A popular flea collar is linked to nearly 1,700 pet deaths. Now Congress is pushing the company to recall the product.

seresto flea tick collar
A display of Seresto flea and tick collars at a pet store in Rochester, New York.

  • A Congressional subcommittee is calling for a temporary recall of Seresto flea and tick collars.
  • A USA Today investigation found that 1,700 pet deaths linked to the collars were reported to the EPA.
  • Elanco, the company that sells the collars, told Insider it doesn’t think a recall is warranted.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a damning USA Today investigation linked a popular flea and tick collar to nearly 1,700 pet deaths, a Congressional subcommittee is calling for the products to be temporarily recalled.

“I think that it’s only appropriate in this case that the manufacturer do a voluntary recall,” Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, chairman of the House subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, told CBS News. “And I think that it’s appropriate, out of an abundance of caution, that we step back, we look at the situation, investigate and proceed from there.”

USA Today revealed earlier this month that more than 75,000 incidents involving Seresto collars had been reported to the EPA between 2012 and June 2020. These reports linked the collars to tens of thousands of animal injuries; 900 of the incidents involved people.

According to the EPA, which approved the collars in 2012, the Seresto collars “are made of plastic impregnated with insecticides,” which are released into an animal’s fur over a period of eight months. The agency does not consider those insecticides, flumethrin and imidacloprid, to be harmful to pets or humans. But a 2012 study by Bayer found that the two have a “synergistic effect” and are more toxic to fleas when paired together.

Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, told USA Today that “synergistic effect” likely applies to animals, too.

Krishnamoorthi sent a letter to pharmaceutical giant Bayer – which developed the collars – on Thursday requesting more information about the products’ toxicity. He sent another letter to Elanco, the company that sells the collars, asking it to recall the products and issue refunds.

‘I know these collars killed my dogs’

charlie and muffin
Karen Huffman’s dogs Charlie and Muffin.

When Karen Hufman read the USA Today report, her family was still grieving for their dog Charlie, who died in August.

“I was floored,” she told Insider. “I said, ‘Oh my god, now I know these collars killed my dogs.'”

Hufman said she bought Seresto collars for Charlie and her other dog, Muffin, in October 2018 and June 2019. After that second instance, Muffin, a 12-year-old Petit Basset Griffon Vendée, stopped eating. She died a month later.

Charlie, an English pointer-Beagle mix who was also about 12, got his third Seresto collar in February. Weeks later, he was diagnosed with a bladder infection, and then cancer. One study has linked dogs’ exposure to certain topical insecticides – though not the ones Seresto uses – to an increased risk of bladder cancer.

karen huffman
Karen Huffman on a paddleboard with her dog Charlie near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, September 2018.

“This month I finally put it together: It was the collars. It was just too much of a coincidence,” Hufman said.

She added that before their deaths, both of her dogs had been in excellent health – they got exercise and ate high-quality food. Still, she doesn’t have any evidence the collars were the cause of their deaths, and hasn’t filed any reports to the EPA.

According to Elanco, of the 25 million Seresto collars sold since 2012, less than 0.3% have been linked to incidents.

“The recent media reports were based on raw data and cannot be used to draw conclusions on what may have actually caused the issues,” Tony Rumschlag, senior director for technical consultants at Elanco, said in a statement to Insider, adding, “it is critically important to understand that a report is not an indication of cause.”

Keri McGrath, a spokeswoman for Elanco, told Insider that the company is cooperating with the House subcommittee’s request for information, but that “no market action, such as a recall, is warranted.”

“Elanco continues to stand behind the safety profile for Seresto,” she added.

The 1,700 deaths could be an undercount

Before the USA Today report, the House subcommittee members hadn’t heard about any issues with Seresto products. But now they’ve asked Elanco and Bayer to disclose any communications they’ve had regarding the collars’ toxicity with regulatory groups like the EPA.

small dog
A dog in a bar on February 19, 2019.

The subcommittee members think there are probably far more Seresto incidents than the number reported to the EPA, since those reports only represent pet owners who’ve realized there could be a link between the collar and their pet’s issue and then filled out a form or called the agency.

“We believe that the actual number of deaths and injuries is much greater, since the average consumer would not know to report pet harm to EPA, an agency seemingly unrelated to consumer pet products,” Krishnamoorthi wrote in his letters.

Hufman could be one such consumer.

“My two dogs aren’t included in that 1,700 number,” she said.

McGrath said the onus isn’t on pet owners to report incidents related to Seresto collars to the EPA: “That’s not the expectation,” she said.

Rather, Bayer or Elanco should pass information about incidents to the EPA after customers or veterinarians call the companies’ hotlines. Veterinarians can also reach out directly to the EPA, she said.

seresto flea tick collar
A flea and tick collar display at a pet store in Rochester, New York.

The EPA has not issued any warnings to consumers about the collars, but an agency spokesperson told Insider earlier this month that it takes “every incident reported seriously and review these data to see whether action is necessary.”

Seresto flea collars are still among the top products of their kind on Amazon and other sites like Chewy.com. Amazon spokeswoman Mary Kate McCarthy told USA Today, however, that the company will now be “looking into the product in question.”

