DEAR DR. FOX: I breed German shepherd dogs, and in the last year, I have taken back three dogs I had placed years prior. All three were loving, loyal and properly socialized -- no history of any aggression, toward humans or animals -- but were returned to me after sudden, tragic incidents. They were each 2 or 3 years old at the time.
One of them, Helmut, spent his first 18 months with his miniature pinscher companion. They were BFFs. The owner relates that she gave Helmut Nexgard early one morning, and at midnight, he attacked and killed the min-pin. I got similar stories about the other two: great dogs one day; the next, confused, aggressive nightmares.
I have to confess, I am no fan of drugs like Nexgard and Bravecto, having lost five of my dogs in a “Bravecto nightmare.” Here’s the progression: I gave all five dogs the chew on the same day. Three hours later, I found Shadow in a grand mal seizure; she died as I was carrying her to the car for an emergency run to the vet. I couldn’t save her. Thirty days later, Max’s liver failed. He was euthanized, followed by Cujo 12 days later. Satan developed rear-leg paralysis, and several months later, I had to make that decision to do the humane thing again. Daisy developed cancers of the liver and spleen. I treated her by putting her on a no-carb diet with immune system-boosting mushrooms and veggies, along with a 1,100-mg therapeutic CBD oil. She passed two years after her Bravecto chew and one year after her cancer diagnosis.
I filed reports with the FDA. My vet said Bravecto had nothing to do with what happened to my dogs. A Merck representative contacted my (ex-)vet, and the dogs’ health records were manipulated to show that they had underlying issues, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, they were seniors between the ages of 12 and 14, but they were healthy, active dogs up to the day they received Bravecto. -- D.M., Collinsville, Oklahoma
DEAR D.M.: I appreciate the details of your experiences using the widely marketed Bravecto on your dogs. With the human-created COVID-19 pandemic taking all our attention right now, the important issue that you raise will hardly get any notice. But it is all part of the Big Problem. More and more veterinarians are blowing the whistle on the government-sanctioned use of these insecticides on companion animals. And a few are making noise over treating livestock with these drugs, with consequential harm to beneficial insects and other organisms in our soils and waters -- and all other wildlife that depend upon such nontarget organisms for food.
Veterinarian Dr. W. Jean Dodds, in this spring’s Animal Wellness journal, advises cat and dog owners to avoid isoxazoline-containing flea and tick meds, including Bravecto, Nexgard, Simparica, Credelio and the recently FDA-approved Revolution Plus.
Other products used to control companion animal parasites include neonicotinoids and avermectins, which get into the environment from animals’ coats and feces. Doctors C.J. Little and A.B. Boxall attest that “the indiscriminate prophylactic use of antiparasitic drugs in companion animals is irrational, wanton, unnecessary, irresponsible and ecologically dangerous. It should not be considered good practice” (statement from their letter, “Environmental Pollution From Pet Parasiticides,” published in the U.K.’s Veterinary Record on Jan. 25).
I consider the marketing of these and other pesticides as criminally negligent behavior, but it is an accepted -- and highly profitable -- norm for all involved, including the mainstream veterinary profession.
Of course, no one wants fleas and ticks harming their companion animals. These pests can set off pandemics and epidemics: Fleas transmitted the Black Death, and ticks infect thousands of people each year with Lyme and other diseases. And these pests are on the rise today thanks to climate change, wildlife mismanagement and the killing of natural pest-controlling birds, bats and other species.
But there are less harmful and more effective approaches. On my website, you will find a series of steps we should all take to minimize the health risks of fleas and ticks to our animals and ourselves. Go to drfoxonehealth.com and look under the title “Preventing Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes.”
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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 DrFoxOneHealth.com.)