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Pfizer to Discontinue ProMeris Flea and Tick Treatment

Flea and Tick TreatmentAccording to a spokesman for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the company will stop distributing ProMeris, a topical flea/tick treatment for dogs and cats, in the fall.

Introduced in 2007, ProMeris was marketed as the first spot-on treatment containing the chemical metaflumizone. ProMeris for Dogs is also used to treat demodectic mange and chewing lice.

A study published in Veterinary Dermatology indicates dogs being treated with ProMeris Duo run the risk of acquiring a variant of the condition pemphigus foliaceus (PF).

According to Pfizer, ProMeris is being discontinued because it doesn’t fit their ‘strategic animal-health portfolio.’ The company has not acknowledged a connection between the PF study results and their decision to discontinue ProMeris.

Dr. Becker's Comments:

As regular readers here know, I’m not a fan of constant application of chemical pest-control products.

The fact is there simply is no chemical-based pesticide that doesn’t have the potential for side effects. It doesn’t matter whether the product is in pill form, in a dip, a shampoo or a collar, it’s not entirely safe. What goes on your pet also gets inside him through absorption or ingestion.

ProMeris for Dogs, also called ProMeris Duo, contains two active insecticides, metaflumizone and amitraz. ProMeris for cats contains only metaflumizone. Metaflumizone is intended to kill fleas; amitraz kills ticks.

Metaflumizone Side Effects

According to the Fluoride Action Network Pesticide Project veterinary use of metaflumizone can result in:

Loss of muscle coordination Decrease in body weight Blood and bone abnormalities
Gene mutation Reproductive developmental toxicity Liver toxicity

Amitraz Side Effects

According to Wildpro, amitraz is toxic to horses and can be toxic for cats and rabbits. It should not be used on Chihuahuas or on dogs suffering from heat stress.

Side effects can include:

  • Sedation for up to 24 to 72 hours with lethargy, central nervous system depression, bradycardia (slowed heartbeat) and slow, shallow breathing.
  • Ataxia (loss of muscle coordination)
  • Bradycardia
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Hypothermia
  • Transient hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)

Older dogs, dogs in debilitated health and very small breeds are more likely to have an adverse reaction to amitraz.

Pemphigus Foliaceus (PF)

According to Veterinary Practice News:

PF is the most common spontaneously occurring autoimmune skin disease of dogs and typically displays as lesions on the face, nasal planum [tip of the nose] and ears. The reaction is rare but serious, says the study’s lead author, Thierry Olivry, DrVet, PhD, Dipl. ACVD, of North Carolina State University.

When PF occurs spontaneously, the triggers are assumed to be genetic or environmental. Spontaneous PF is more prevalent in Chow Chows and Akita Inus.

Cases of PF triggered by topical use of ProMeris for Dogs have been seen primarily in Labrador Retrievers and other large breeds. Lesions were found at both the ProMeris application site and at locations distant from it.

In addition to skin lesions, more severe reactions can occur. Systemic illness was reported in some dogs and required immunosuppressive (steroid) treatment. After lesions heal, they can occur spontaneously later on.

Reported signs of systemic illness included:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Generalized pain
  • Temporary lameness

One of the problems encountered in ProMeris-triggered PF is veterinarians don’t always make the cause-effect connection. Misdiagnosis can result in unnecessary or ineffective drug therapy while the dog continues to suffer with the condition.

Alternatives to Harsh Chemicals for Flea and Tick Prevention

ProMeris isn’t the only flea/tick product that has caused problems for pets.

Two years ago, the EPA issued an advisory about spot-on chemical flea and tick preventives as the result of a significant increase in reported adverse reactions in pets. These reactions included everything from skin irritation to seizures and death.

In an attempt to avoid these spot-on insectides many vets have recommended switching to oral pills that kill fleas. Each flea product has potential side effects, and significant gastrointestinal irritation has been noted with oral anti-flea preventives.

Instead of rolling the dice with a chemical pesticide, I recommend using a safe, natural pest deterrent like Natural Flea and Tick Defense whenever possible. This is a wonderful product I recently introduced that contains no synthetic chemicals, is available without a prescription, and is safe to apply to your pet on a daily basis.

Natural Flea and Tick Defense doesn’t leave a sticky residue, it smells nice, and it is effective against not only fleas and ticks, but also flies and mosquitoes.

Other safe alternatives to harsh chemical pest repellents include:

  • Cedar oil
  • Natural, food-grade diatomaceous earth
  • Fresh garlic -- work with your holistic vet to determine a safe amount for your pet’s body weight
  • Feeding your pet a balanced, species-appropriate diet. The healthier your dog or cat is, the less appealing she’ll be to parasites. A biologically appropriate diet supports a strong immune system.
  • Bathing and brushing your pet regularly and performing frequent full-body inspections to check for parasite activity.
  • Making sure your indoor and outdoor environments are unfriendly to pests.
  • If your dog is suffering from demodectic mange rather than fleas, you’ll find some great suggestions here for safe, natural treatments that can eliminate the need for drugs or chemical dips.