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Alert on Topical Flea Products
Jeffrey R. Jenkins, DVM
San Diego HRS - Alert on Topical Flea Products
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Flea control
Medical Alert: Problems Reported with New Topical Flea Products

Our hospital has become aware of problems with one of the new topicalflea products, Frontline, marketed through veterinarians by Rhone MerieuxInc. To date, we have consulted with veterinarians who have prescribed Frontlineresulting in the death of three rabbits; another rabbit has been successfullytreated for severe seizures it developed after Frontline was applied.

The active ingredient in Frontline is not supposed to cross into thecentral nervous system of mammals, and has proven to be safe for dogs andcats. It kills both fleas and ticks, and is difficult to wash off.

However, it is important to note that use of this product on rabbitsis an "off label use" and has never been recommended or approvedby the manufacturer. (This is the case with most pharmaceuticals used inrabbits.)

Representatives of Rhone Merieux Inc. admit they have received otherreports of "adverse reactions" to Frontline when used on rabbits,but would not go so far as to say that they knew if other rabbits had died. They went on to say that they strongly recommend Frontline NOT be usedon rabbits or other exotic species.

In addition we have heard an anecdotal report (someone had a friend whoseneighbor told them . . . ) of a rabbit that developed gastrointestinal upsetafter licking a large volume of Advantage off another rabbit just afterit was applied. Before recommending Advantage for our clients' rabbits,our hospital did an in-depth literature search, consulted with the manufacturer(Bayer) and tested the product on many unowned rabbits to make certain thatthe product was safe. Gastrointestinal upset has been reported in catswho lick a large volume of the product off another animal.

We recommend that multiple pet households separate rabbits or rabbitsand cats for 12 hours after Advantage has been applied so the product candisperse on the animal's coat before another animal has the opportunityto groom the treated rabbit.

The reason that these products are sold by prescription only is thatthere is some risk involved with their use. It is important for the veterinarianprescribing the product to understand those risks-and in this case, thoserisks specific to rabbits-and be able to explain those risks.

Should you have questions about the use of a prescription product orshould you experience a problem during the time your rabbit is taking aprescription medication, it is important for you to contact your veterinarianimmediately.

by Jeffrey R. Jenkins, DVM

This article appears courtesy of our San Diego Chapter.

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