Flea Treatment or Dangerous Pesticide?

Flea Treatment or Dangerous Pesticide?

Counterfeit Flea Treatments Threaten Pets

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is prohibiting the sale of counterfeit flea treatments by retailers and distributors that could pose serious health risks for pets.

These faux treatments, packaged in cartons designed to look like “Frontline” and “Advantage” products, have been illegally imported into the United States.

Dangerous Doses


One of the ways these phony pesticide treatments pose a danger to your pets is by labeling doses intended for dogs on products labeled for use on cats. Formulas are calculated on a pet’s weight and giving a cat medication prescribed for a dog could induce vomiting, seizures and death, says Dr. Cori Gross, a Seattle-area veterinarian and a former field veterinarian for Nationwide pet insurance.

If you think that your pet has been given a counterfeit flea treatment, contact your veterinarian. You can also contact the Pet Poison Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-213-6680.

Check Flea Medications for Authenticity

Manufacturers of these two product lines are not responsible for the counterfeit products; the EPA says that retailers might have inadvertently sold both legitimate and counterfeit flea treatments. The agency suggests that consumers determine for themselves whether they have purchased a counterfeit product.

If you discover a counterfeit product, alert the store manager and the EPA. Contact the office that represents your region.

The following are some criteria from the EPA to help consumers determine whether the product is authentic. If the product doesn’t contain all of the following information then the product is most likely counterfeit.

Frontline Flea Products

  • The lot number on the retail carton should match lot number on applicator package and/or individual applicators.
  • Instruction leaflet should be included. The following information should be listed: First-aid statements, including emergency U.S. telephone numbers; precautionary statements for humans and pets; directions for use; and storage and disposal statements.
  • Pesticide is contained in an applicator package, which is child-resistant. Directions for opening child-resistant applicator package include an illustration that looks like the applicator package. Directions say, “To remove applicator, use scissors or lift and remove plastic tab to expose foil, then pull down.”
  • Legitimate applicator package has a notch between the individual applicator packages, which are typically absent on counterfeit products.
  • Text on the package and applicator are in English only.
  • Frontline Applicator Packages: Each individual applicator has a label that includes the registrant's name “Merial;” the product name; the EPA registration number; the net contents in fluid ounces (not in metric measure, i.e., ml); percentage of active ingredient (fipronil for Frontline Top Spot products; and fipronil and (S)-methoprene for Frontline Plus products); and the statements “CAUTION,” “Keep out of reach of children,” and “See full label for additional directions.”
  • Applicator label for dog products includes the size of the dog in pounds on which the product is to be used.

Advantage Flea Products

According to the EPA, the only way to determine legitimate Advantage flea products is by examining the applicator tubes.

  • Check the language that is printed on the applicator tubes. Legitimate Advantage products contain applicator tubes that are printed in English. (Labels printed in French or German indicates a fake product.)
  • Tubes include the EPA registration number, the word WARNING, and child hazard warning (Keep Out of Reach of Children).
  • Applicator tubes will include a reference statement that refers users to the main labeling for directions for use and will include the manufacturing company's name (Bayer).
  • Applicator tubes contain an active ingredient statement that agrees with the active ingredient statement on the retail carton (9.1 percent imidacloprid). Counterfeit products might have an active ingredient statement, such as 10 percent.

Identify Counterfeit Flea Products

Below is a list of brand names and corresponding EPA registration numbers that many have been reproduced by counterfeiters. The bogus products might use identical names and numbers.

  • Frontline: Frontline Top Spot for Cats (EPA Reg. No. 65331-2); Frontline Top Spot for Dogs (EPA Reg. No. 65331-3); Frontline Plus for Cats (EPA Reg. No. 65331-4); Frontline Plus for Dogs (EPA Reg. No. 65331-5).
  • Advantage: Advantage 10 for Dogs (EPA Reg. No. 11556-117); Advantage 20 for Dogs (EPA Reg. No. 11556-119); Advantage 55 for Dogs (EPA Reg. No. 11556-120); Advantage 100 for Dogs (EPA Reg. No. 11556-122); Advantage 9 for Cats (EPA Reg. No. 11556-116); Advantage 18 for Cats (EPA Reg. No. 11556-118).

Pay Attention to Over-the-Counter Product Labels


Cat owners should avoid over-the-counter flea medications including flea bombs, dips and shampoos that contain the pesticides pyrethrin and permethrin. These ingredients are dangerous to cats, and have been known to cause vomiting, seizures, skin reactions and death. The insecticides are so dangerous they shouldn’t even be applied to dogs that come in contact with cats, says Dr. Gross. (While the treatments might not necessarily pose a danger to healthy dogs, they could cause a bad reaction in a dog with a predisposed condition.)

It’s especially important that pet owners do not apply a product intended for dogs on a cat, says Dr. David W. Reinhard, a consulting veterinarian for Nationwide pet insurance. “The formulation of flea medications for cats and dogs is completely different,” he explains. Some canine medications contain the insecticide permethrin or Phenothrin. Neither one of these insecticides is safe for use on cats and can be lethal.

Picking the Right Flea Treatment

Dr. Gross suggests that as a precaution, owners ask their veterinarians about flea treatments, especially when it comes to over-the-counter products versus prescription formulas. “There are new products coming out all the time and your veterinarian is bound to have recommendations,” she says. “Discuss your options first so you can make the right choice for your dog or cat.”