WASHINGTON, March 17, 2010— -- Anti-flea and tick products, known as spot-on, and sold for use on dogs and cats, will not be banned or pulled from the market after a nearly nine-month government investigation into their safety.
But labels are expected to change in the coming months.
The products under scrutiny are called spot-on because they are liquid products that are applied topically, usually once a month, to a dog or cat's skin, often between the shoulder blades.
After a reported spike in the number of dogs and cats getting sick or dying in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency investigated whether the anti-flea and tick products were the cause.
The EPA's concluded that, while the products are safe, the labeling on these products is "inadequate" and needs to be changed. Some of the problems found were attributed to dosages intended for large dogs being used on small dogs, and some dog flea and tick products being misused on cats.
"The labels are not clear," says Steve Owens, an EPA assistant administrator in the office of prevention, pesticides and toxic substances. There was a 60 percent spike in reports of dogs and cats getting sick (44,000) and dying (600) in 2008, the last year data is available.
The EPA is asking the makers of these popular products to provide clearer labels to help distinguish medicines meant for dogs from those for cats. The agency also wants to see different product names used for the anti-flea and tick treatment for dogs and cats in order to further reduce confusion.
But none of the products are being pulled from the shelves. When asked by ABC News if that means the products are safe, Owens said, "Yes, the products are safe, but the labeling is inadequate."
One warning expected to be on new labels: keep cats away from dogs that have just been recently treated with a spot-on product. There is a worry the cat might lick the dog's fur.
The EPA says the industry's reaction to changing labels was "very positive."
One spot-on flea and tick treatment maker tells ABC News it will study labels with the EPA and "make any changes necessary."
EPA says Flea and Tick Medicine for Dogs and Cats Are Safe
Mark Newberg of Centralized Life Sciences, the maker of Bio-Spot and other products, says when it comes to making labels clear, his company and the EPA "are all on the same page."
The EPA also says that it is not given enough data about many of these products, and needs more information when a new one hits the market. The EPA also found problems with some of the "inert" ingredients which could be banned in the future.
So why the spike in the number of cases in 2008? Owens says the industry has been "very effective" in marketing its products and increasing sales, so a lot more pet owners are using the spot-on flea and tick control.