As Seresto Flea Collars Come Under More Scrutiny, Here's What Dog Owners Should Consider
After they were linked to thousands of dog deaths and illnesses last year, the Seresto flea and tick collars were the subject of a Congressional inquiry last week from a subcommittee that urged a recall of the popular collars.
Ahead of a hearing last Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy—made up of members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Reform—released a 24-page report outlining its concerns with the Seresto collars. It linked 2,500 pet deaths and more than 98,000 health incidents to use of the collars.
Manufactured by Elanco Animal Health, the Seresto flea and tick collars ideally provide dogs with eight months' worth of protection against fleas and ticks. The collars are intended to slowly release their active ingredients, spreading them over dogs' bodies so they kill fleas and ticks before they bite. Elanco has sold more than 33 million of them in the last 10 years, making the collars one of the most popular pest-prevention pet products.
In urging the Seresto recall, which Elanco has thus far declined to issue, the subcommittee outlined its case against the collars: Canadian regulators decided not to allow Seresto sales in their country; the collars were approved through a "flawed" review process from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Seresto collars had much higher incident rates than other flea and tick collars.
Rather than fully investigate the collars, the subcommittee's chair claims, Elanco chose to maintain its profits.
So with that in mind, what should pet owners know about these collars? Should they be recalled?
No, says Randy Wheeler, DVM and executive director of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association. He echoed what Elanco Animal Health President and CEO Jeffrey Simmons told the subcommittee: The collars passed some 80 tests set forth by the EPA to gain retail approval.
"There is no evidence in the scientific evaluation conducted for registration purposes or in the regularly reviewed pharmacovigilance data to suggest a recall of Seresto is warranted," Wheeler tells Daily Paws.
If you want to evaluate whether the collars are safe for your dog, you can read the subcommittee's report and even watch the testimony. But the most important thing you should do is talk to your dog's veterinarian. They can help decide what's best.
Here's what else you should keep in mind:
Few Medications Are Risk-Free
Both Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the subcommitee's chair, and Simmons noted in their opening statements that few medications are free of risk. Of course, Krishnamoorthi argued the collars present too much of a danger to dogs while Simmons told lawmakers the side-effect risk is "not unreasonable."
Again, this is why you should talk to your veterinarian. They know your dog best and can assess your pup's profile better than anyone and give you their best recommendation.
"Pet owners should check with their veterinarian and consider their recommendation—their veterinarian is concerned about the health and well-being of their patients and would not recommend a product [that] would be harmful." Wheeler says.
Since the collars began facing this round of public scrutiny last year, Elanco has maintained that the collars might not be causing the dogs' health issues or deaths. Its officials argue that the dogs might be experiencing unrelated problems while wearing the collars rather than the collars actually causing the problems.
Wheeler heard such an example from a fellow veterinarian. A dog owner called, worried her dog's sudden diarrhea had been caused by the Seresto collar the pup had worn for months. Turns out, a food problem caused the diarrhea.
Of course, detractors like Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat, still say the collars should be pulled off shelves for "comprehensive safety testing" to determine whether they truly are at fault.
Speaking last year with the American Veterinary Medical Association, Renee Schmid, a veterinary toxicologist and senior consulting veterinarian for the Pet Poison Helpline, said the helpline had received about 500 calls about the Seresto collars since 2015. However, Schmid said, the vast majority of calls concerned dogs ingesting the collars—either theirs or a companion dog's.
So if you are using a Seresto collar—or another brand—make sure your dog is wearing it properly. The AVMA and your vet can help you out with that.
Other Flea Treatment Options
There are other ways to help control pests on your dog besides use of Seresto flea and tick collars. If the reports of deaths and illnesses linked to the collars concern you, then you should look for another prevention option.
Your vet should be able to point you to alternative products. For instance, there are flea prevention pills, or topical medicine that can be applied to your pet's fur to stave off pests. You can even fit your pup for a different flea and tick collar if you're so inclined.
In the end, it's up to you to do what's best for your dog.