Although the Seresto collars have 4.5 stars on Amazon, some customers have left reviews describing their pets’ adverse reactions. Many involved rashes on dogs’ backs and necks, or behavioral changes like loss of appetite.

“They’ve got to stop putting these collars on the dogs,” Hufman said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A popular flea collar was reportedly linked to nearly 1,700 animal deaths, but the EPA hasn’t issued any warnings about it

seresto flea tick collar
A display of flea and tick collars at a pet store in Rochester, New York.

  • Seresto flea and tick collars have been linked to 1,700 animal deaths, according to a USA Today investigation.
  • Despite 75,000 incident reports between 2012 and 2020, the EPA hasn’t issued any warnings about the collars.
  • Elanco, the company that sells the collars, told Insider “a report is not an indication of cause.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A popular flea and tick collar has been linked to nearly 1,700 pet deaths in the last seven years.

According to a USA Today investigation published Tuesday, these Seresto dog and cat collars have also injured tens of thousands of animals and harmed hundreds of people.

The report relied on documents acquired through a public-records request, which revealed that more than 75,000 Seresto collar-related incidents were reported to the Environmental Protection Agency between 2012 and June 2020. Many involved pets having allergic reactions in the spot the collar touched their fur. Some animals had seizures.

More than 900 incidents involved humans – one severe case involved a 12-year-old boy who was hospitalized with seizures and vomiting after sleeping with his collar-wearing dog.

The EPA regulates pesticide-containing products, but it has not issued any warnings to consumers about the potential risks associated with the collars. Karen McCormack, a retired EPA employee, told USA Today that Seresto collars have the most incidents of any pesticide pet product.

“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,” she said.

An EPA spokesperson told Insider that it takes “every incident reported seriously and review these data to see whether action is necessary.”

“The EPA encourages pet owners to read the entire label before using the pesticide product and follow all directions carefully, including monitoring your pet after application to see if side effects occur,” the spokesperson added. “If side effects develop, the label tells the consumer to consult the pet’s veterinarian immediately.”

‘Plastic impregnated with insecticides’

The Seresto collars were developed by pharmaceutical giant Bayer and sold by Elanco, a US pharma company.

small dog
A small dog in a bar on February 19, 2019.

Keri McGrath, a spokeswoman for Elanco, told Insider there is no established link between pet deaths and animals’ exposure to the active ingredients in the Seresto collars. The EPA first approved the product in March 2012, determining that the collars are safe for dogs older than seven weeks and cats older than 10 weeks.

“The article is misleading and misses several key pieces of information, leaving a skewed impression for readers,” she said of the USA Today investigation. “The numbers referenced in the original article represent the number of reports received and do not reflect causality.”

“A report is not an indication of cause,” McGrath added, noting that “if a dog were to be wearing a collar and experience any sort of adverse event, the collar would be mentioned in the report.”

According to the EPA, Seresto collars “are made of plastic impregnated with insecticides” that are released over a period of months and coat the animal’s fur. Those insecticides are flumethrin, which repels and kills ticks, and imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid that targets fleas.

A 2012 study by Bayer found the two insecticides have a “synergistic effect,” and are more toxic for fleas when paired together.

But Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, told USA Today that “synergistic effect” likely applies to animals, too. The center is the nonprofit that filed the public records request.

“For whatever reason, this combination is just really nasty,” Donley said. 

cat collar

The EPA does not consider either insecticide harmful for pets or people, though neonicotinoids are linked to bee die-offs around the globe, so some states have restricted their use.

McGrath said that more than 80 regulatory authorities around the world have “rigorously reviewed” the pet collar’s safety data, since Seresto is a globally marketed product.

‘He could barely walk without yelping in pain’

Seresto flea collars for dogs are among the top products of their kind on Amazon and other sites like Chewy.com. Bayer reported $300 million in revenue on Seresto products in 2019, according to USA Today.

The collars have 4.5 stars on Amazon, but some customers have left reviews describing their pets’ adverse reactions. Many involved rashes on dogs’ backs and necks.  

One reviewer said her toy poodle’s behavior changed after the dog wore the collar for two weeks.

“He could barely walk without yelping in pain and was extremely lethargic. Within 24 hours of removing the Seresto collar, the symptoms started to subside,” she wrote.

Another reviewer said their Boston Terrier had a reaction after having the collar on for a day: “Red and raw spot on her neck that she won’t stop scratching, trembling, lethargic, no appetite,” the customer said.

dog collar scratch
A dog scratching its neck in Tokyo, Japan, in December 2013.

According to McGrath, less than 1% of all collar users filed incident reports in 2020. 

“The significant majority of these incidents relate to non-serious effects such as application site issues – reddening of the skin or hair loss below the collar,” she said.

But Donley told USA Today the number of reported incidents for Seresto is likely an undercount, since any pet owner who has filed a report with the EPA has first realized there could be a link between the collar and their pet’s issue, then reported it over the phone or using an online form. 

“The fact that EPA has not done anything to alert the public that there might be an issue here, it strikes me as bordering on criminal,” Donley said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider