by longtime newspaper journalist Joseph A. Reppucci, contains more than 60 vibrant color photos of dogs to help illustrate the compelling and uplifting story of Samantha - a pretty tricolor bird dog who uses her warm personality to win people over and build a new family after being put up for adoption by a hunter because she is gun-shy and afraid to hunt. Learn how she uses her special bonding abilities with people to help her eventually make a transition from the hunting fields to family life. While reading the The Hunt of Her Life, you will travel with Samantha and the author along a trail filled with surprising twists, sudden turns, mystery and even what some call a miracle. And when the journey is finished, you may never look at people and their pets, motherhood - and perhaps even God - in the same way. The Hunt of Her Life is must reading. It will take you on a captivating journey - a trip like no other - that will touch your heart.

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"The important take home message is that although adverse reactions can occur with all flea and tick products, most effects are relatively mild and include skin irritation and stomach upset," ASPCA veterinary toxicologist Steven Hansen states in a media release. "Pet parents should not discontinue using products as directed by the product label when faced with a flea infestation."

The EPA has placed tougher restrictions on the insecticide treatments commonly used on pets and is requiring revisions to labeling to help pet owners use the products properly after receiving reports about dogs and cats becoming ill - and in some cases even dying - after application of the products. Spot-on pesticide products, generally sold in tubes or vials and applied in between a pet's shoulders or in a stripe along the back, caused the most severe problems, but trouble has also been reported regarding the use of sprays and collars.

But despite the reports of problems, the ASPCA says its research indicates that using the products as directed and making adjustments based on an animal's health minimizes the chances of an adverse reaction.

And the risk to pets from potentially deadly diseases caused by fleas and ticks is greater than the chances of adverse reactions when insecticide products are used properly, the ASPCA says. Fleas can cause anemia, carry tapeworms and can transmit infections such as Bartonella, and ticks transmit many diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

ASPCA epidemiologist Margaret Slater analyzed data from public calls to the ASPCA's poison control center regarding flea and tick products. When the products were used in accordance with directions on the label on dogs and cats, the review of pet owner calls to the center found:
  • 69 percent reported mild illness to their pets.- 22 percent reported moderate illness to their pets.
  • 7 percent reported no illness to their pets.
  • 2 percent reported major illness to their pets.
  • 0.1 percent reported the death of their pets.
The biggest problems with the use of flea and tick products occurred with cats, Dr. Slater said. When cats were treated contrary to directions on the label, they were significantly more likely to experience severe reactions. In those cases, the review of pet owner calls to the center found:
  • 45 percent reported moderate illness to their cats.
  • 19 percent reported major illness to their cats.
  • 18 percent reported no illness to their cats.
  • 17 percent reported mild illness to their cats.
  • 2 percent reported the death of their cats.
The findings show the importance of using the flea and tick products in accordance with the directions on the labels, Dr. Murray said. "Products labeled for dogs must never be used on cats. Doing so can result in serious illness and even death."

Adjustments also should be made based on an animal's health, Dr. Murray said. "A veterinarian must always be consulted before using spot-on flea and tick treatments on very young, old, sick or pregnant pets."


The Ruff Report is a column that appears on, a blog written by Joseph A. Reppucci, a retired editor from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts. Mr. Reppucci worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years. He is the author of the book, The Hunt of Her Life, a heartwarming story about his once-in-a-lifetime rescue dog. Find it on and


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