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A report from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting has linked a popular flea and tick collar to the deaths of nearly 1,700 pets.
Published in USA Today on Tuesday, the report lays out documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that link Seresto flea and tick collars to thousands of pet deaths and injuries (not to mention some human injuries as well).
According to the documents submitted to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, the EPA has received reports of at least 1,698 pet deaths related to the popular Seresto collars from 2012 to June 16, 2020. Overall, the agency took in more than 75,000 Seresto incident reports in that time period.
The EPA documents were obtained through a public records request from the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization that keeps an eye on the EPA. The center provided the documents to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, an independent, nonprofit newsroom.
The Seresto collars, which are available for large dogs, smaller dogs, and cats, are collars that deposit small amounts of pesticide—imidacloprid and flumethrin—onto your pet's fur to get rid of any fleas, ticks, or other pests. Per the product packaging, owners can leave the collar on for up to eight months of odorless, non-greasy treatment that leaves your pet unharmed.
However, the dog owners who spoke with the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting wondered if their dogs' deaths were attributable to the collars. One of them, Massachusetts man Ron Packard, lost his two previously healthy cavachons in a matter of weeks. He attributed their deaths to their new Seresto collars and even started a Facebook group for other pet owners who'd had the same experience.
There—and in some Amazon reviews—pet parents describe some of the symptoms they attribute to the Seresto collars: skin irritation, lethargy, incontinence, and loss of motor functions.
The lion's share of the Amazon reviews are positive, however. Keri McGrath, a spokeswoman for Elanco (which sells the collars that are produced by Bayer), told the Center for Investigative Reporting that data from across the world indicates that one in every 568 Seresto users have reported an incident, the majority of which "relate to non-serious effects such as application site disorders, e.g. a reddening of the skin or hair loss below the collar."
She also noted that while certain issues may have occurred while the collar was being worn, the collar might not be the cause of them.
"No pesticide is completely without harm, but EPA ensures that there are measures on the product label that reduce risk," an EPA spokesperson said, per the USA Today story. "The product label is the law, and applicators must follow label directions. Some pets, however, like some humans, are more sensitive than others and may experience adverse symptoms after treatment."
Still, experts who spoke with the reporting center worried how the combination of chemicals in the collars are affecting pets and their humans and why the EPA has remained quiet about the thousands of incidents.
"The EPA appears to be turning a blind eye to this problem, and after seven years of an increasing number of incidents, they are telling the public that they are continuing to monitor the situation," said Karen McCormack, a former EPA scientist. "But I think this is a significant problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later."
You can read the full Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting story here.