DEAR DR. FOX: We purchased Seresto collars for our wirehaired pointing griffons, who were approximately 7 and 8 years old at the initial exposure. We found the collars to be effective against fleas and ticks. They wore the initial collars for the full, recommended eight months.
We purchased a second set of collars, and within the first four to six months of that second set, we noticed that our male dog had lost weight and was reluctant to eat hard kibble or hard treats. We also noticed that he had become hoarse and had started to drool on a regular basis. We took him to our vet and the exam and bloodwork were normal. We returned him to the same vet 10 days later, when the vet identified a golf ball-sized mass under his jaw.
We removed the collars from both dogs at this time. Biopsy confirmed a squamous cell cancer that had developed in an area that was not amenable to surgical intervention. We were told that this type of cancer is not typically found in lymph nodes in the neck. Our beautiful boy died eight weeks later.
Our female started to have a noticeable change in her appetite, was sleeping all the time, and was increasingly weak, which we initially thought was related to the loss of her brother. But we took her to be evaluated as well. Our same vet felt there was something significant at play; we had an ultrasound performed and were floored to learn that she had abdominal lymphoma. She passed away four weeks later.
We lost two previously healthy dogs within five months of each other. We called the breeder and could find no known history of cancer, and also reached out to the owners of a littermate of our female. They have not used the Seresto collar and their dog is fine.
We believe that the Seresto collar has caused the death of our beloved griffs. Our vet does not agree, but does feel that both dogs were exposed to something that caused their death.
We are devastated by the loss of our dogs, and felt angry when our vet totally denied that there could be any connection between the use of the collars and the cancer diagnoses. He stated that there was significant safety testing performed and that the collars were totally safe. We don’t agree. -- D.S., Ravena, New York
DEAR D.S.: I regret what happened to your beloved dogs. Skeptics will say there is no proof, that it’s all mere coincidence and most dogs do fine. I vehemently disagree. These are highly toxic chemicals (some also used on the produce we eat), so the precautionary principle should be applied.
Do the benefits outweigh the risks? People either fear fleas more than they love their dogs or else they believe the manufacturers of these products -- and the governments around the world that regulate them -- that say they are safe. There are safer alternatives, as posted on my website under “Preventing Fleas.”
Your veterinarian is professionally bound to report this possible adverse reaction in your dogs to both the government and manufacturers. He should also share appropriate websites with colleagues concerning animal health and poisoning issues with collars and similar anti-flea and -tick products that are put on animals’ skin or are slow-release from a collar or medallion.
DEAR DR. FOX: My little poodle, age 15 years, has warts and seems to get more and more as time goes on. Is this a sign of an illness, or what else could cause them? She has a heart murmur and sneezes a lot. Is this a symptom of her heart condition? -- T.G., Phoenix
DEAR T.G.: Warts are not uncommon in dogs young and old. They are caused by a papilloma virus, similar to those causing warts in humans, but are not contagious to us. Their presence can indicate a weakened immune system, but they tend to disappear eventually without treatment.
They do not turn cancerous and are best left alone, unless they start to cause the dog discomfort -- as on an eyelid, or when one or more becomes itchy from secondary infection. Some veterinarians remove them for aesthetic reasons in older dogs, often under general anesthesia, but I do not concur with such treatment considering the costs and risks.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.)