8 min read

People Say Their Pets Are Dying After Using Popular Flea Medicine

<p> Sarah V. Schweig </p>

It's every pet owner's worst nightmare - and it seems to be happening again and again.

"Until Friday, I had never heard about how dangerous Hartz flea drops are. Three weeks ago, I applied Hartz Ultraguard to both of my cats. Soon after, my 12 year old, Jackson started having strange leg spasms. It was like something was shocking him, and he would take off running," a woman named Staci posted to a website called Hartz Victims.

Staci describes that her cat stopped eating and became lethargic. "I thought he had grown tired of his food, so I tried several different brands. He would take a few bites and stop. Then he started drinking a lot of water. The weight loss was rapid." When Jackson was taken to the vet on Friday morning, his family was told that he was in acute renal failure and severely anemic. "The vet explained how many animals that she had personally seen die from Hartz flea medicines," Staci wrote.

By Friday evening, Jackson was gone.

There are stories like this on the website, stretching all the way back to 2002. And the Consumer Affairs page for Hartz Mountain Flea & Tick Drops doesn't look much better. As recently as October 31 of this year, a woman named Beverly wrote, "I bought this product yesterday, after one use of this product my cat started to develop seizure. Upon my research on this product, found out other people having the same issues ... I don't understand why it's on store shelves and it supposed to be recalled." On Amazon, 55 percent of the reviews of Hartz Ultraguard Flea & Tick Drops for dogs are just 1 star and rife with warnings to other consumers.

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did conduct an investigation of the effects of the chemicals in several brands of pet products, including Hartz. According to Hartz's own website, "the EPA required enhanced reporting for the year 2008 from all manufacturers of EPA registered topical pesticide products, which encompassed all classes of pesticide active ingredients, including cyphenothrin, phenothrin, permethrin, imidacloprid, dinotefuran, fipronil, amitraz, etofenprox, S-methoprene, pyriproxyfen, and metaflumizone."

The agency then issued a report with certain recommendations. The results of the findings on pet "incidents" back then are as follows:

  • For both dogs and cats, the main problems reported affected the skin, gastrointestinal and nervous systems and, although most reports were minor, many products (across several brands) had some reported deaths and major incidents.
  • In dogs, small dogs and dogs under 3 years were overrepresented in the reports. Some of these dogs may have been given a product labeled for a larger dog.
  • Cats suffered when products labeled for dogs were applied to them.

"It is important to consult your veterinarian when administering any biologic to your pet," Dr. Robert Proietto, a veterinarian in New York City, told The Dodo. "There are many safe options that should be discussed with your veterinarian to tailor the appropriate product to your pet's lifestyle. You should never apply or administer an over the counter product without consulting your veterinarian."

Sadly, stories of pets suffering, and even dying, continue to appear, and these deaths seem connected closely to Hartz flea medicine. Whether this comes from misuse of the product or the product itself is not totally certain.

Hartz did not reply to The Dodo's request for comment.

UPDATE: The Hartz Mountain Corporation replied on Wednesday with the following message:

"It is always concerning to see a response from a pet owner who has had negative experience or has read about negative experiences with Hartz products. Flea and Tick products are highly regulated parasite treatments and Hartz sells more flea and tick treatments than any other brand. Hartz has been providing high quality and affordable flea and tick protection for over 50 years. The brand works diligently to protect millions of pets each year from the dangers of fleas, ticks and mosquitoes and provide a positive pet and pet parent experience.

As with any parasite protection product, some pets experience adverse reactions to products. Hartz consistently monitors its products for safety and efficacy. Hartz offers pet owners assistance, 24 hours a day, from trained Veterinarians and Vet Technicians who are experts in flea and tick protection via 800 -275-1414. We are proud to state that although Hartz sells more treatments than any other brand of flea and tick protection, we have among the lowest percentage of adverse reactions in the market.

As with any product used on pets, we recommend following the directions on each product package before using. Hartz continues to be dedicated to consumers and their pets."