|Necropsy unable to determine if Hartz product caused pet's death|
|By: Kassia Micek, Courier staff|
A Lake Conroe family now has the cremated remains of their 1-year-old cat Shadow back after they sent his body for a necropsy to determine his cause of death in early May.
In April, the Hinemans lost Shadow to what they believe was a bad reaction to Hartz Advanced Care Once-a-Month Flea and Tick Drops. However, when they tried to conduct a necropsy nearly a week later there was no viable tissue left.
"Now I have him back," Sandra Hineman said. "I don't plan on using Hartz again."
However, Hartz Spokesman John Mullane said the product Hineman used was for cats 10 pounds or heavier, which Shadow was not.
Kerri L. Schwartz, Spring Hill Animal Hospital veterinarian, saw Shadow the morning after the application. Schwartz said it was the first time she saw him and did not know if he had existing health problems that could have caused the seizures, sneezing and loss of bowel movements.
"When I see them they've gone through the initial stages," Schwartz said about the cats who've had adverse reactions to products.
At that point cats require intensive care to rule out other possibilities, which is expensive, she said. Schwartz does not recommend Hartz products and does not use Hartz on her animals.
"I think there's much safer alternatives," she said. "What we recommend is Frontline or Advantage. I think it justifies the extra expense."
Allergic reactions to Frontline or Advantage include redness or itchiness near the application area, whereas Hartz allergic reactions can result in seizures.
"The public doesn't have wide knowledge of some of the pesticides out there," Schwartz said. "I think some of the responsibility falls on the public on how they're using the product."
Hartz's active ingredient is phenothrin, which is a synthetic pyrethroid, the natural pesticide used in flea dips that comes from the chrysanthemum plant. As fleas become resistant to products, companies look for stronger products like phenothrin, but because it's a pesticide it is harmful to pets and humans, Schwartz said.
Permethrine is the active ingredient in dog products, but is lethal on cats.
Frontline's active ingredient is fipronil and Advantage's active ingredient is imidacloprid. Both attack an insect's exoskeleton and are effective against fleas. These products have acute toxicity, but are not harmful to pets or humans, Schwartz said.
If pet owners have questions concerning a product they should consult a veterinarian, she said.
The Hinemans aren't the only local dissatisfied Hartz customers.
In March, Toni Blevins, of Conroe, used Hartz Advanced Care Flea and Tick Drops Plus+ on her two cats Pepper and Bonnie and within days they started having seizures, ear twitching, scratching and redness in the ears. She bathed them and took them to Tenderpaws Animal Hospital, at 4235 N. Frazier in Conroe, where Veterinarian Deborah A. Morris treated them. Bonnie stayed overnight and Blevins' bills totaled $160.20.
"In my experience with Hartz flea products used in cats, I have seen reactions similar to this and some even worse. The symptoms that Pepper was presented with at my clinic is consistent with those I have seen in previous patients who have had allergic reactions to the Hartz flea product for cats," Morris said in a letter she provided Blevins.
When Blevins contacted Hartz about the incident, she was given case number #67215 and told to mail Hartz the unused product and all vet bills and Hartz would reimburse her, Blevins said.
"I don't want their money. I want their products off the market," she said. "We were very lucky we were able to save (Pepper and Bonnie)."
"Hartz flea and tick products protect many millions of pets and their families every year from pests," Hartz spokesman Mullane said in a statement. "As with all insecticides, however, there is a risk of adverse reactions.
"To minimize the chance for adverse reactions, it is essential that these products be used prudently, and in compliance with the label instructions. The product should be applied so it does not drip off the pet and become available when cats are grooming."
Since 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating Hartz, said EPA Press Officer Enesta Jones.
The EPA announced in November 2002 that Hartz agreed to change the application instructions on two of their flea and tick products for cats and kittens to prevent future incidents.
In 2003, after the label changes, the EPA received 1,500 reports on Hartz Advanced Care Flea and Tick Drops Plus+ and 2,200 reports on Hartz Advanced Care Once-a-Month Flea and Tick Drops, which was down from the 5,000 total reports received in 2002, prior to the labeling changes, Jones said.
"Incident reports ranged from minor adverse effects including skin irritation or hair loss at the application site and salivation to more serious effects on the nervous system, such as tremors (twitching of muscles) and, in some circumstances, severe full body tremors (convulsion). Unfortunately, in some cases, death has also been reported," according to www.epa.gov.
However, Jones said, "We don't know if there's a correlation with the products and the death of a cat or kitten."
The EPA regulates Hartz products, Jones said. She is not aware of any adverse reaction reports concerning other pet care manufacturers.
Mullane encourages pet owners who've had bad experiences to call Hartz at (800) 275-1414 to file a report.
"If anyone says something we investigate," Mullane said. "Any adverse reactions get reported to EPA."
Kassia Micek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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