Thomas Dock, CVJ, Vet. Technician  
Male, 55
Indianapolis, IN

Interests: animals, Reading (sci-fi and fantasy)
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Pet Flea/Tick Meds:  What's Safe?

Mar 22, 2010 - 4 comments

EPA flea tick meds


pet flea tick meds


dog cat flea tick meds

Over this past year, we have seen numerous stories on adverse effects of topical or "spot on" flea and tick medications. Recently, a man in Texas won a court case against Hartz Mountain products after his bulldog died.

Over this past week, the EPA released their findings from the extensive survey of the more than 44,000 reported adverse events during 2008.

Bottom line is that the EPA will be asking for better label instructions, bigger fonts on labels, more pictures on labels. and, for manufacturers to narrow the weight ranges on their products. Additionally, there will be an additional investigation into the role that the "inert" ingredients may play in any toxicities.

After the EPA was able to "clean up" the submitted data of adverse reactions from the manufacturers, they found that 21 products (13 dog, 8 cat) from 8 different manufacturers accounted for about 29,000 events. (To me, this is very telling...where are the other 15,000 reactions? According to the EPA report cited above, many reports were considered inadmissable because no EPA registration number was recorded, the incident was considered generally ambiguous, the incident occurred outside the US or Canada, and there were multiple reports for the same incident).

Overall, 95-97% of the reactions were considered mild or moderate. Mild reactions are those that were minimally bothersome, had a rapid resolution and generally involved skin or eyes or mouth. No treatments were needed. Moderate cases were more pronounced than minor cases, required treatement, and could be more systemic in scope. But, these cases generally resolved without issue.

Keep in mind that 270 million doses of flea products were sold during 2008. If you co with the published number of 44,000 incidents, that is still only 1 adverse reaction for every 6,136 doses sold. If you toss out the ambigous reports (as it appears the EPA did), the incidence rate goes down to 1 reaction for every 9,188 doses and more than 95% of those were mild or moderate.

SO....to me this means that these products are generally safe.

Now...the question everyone is asking....WHOSE products caused the most issues?? Well, it turns out that answering that question is a little complex. Product sales are proprietary in nature so the EPA doesn't know how many of the 270,000,000 doses were sold by Hartz or Sergeants or Bayer or Merial. Plus, do Hartz and Sergeants have a bigger market share because they are OTC and thus we would expect more reactions (from the bigger sales)?

Furthermore, if you buy a product at Wal Mart or the grocery store, are you more or less likely to report a problem? Same thing with products from your veterinarian...

(I am starting to understand why statistics always confounded me so much in school!!)

From my limited, non-scientific research, OTC products were associated were associated with 60% of the 29,386 reviewed incidents. Veterinary channel products were associated with 40%.

BUT...here is the biggest "stat" that I came up with. If you applied the WRONG product to your pet (i.e. you put your dog's flea product on your cat), the OTC products were far more likely to cause a serious reaction or death than the veterinary channel products. Here's my proof: Of the 29,000 reports, 953 came from OTC products applied to the wrong species and 927 came from veterinary products applied to the wrong species. So, pretty equal numbers. BUT...227 severe reactions or deaths were associated with OTC products (almost 24%) compared to only 39 severe reactions or deaths with veterinary products (about 4.2%).

To me..this is HUGE. It shows the value and the importance of having your veterinarian be part of the process in deciding what product to utilize.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions...for example, did the reports of veterinary products (Advantage, Frontline) causing problems come from purchases online or in over the counter markets or from veterinary offices? We know that counterfeit flea products have been a problem in the past, but would that be reflected in the adverse effects reports?

Here's your tip for the day...when you need to choose a flea product (and most of us do at some point), talk with your veterinarian!! He or she understands your your pets risk factors, the local flea population and what product would work best for you.

Aggressive Dog?  Spork, the Dachshund faces possible euthanasia

Feb 24, 2010 - 86 comments

"Spork", a 10 year old dachshund was taken to his veterinarian for oral surgery earlier in the month. He is now at the center of a huge debate because the city of Lafayette Colorado has labeled him a "vicious dog" because he bit a veterinary technician on the chin.

FIrst, before I get to my opinion on this matter, let me set a few caveats. One...I was not there, I don't know anything more than what is being reported in the news, so I can't speculate on the actual occurrence. Two...I grew up with Dachshunds and I know their temperment. Three...I have some experience handling aggressive dogs and training veterinary staff on approaching pets and aggressive animals.

Ok...let's dive into this.

My very first question is if the veterinary technician needed to approach Spork and do whatever he needed to do to the pet, WHY was the owner still holding the dog?? First, you are putting the owner in danger of being bitten and second, you are likely making the dog more territorial than usual since he was in the arms of the owner.

