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Vets call for calm over Seresto flea collar death allegations

Product shot of Seresto Flea Collar for Dogs
(Image credit: Amazon)

The popular Seresto flea collar for pets has been connected to the deaths of close to 1,700 animals and injuries to many more, according to an investigation published by USA Today this week. Regularly taking out the number one spot as the best flea collar for dogs and best flea collar for cats on sites like Amazon, Bayer’s Seresto collar is also being linked to hundreds of reports of harmed humans.

Documents obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleged a link between animals wearing the Seresto collar and reports of lethargy, loss of motor function, scabs on the skin, and seizures that pet parents observed in their pets. We don’t yet know the validity of these claims, but at the moment the EPA is choosing not to investigate.

If your cat or dog is currently wearing a Seresto collar, you’re likely feeling understandably concerned and we recommend talking to your veterinarian first and foremost to seek advice on whether your pet is safe to continue wearing it. While the reports of pet deaths are worrying, we’ve researched widely, weighed the views of various vets across the country, and consulted our own in-house vet to ensure we’re bringing you the most balanced information possible. 

Dr. Elizabeth Trepp, a veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in Washington, believes the reports need to be looked into but says she’s never had an issue with the Seresto collar and neither have any of her colleagues. It’s a view shared by our in-house vet Dr. Joanna Woodnutt who says “many vets have used Seresto collars for years, including on our own pets, and have noted only very mild side effects.”

With all the vet comments we’ve read and sourced having found only minimal or no side effects with the Seresto collar in their pets and those they see in their practice, what might be causing the health issues owners are witnessing in their dogs and cats? Is it the Seresto collar or might other factors be at play?

When it comes to skin issues, such as scabs, Dr. Woodnutt is reassuring. “Whilst scabs under the collar might seem serious, it was actually seen in the placebo group in trials as well, suggesting it’s not as much the ingredients in the collar as it is the collar itself.” Dr. Alicen Tracey, a vet and member of the Daily Paws Advisory Board, echoes the views of Dr. Woodnutt and suggests owners may first want to ensure their pet is wearing their collar correctly.

“Flea-tick collars work by interacting with the skin to distribute the preventative medication and should therefore be placed around the neck snug enough to create skin contact, but allowing the applicator to fit two fingers beneath the collar," she writes, if you don't check regularly, the collar can get too loose or too tight, which can cause irritation.”

Another potential issue is the rise in the number of fake Seresto collars being sold to dog and cat owners as the genuine article. The collar has recently changed drug classification in the U.K., meaning it no longer needs a prescription, which is likely contributing to the number of fakes currently in circulation.

“Fake Seresto collars are definitely in circulation, and these products will not have gone through the rigorous testing that the original collar has undergone,” says Dr Woodnutt, adding “because pet owners aren’t generally aware they’ve bought a fake product, it’s impossible to know how many of these reports have been about a fake product rather than the genuine one.”

Both Dr Trepp and Dr Woodnutt stress the importance of investigations being carried out before any official link is made between the health issues reported by pet owners and the Seresto collar. “Anecdotal reports are not helpful as they are open to bias, and almost all of the alleged reactions are anecdotal,” says Dr. Woodnutt. 

Explaining that vets have a legal obligation to report suspected side effects and drug companies will usually pay for investigations to prove or disprove a link with their product, Dr Woodnutt wants people to understand the difference between the allegations and a proven link. “Only if the link is proven or strongly suspected will a warning be published, a recall issued, or the datasheet changed to explain the possible new side effect,” she says.

If you’re feeling concerned about the information currently doing the rounds about the Seresto collar, have a chat with your vet who can advise you on the best course of action. The best flea treatments for dogs and the best flea treatments for cats both come in a wide variety of different formulas, including topical treatments and oral medications, so there are plenty of options available if you’d prefer not to use a flea collar.