DEAR DR. FOX: Nine days after my 1 1/2-year-old healthy cavalier King Charles spaniel was given a single dose of the oral flea and tick preventative Bravecto, he became ill, exhibiting many of the side effects published by the manufacturer. These included diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy. He also developed problems with his kidneys, ultimately resulting in euthanasia. A necropsy was performed, and initial testing indicates a possible cancer, but there is no explanation for the sudden transformation from healthy to deceased.
Until the death of my dog, there was no central platform available for people to discuss possible side effects and problems associated with use of Bravecto. Most owners and veterinarians are unaware that all side effects need to be reported to the drug manufacturer, Merck, and to the Food and Drug Administration. For these reasons, I started a new group on Facebook called, "Does Bravecto Kill Dogs?"
In less than three weeks, almost 1,800 people have joined the group. Seven individuals reported that their dogs died within a short period of taking this medication. We found seven additional reports of deaths on other websites, which have been copied to this Facebook group. Additionally, in this short period of time, over 25 reports of horrible side effects have been posted. Common side effects reported include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, failure to eat and seizures. While most of these were reported as side effects in the product brochure, the symptoms are not short-lived. Numerous dogs have required treatment by veterinarians or have been hospitalized. Most of the dogs who died experienced these symptoms subsequent to taking the medicine. Reports of kidney and liver failure have been reported, along with three individuals who are concerned cancer may have developed from this medicine. We are trying to bring awareness to this medicine so that all side effects can be documented and reported. Please visit our Facebook group -- "Does Bravecto Kill Dogs?" -- to report any side effects your dog has experienced subsequent to taking Bravecto. Owners should contact Merck with any adverse side effects and report them to the FDA using the FDA Event Adverse Reporting Form. -- S.W., Andover, Massachusetts
DEAR S.W.: Thank you for your information and vigilance on this product. Readers of my column should know that I do not advocate the routine use of most of the widely marketed anti-flea and -tick products, both oral and topical, from the big pharmaceutical companies. For safer, integrated control and prevention of these external parasites, visit DrFoxVet.net and see the article "Preventing Fleas."
DEAR DR. FOX: I was disappointed to see yet another attack on homeless cats in your column. It is particularly unseemly that someone who could and should be an animal advocate would embrace the dark side. Your thinking is a classic case of blaming the victim. Many cats already carry the burden of misguided guardians who believe they should be allowed outside, silly old superstitions, nonsense myths and tired stereotypes that, even in the 21st century, often surround them.
The letter writer used violent words like "terminate" and "eliminate," displaying a disturbing level of ignorance and total lack of empathy and compassion. My husband and I managed a feral colony for decades on our 20 wooded acres. They were a wonderful group who helped keep natural balance. Since the last old cat passed away, we have been overrun with field mice and chipmunks.
We live in the heart of prime Midwestern farmland, where cats are very welcome on farms because they keep down all rodents, as well as the myriad birds who can wreak havoc in planted fields. I can assure you that nuisance birds and chipmunks are not beloved everywhere. They are merely tolerated as part of the ecosystem. Cats deserve to live every bit as much as any of these critters -- maybe more so. -- S.A., Springfield, Illinois
DEAR S.A.: Thanks for your heartfelt and informative letter (which I shortened for publication). Yes, it is a controversial issue.
Establishing a colony of cats in your woods would lead to rodent population decline, and their resurgence after the last of your colony cats died was probably because the area's indigenous rodent-controlling predators, such as red and grey foxes, owls, hawks and even snakes, had been displaced competing with the cats for the same prey.
I am as opposed to the deliberate release and "dumping" of cats deemed unadoptable by humane societies and animal shelters back where they were caught as I am against mass killing of such cats. Instead, I encourage setting up humanely operated enclosed sanctuaries to protect them, other free-roaming cats, wildlife and public health. It will take another generation or more before a consensus is reached in all communities as to how best address the free-roaming and feral cat issue.
DEAR READERS: I am now closing further discussion on this issue in my column and refer all concerned to my report posted on my website, "Releasing cats to live outdoors: humane, environmental and One Health concerns." I trust that this will help convince local humane societies, notably the Washington Humane Society in our nation's capital, to phase out releasing cats outdoors after neutering to fend for themselves.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)