Next,, why was your face next to a dog's face? Especially a dachshund's face? As a veterinary employee, there are times when you are going to have your head next to a dog's head, but never when you aren't 100% sure of the restraint. AND...there are several breeds that I would never go face to face with...Rottweilers, Akitas, Chows...and, yes, Dachshunds are included in that list. (Now remember...I like doxies... I grew up with them, but I don't trust them at all, especially around their feet or their faces!)

Next, it seems like the veterinarian and staff might be bearing the brunt of some bad press here. If the bite was severe enough (no report I have found says if the tech needed sutures or not), it might be the outpatient clinic or even emergency room that requested a dog bite report be filled out. The veterinarian's office has posted a statement that says "Jasper Animal Hospital has not advocated for, or participated in any way in subsequent decisions by the City of Lafayette to prosecute Spork's guardians," . In my opinion, I am betting they filed a report because they felt that was the proper and legal thing to do.

So...why are these owners being prosecuted? If I had to guess, I am betting that the city and the city's attorneys are being a little to rigid with their interpretation of the law and that once again, a government is not using common sense when it comes to enforcing the law.

To me, there appears to be several errors here ranging from allowing the owner to hold a pet during a procedure to excessive overexuberhance by city officials to prosecute a "senior citizen" dog. Let's not compound the issue by euthanizing a valued family member.

Maybe we should just simply mark his medical records..."caution...may bite".

Canadian Docs Say No More Pets In Cabins On Planes.

Feb 23, 2010 - 24 comments

So this story caught my eye this weekend and I am just not really sure how to react.

The Canadian Medical Journal posted an editorial in which the writer criticized Air Canada's allowance of small pets to travel in the cabin of planes as an "unnecessary allergic hazard" The editorial called for a ban on all pets in the cabin of planes.

As you many already know, peanuts are not served on airplanes anymore because the peanut dust would get into the recirculated air of the plane and cause reactions in passengers. This editorial says that pet dander can cause the same sort of problem and could be easily remedied by putting the pets into the cargo hold of the plane.

BUT..that type of response will have some pet owners in an uproar because they fear placing their pets down below where they might experience some dramatic temperature variations. Some other pet owners don't believe that it's very safe either. The good news is that accidents involving pets and airline travel is actually pretty rare.  We have a video at the Veterinary News Network that details just how safe this sort of travel really is...

The article goes on to say that about 1 in every 10 people are allergic to dogs or cats. That figure corresponds with an ABC report I read where about 15% of people are allergic to pets. Still, it's hard to imagine that with more than 100 people on every flight and hundreds of flights daily, that this has not come to light sooner. So, is it simply that not enough people fly with their pets in the cabin....or....is it less of an issue than the Canadian doctors are saying?

The final interesting thing to me with this article is a 1998 study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. This study found cat hair on 100% of the seats sampled on domestic flights. My questions are this: How many seats on each flight were sampled and do New Zealanders really fly with their cats that often??

I think a lot more study needs to be done before we consign all of our pets to the cargo hold.   I would love to hear from anyone who has either experienced problems because of a pet in the cabin or who has experienced problems traveling with their pet.

Man Poses as DVM, works for USDA.

Feb 19, 2010 - 2 comments



man poses as vet

This story was forwarded to me today and it really causes me no end of concern!!


In this story, a man posed as a veterinarian for many years and ended up working for our own USDA, inspecting our meat and the facilities where food is processed.  He also supervised several employees.

Two private firms had uncovered his lack of education, but somehow this slipped by the USDA.  According to the news story, the USDA even ignored a whistleblower until the news reporter showed up at their offices asking questions about this guy.

So, for me there are really two big issues here.  First, that this guy has the guts to pose as a veterinarian and then assume he is qualified to do inspections.  I have to wonder what he missed and if the public was ever at risk.

Second, this sort of blatant oversight is not restoring my faith in our government agencies and it is certainly not a positive reason that our federal government needs to grow even more!

I am so happy that I am part of several organizations that will help to eliminate these kinds of issues.  First, the American Society of Veterinary Journalism (ASVJ) has started to credential and certify individuals who provide animal health stories in the news or on websites.  Soon, you will be able to look for the Seal of Approval from the ASVJ (like the Seal of Approval for meteorologists) and for the credentials, Certified Veterinary Journalist (CVJ) after their name.

Also, the Veterinary News Network and PetDocsOnCall.com are offering pet owners up to date and trustworthy pet health information.

What do you think?  Does the USDA have any sort of excuse or defense?  What about the individual who posed as a veterinarian...how should he be punished?