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Published March 19, 2010, 12:00 AM

Flea meds should be last resort

Dear Dr. Fox: I am writing in response to your request for information about dogs and cats who have had problems with topical anti-flea medications.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I am writing in response to your request for information about dogs and cats who have had problems with topical anti-flea medications.

My dog is now 14 years old and didn’t have seizures until he was almost 9 years old. His first seizure came the month after he finished four months of topical anti-flea treatment. That was the first time we had used the anti-flea product. Medication controlled his seizures until the following fall when we administered the anti-flea drug again. I had not made the connection at that time and was using the medication only during the peak flea season. After that, I stopped the anti-flea medication permanently, but we could not control the seizures until early last year when we started on levetiracetam (Keppra). He has been very well controlled on that medication, having had only one seizure in the past year.

The other changes we have made in the past year or two have been dietary. We have taken him off wheat completely. I also stopped giving him yellow/orange-colored cheese after reading in your column that the natural coloring agent, annatto, has been linked to seizures. He has always loved cheese, but now he only gets a bit of white cheese on occasion. – J.R., Rockville, Md.

Dear Dr. Fox: My best friend had a Shih Tzu, 10 years old, who weighed 23 pounds. Last week, Ginger was washed and groomed, and the medication Advantage Multi was administered. About 10 hours later, she vomited but settled down. About four hours after that, she cried a few times, tried to stretch, and in a flash, she was dead.

She was a healthy, happy dog, and we are heartbroken. What do you think? Can something be done? – R.J., High Point, N.C.

Dear J.R. & R.J.: Your information will help other dog and cat owners who need to be advised about the risks of topical (spot-on) anti-flea drugs that are widely advertised on TV and sold by mail order and over the counter at animal clinics. Adverse reactions should be reported to the manufacturers and the FDA.

It continues to amaze me that presumably intelligent people fail to make any connection with using these drugs when their animals develop neurological and other health problems. I am opposed to the use of these products, except as a last resort when all other measures to control fleas prove ineffectual during peak flea season. Or in year-round warm climates. But routine use as a preventive measure is deplored. Safe alternatives include using a flea comb, regular vacuuming, spreading Fleabusters powdered borate on floors, dusting with diatomaceous earth and giving a brewer’s yeast tablet daily.

Check my Web site for an integrated, low-risk approach to effective flea control at People who have experienced problems with these kinds of products should report to

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at