Frontline Plus for Dogs-DNM

A five-year old Golden Retriever is brought to the veterinarian with ear and eye discharge three weeks after receiving a dose of Frontline Plus, a topical pharmaceutical used to kill fleas and ticks. The symptoms go away within a month.

When the dose of Frontline is repeated, the dog soon develops an intractable ear infection that improves after about six months, but never goes away.  The dog dies from liver cancer two years later.

Dr Jennifer Ramelmeier, a veterinarian in Clarksville, MD, who has been in practice for thirty years, stopped using Frontline Plus in 2001 after seeing a connection between its use and cases like this.

Dr Ramelmeier says the owners would often complain when their animals developed an oily and sticky coat soon after applying the product.

“The first response of the body when the patient develops a toxic load is to discharge from the body via the eyes, the ears, the skin and through loose stool … these discharges make a great medium for bacterial and yeast growth (which live naturally on your dog’s body)” 

Dr Christina Chambreau is another vet from Maryland who has seen similar cases and has a similar attitude towards the product.

She told the story of a friend’s cat who had received Frontline Plus two or three hours earlier and went missing while she was visiting. They found him under a bench “looking like a puddle,” Dr Chambreau said. On examining the cat, she found him to be very lethargic and when he started to walk, he had a very uncoordinated gait.

Dr Chambreau advises her patients to avoid using Frontline. She’s only recommended it on three occasions in her 30 years of practice, because she has strong concerns over its toxicity to the pet and she has confidence in the efficacy of alternative methods.

She’s found that after she treats an animal for any type of problem, particularly behavioral or neurological, if the owners apply Frontline or other similar pesticide products, the symptoms that she’s treated come back.

Some conventional vets disagree with concerns over the safety of Frontline.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Frontline causes cancer or other serious diseases,” says Dr Deborah Lichtenberg, a vet from Massachusetts. With regard to allergic reactions, “most of these reactions are mild and don’t require treatment,” she added.

Dr. Lichtenberg warns that by choosing to use more natural protection against ticks or fleas, your dog will get more ticks and be at a greater risk for developing tick-borne illness.  Tick-borne illnesses are Lyme Disease, ehrlichia, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever or babesiosis.

Frontline Plus for Dogs-dnm-1

Background On Frontline

The main active ingredient in Frontline Plus, fipronil, was developed between 1985 and 1987 by Rhone Paulenc AG as a broad-use insecticide. It was introduced into the market in 1993.

Since then, it has been integrated into a wide variety of products including “pesticide products, granular products for grass, gel baits, spot-on pet care products, liquid termite control products, and products for agriculture,” the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) says.

Frontline Plus is produced and owned by Merial, the animal subsidiary of Sanofi, a multinational pharmaceutical company. Frontline Plus also contains S-methoprene, a compound that has been in use since 1977 that stops juvenile insects from turning into adults.

DNM Academy Member Extra

Access ‘The Natural Way To Handle Flea And Tick Prevention Course’  in Dogs Naturally Academy

Get the step-by step flea and tick prevention and treatment guide for your dog.

Click here to access this Course

Not an Academy member? Click here to learn more about DNM Academy

Merial also produces HeartGard to prevent heartworm, NexGard, a chewable flea and tick poison that was released in 2013, and a series of vaccines for cats.

Altogether, Sanofi reported a net profit on these products of $706 million in 2015.

Frontline Plus is used monthly on dogs and cats. If you have a rabbit or other pet, note that Frontline is highly toxic to rabbits and Frontline is labeled “Do Not Use On Rabbits. Do Not Use On Other Animals.”

It’s applied by breaking open the plastic vial and dispensing the oily liquid between the animal’s shoulder blades. The idea is that the animal won’t be able reach back and ingest the liquid, but at the same time, the liquid will spread over the body and be absorbed into the oil glands of the skin where it is gradually released.

Frontline Side Effects

There are many concerns about possible side effects, the most common being skin reactions like hair loss, itching, and redness, and neurological issues like uncoordinated movement and lethargy. However these side effects are not addressed anywhere on the US website for Frontline.

Frontline Plus for Dogs-dnm-2

The New Zealand and United Kingdom websites do address safety concerns on their Q&A pages.

“Frontline Plus has a long established and wide margin of safety and your cat should be fine,” was the response from the New Zealand website to an owner who was concerned about whether her pet would see problems from her inadvertent over-application of Frontline.

