An article came out in USA Today on March 3, 2021 that raised many pet owner’s concerns about the safety of Seresto flea and tick preventative collars. In an effort to keep our Harmony family informed, we are sharing the article link, as well as, addressing the issues it presented.
While the information in the article is concerning and warrants caution and vigilance, it’s important to critically evaluate the information and acknowledge that there were several inaccuracies, assumptions, and opinions presented as facts in this article. If your pet has been using a Seresto collar without incident, it is highly unlikely that your pet will develop an issue and, in our experience with this product, we believe that you can continue to safely use Seresto collars.
We’ve had many staff and clients using this collar over many years without any major issues. If we see significant side effects from any preventatives or medications that we recommend in our own pets or our clients’ pets, we will immediately share that information, just as we sent out an email following the publication of this article. We want to let you know as our clients, in response to this article, that none of us working here at Harmony who use Seresto collars on our own personal pets removed the collar or has decided to discontinue using Seresto collars for our fur babies.
Statistics Around Seresto Collar Safety
While the article shares that over an 8-year period there have been 1,698 possible pet fatalities and 3,767 other serious incidents reported in respect to Seresto collar usage, this is less than 0.00006% incidence worldwide when compared to over 100 million Seresto collars used (25 million of these just in the US). Statistically speaking, this is very insignificant, and has the lowest incident report compared to any other effective flea/tick preventative on the market.
The global data from the 80 countries where Seresto collars are worn show that 1 in 568 users have had an incident with the vast majority of these reports related to non-serious application site irritation, such as reddening of the skin or hair loss in the collar area (and this is true of any collar or topical preventative).
What Could Have Caused Issues with the Seresto Collar?
The collar does have pesticides to prevent fleas and ticks, while they have been deemed safe by the EPA for use on animals and in proximity to people, any chemical can cause an unexpected reaction. The pest-preventing chemical in the Seresto collar is designed to stay within the oils and oil glands of your pets skin, with no to minimal amount of absorption in to your pets body, which generally makes them very safe with few systemic reactions. If a pet has an underlying disorder or abnormality within their skin barrier that allows for more absorption of the chemical, this may lead to a systemic reaction. In regards to the reports of serious injury to people, most were in regards to injury sustained upon opening the packaging or placing the collar on their dog. For dogs, many of the incident reports were from pets actually ingesting the collar, where the eating of the plastic actually caused more problems than the chemicals. With this in mind, it is very important to dive deeper into claims about incident reports and issues with these products that are likely user error rather than product faultiness.
Correlation vs. Causation
Unfortunately, the report in the recent article fails to differentiate between correlation and causation. Correlation is when two things happen at the same time. Causation is when the first thing causes the second. It’s always heartbreaking and unbearably sad when a pet passes away, and often times owners elect not to pursue a necropsy (which is a pet autopsy). A necropsy was offered to and declined by the clients in which the article was written about. If a necropsy and toxicology report is not performed, it’s impossible to determine the true underlying cause of death. So, while the Seresto collar may have been worn when the pet in the article died, there’s no way to know if it was a factor in the pet’s death, but it still will be included as an “adverse event” by the reporting agency. This can lead to a pet owner believing the Seresto collar is to blame when it’s possible that the dog or cat was suffering from an unrelated health problem or had access to other toxins. In speaking with the makers of Seresto, the vast majority of the reports of adverse events, there was no toxicology or necropsy performed on the pet, making it impossible to know if there was in fact a causation that the collar contributed to the pets death.
Counterfeit Collars—THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM WITH ANIMAL PRODUCTS ON THE INTERNET and not just for Seresto Collars.
Counterfeit products also play a part in this overall report. Sadly, there have been many counterfeit Seresto and other collars and products being sold from online retailers. These expired and/or knockoff collars report a much higher rate of reactions than from the official ones you purchase directly from your veterinarian. The majority of the consumers reporting issues confirmed that they bought their Seresto collars from the internet, where the quality and authenticity of products comes into question. These counterfeit products and packaging are designed to look identical to the ones they are trying to imitate. While worry for an ineffective counterfeit product is high, this pales in comparison to the possibility of it being harmful, which is of the utmost concern. The easiest way to prevent purchasing a counterfeit item and to improve safety measures with proper usage of the products is to purchase products through a reputable source such as your veterinary office, their online pharmacy, or directly from the seller’s website. Purchasing products through your veterinarian has the added benefit of allowing us to make recommendations specific to your pet, keeps your pet’s medical record up-to-date, and gives us the ability to better assess and address your pets needs if an issue does occur.
What if My Pet Already Has A Seresto Collar?
Unless you have seen any changes in your pet’s behavior, skin, or health, there is no need to remove the Seresto collar your pet is wearing if it is being effective at preventing fleas and ticks. Here at Harmony, we have not seen any severe adverse reactions either in pets or their 2-legged family members. We have seen some minor areas of redness, irritation, or hair loss were the Seresto collar was applied, the vast majority of these resolved with removal of the collar, but most were so minor continuing use of the collar was elected.
For the few pets that have sensitivities, just like with any medication or vaccination, there’s no way to predict in advance how pets will react.
Things to look for include:
- Redness or irritation around the collar site
- Alopecia (hair loss) around where the collar sits
- Temporary reduced appetite after applying the collar
- Stomach issues (vomiting or diarrhea)
- Other noticeable changes in behavior such as excessive scratching at the collar, restlessness, or agitation
These reactions are typically noticed within a few hours to days of wearing the collar. If you notice any of these symptoms call your veterinarian, it’s likely we will recommend you remove the collar and give your pet a bath. Dawn dish soap works well since it removes the oils from the skin. The medication from the collar is stored in the oil glands and thus not likely to be absorbed into the blood. Any of these reactions are an indication that we may need to consider a different class of preventatives. The few pets that react to the Seresto collar also typically react to other topical products, as they are all very similar classes of parasiticides, therefore less frequently applied topical products or oral alternatives will need to be considered.
Should I Still Use Flea and Tick Preventatives?
Yes! Absolutely YES!! We have unfortunately seen more pets get really sick from tick disease and suffer needlessly from flea allergies than we have seen adverse reactions from any preventatives in the last decade. In the Southeast where we are located, we will continue to highly recommend the year-round use of flea and tick prevention as the benefits of protecting your pet and your household from these disease-carrying parasites far outweigh the risks of the preventatives. If you would like to explore options for flea and tick control, Harmony is happy to discuss alternatives with you. Know that we’re always working toward providing the BEST and SAFEST care possible for your babies. Rest assured that if evidence arises at any time that brings into question the safety of these or any other preventatives, we’ll make you aware right away.