The 5-week-old striped tabby had a chance for a good life. But just three days after the young rescued kitten was fitted with a flea collar bought at a pet supply shop, he was dead on arrival at a mobile veterinary clinic in the Bronx.
“It is well known in the veterinary world, and most flea-collar packaging specifically states, not to use them on young kittens,” said Garo Alexanian, founder of the Companion Animal Network.
The nonprofit animal welfare group runs the city’s first low-cost mobile veterinary clinic – where the kitty landed – and helps cash-strapped New Yorkers at risk of having to give up their pets because they can’t afford veterinary care.
The kitty’s distraught owner, who was not identified, said he didn’t know the flea collar was highly toxic to kittens under 12 weeks old. Instead, the first-time cat owner followed the advice of a misinformed clerk at a large retail pet supply store in Westchester County, Alexanian said.
As the weather heats up, there are a dizzying array of toxic pesticides, repellents and growth inhibitors available to protect pets from fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.
While it’s imperative to protect pets against disease, experts say extreme caution is needed to prevent skin irritations, seizures and sudden death.
Last year, a significant rise in adverse reactions over a two-year period prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to warn consumers about using flea and tick products.
Still, veterinarians say it’s not enough.
“There’s very little regulation on this part of the pet industry, and it’s really ‘Let the buyer beware,'” said Dr. Phillip Raclyn, of Vets NYC, in Manhattan and Riverdale.
He is among a growing number of veterinarians who say the rise in adverse reactions is due to the rise in over-the-counter flea and tick products, which may be counterfeit or poorly made and dangerous. Moreover, they are often sold by sale people with little knowledge of the products or dangers.
In fact, in February the EPA issued a recall of counterfeit packages of Frontline and Advantage that were being sold in retail stores. (For more information, go to www.epa.gov).
The EPA also has warned consumers about using pesticides sold without a veterinarian recommendation.
For example, Bio Spot, which is sold in pet stores, contains a deadly chemical called permethrin. Bio-Spot acts similarly to nerve gas by paralyzing the parasites’ nervous system and eventually killing it. Though the makers of Bio-Spot call it a “topical” flea and tick treatment, the EPA reports that the permethrin in Bio-Spot is actually absorbed by the animal’s skin and oftentimes causes adverse reactions in dogs and cats.
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