When asked about side effects, the UK website’s response was, “side effects could occur but these tend to be mild and temporary in the majority of cases.”

(NOTE: Did you know you can prevent heartworm without meds? Click Here and we’ll show you what simple test you can use to safely replace heartworm meds)

Heartworm-Ad

Research by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA’s Pesticide Division has found that fipronil enters the body and can be contained in the fat, organs, urine and feces of dogs.

Research by the EPA in 2009 examined incident data for spot-on pesticides used on dogs, including fipronil products for dogs and cats. The report on Frontline Plus for Dogs shows that of a total of 2469 incidents, they classified 1,872 (76%) as minor. There were 51 (21%) moderate incidents, 47 (2%) major incidents and 39 (<2%) deaths.

Frontline Plus for Dogs-dnm-3

The EPA found that most of the reactions involved systemic, application site, digestive, neurological and behavioral disorders. The most common clinical signs were pruritus (itching), dermatitis, sores, erythema (reddening of the skin) and irritation. They also noted alopecia (hair loss) and hair changes at the application site.

Other commonly reported clinical signs were lethargy and vomiting (possibly from ingestion).

There were also symptoms reported from exposure to fipronil by humans, including nausea, vomiting and headache.

The EPA’s study also covered many other spot-on pesticides for dogs, and while some incidents were classified as minor, it’s important to note there were major incidents and deaths associated with every product.

Frontline Plus for Dogs-dnm-4

How Frontline Works

An article in the Journal of Invertebrate Neuroscience showed that fipronil acts by disrupting the central nervous system (CNS), which contains the brain and the spinal cord. It also blocks a receptor, GABA, which has a similar form in mammals, and a receptor called GluCl, which doesn’t exist in humans.

Fipronil inhibits the insect GABA receptor much more effectively than the human receptor, making it more toxic to insects than mammals. The net effect is over-excitation of the CNS, which causes death of the insect.

Although fipronil is more active on insects than mammals, there’s a difference between the activity of a manufactured chemical and the activity of that chemical’s metabolite – meaning what the chemical turns into inside the body.

This is where the danger to pets arises.

In the bodies of dogs and other mammals, fipronil is primarily converted into fipronil-sulfone.

According to the NPIC, fipronil-sulfone is twenty times more active on the mammalian receptor than on the insect receptor and is six times more effective on the mammalian receptor than fipronil.

This means that fipronil-sulfone is many times more toxic to mammals than fipronil itself.

This increased toxicity to mammals includes humans – such as your child who can absorb the chemical when she cuddles with your dog who’s been treated with Frontline.

A Safety Review

A review of the safety literature on fipronil was done on behalf of  the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

Frontline Plus for Dogs-dnm-5

The review said that despite the increased toxicity of fipronil-sulfone, it’s unlikely there would be any adverse effects because there is a rate of passage of less than 5% fipronil through the skin. This suggests the metabolite would not be concentrated enough to cause problems.

However, the studies on fipronil’s rate of passage through the skin were done on animals with healthy skin. The reviewers commented that further research might find fipronil is absorbed at higher levels through damaged or unhealthy skin.

Even so, the review concluded that fipronil-containing products are generally safe to use with correction application because the NOAEL (no observed adverse effect level), which was calculated from daily oral dosage of fipronil, was much higher than would normally be used on a biweekly or monthly basis.

The article comments, “Individual variation in response to fipronil is to be expected,” and warns that adverse reactions should be a sign to stop using it.

Also, it advises care when applying it to damaged skin. Finally, it emphasizes the importance of following the label on the products, especially in using the correct drug for cats or dogs, and to use the correct dosage.

Holistic Vets Disagree That Frontline Is Safe

Dr Chambreau and many other holistic veterinarians are critical of studies like the ones cited in the APVMA review because they only look at immediately visible symptoms and fail to account for long-term effects that are often harder to see.

Dr Chambreau provides her clients with recommendations on flea and tick prevention without Frontline Plus.

She advises maintaining the health of your pet through a healthy diet, physical activity, and minimal unnecessary pharmaceuticals, so your dog will attract less fleas. Healthy animals have lower body temperatures and cooler animals attract fewer fleas. To actively repel fleas, she recommends products like neem oil.

Dr Jennifer Ramelmeier also advocates that a healthy pet repels insects naturally and only sees infestations rarely on her patients. She recommends Shoo tags, oral garlic and geranium oil applied to the collar of the pet to prevent fleas and ticks.

Check out this article for more information on safe flea and tick protection.