Flea Treatments And Canine Seizures

It was distressing not to see in the recent EW piece about dog epilepsy (“A Dog’s Life’, EW 6/10) any mention of the major role that flea treatments can play in triggering canine epilepsy. This is not some esoteric conspiracy theory, nor do I intend here to cite multiple references. The phenomenon is acknowledged in brand-name listings of potential side effects. Anyone can see this confirmed on the manufacturers’ websites.

Whereas most dog breeds have what is known as a blood-brain barrier, which effectively filters out most toxic substances and prevents them from entering the brain circulation, there are many breeds, especially herding breeds such as collies, that lack this barrier. The result of the neurotoxins of the flea treatment entering the brain of these animals is epilepsy. 

Since a mixed-breed dog could have the genes that make this barrier ineffective, it could be at risk of this happening. (Unless a treatment were to be prefaced by a genetic analysis?) 

In general it would seem that this risk is left obscure, as though if we all agree to ignore it, then it doesn’t exist.

How these treatments came to be approved is difficult to explain, other than the power of the pharmaceutical lobby. 

Dog-lovers: If you do not want to see your animal suffer an epileptic seizure, then inform yourself about this serious potential side effect. Optimally find a flea treatment that does not involve this risk.

Carlis Nixon


Editor’s note: Flea treatments were not mentioned in the essay about Aksel and his epilepsy because, while they can be a cause of seizures and can lower the seizure threshold in dogs with a seizure history, they are not a cause of idiopathic epilepsy. 

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