Fleas and ticks can be more than just an itchy annoyance to your pets—they can cause serious harm. So it’s important to know how to use flea and tick products safely. It’s also important to know whom to report to if you’re experiencing problems with these products.
Flea and tick products for pets are regulated by either the Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). FDA and EPA have an interagency committee that evaluates products on a case-by-case basis to determine the appropriate regulatory agency.
Generally speaking, the FDA is responsible for approving animal drugs and regulates flea and tick products that are given orally, including pills, chews, and swallowable liquids, or by injection. EPA, with some exceptions, regulates those products that are applied to pets topically – to pets’ skin or fur. This includes shampoos, collars, dust or powder, sprays, and spot-on flea and tick products.
The appropriate agency bases its evaluation on a thorough review of detailed information on the product’s safety and effectiveness. This information is provided by the manufacturer or other product sponsor. The sponsor must show that the drug or pesticide meets current safety standards to protect:
- the animal,
- people in contact with the animal, and
- the environment.
The sponsor must also show that the drug or pesticide achieves the claimed effect, and the product must carry specific labeling so that it can be used safely and effectively.
Although flea and tick products are very commonly used across pets of multiple sizes, ages and health profiles (as directed on the label) with no problems, side effects can occur. Consumers can report side effects to both the FDA and EPA, as well as product manufacturers. For that reason, it’s good to hold on to the product packaging so that you have the contact information for the manufacturer, as well as details like the lot number.
You can tell which agency regulates the product by looking at the packaging. For FDA-regulated products, look for the letters “NADA” or “ANADA,” followed by a six-digit number in this format: NADA-xxx-xxx or ANADA xxx-xxx. Products regulated by EPA will carry an EPA registration number: EPA Reg. No. xxxxx-xxxxx. These numbers help identify the exact product better than the name of the product alone.
- To report problems with FDA-approved flea or tick drug products, contact the drug manufacturer directly (see contact information on product labeling) or report to FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine on a Form FDA 1932a. For more information, please visit www.fda.gov/reportanimalae.
- To report problems with EPA-regulated products, contact the manufacturer directly (see contact information on product labeling), EPA External Link Disclaimer, or the National Pesticide Information Center External Link Disclaimer (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378.
- If your pet needs immediate medical care, call your local veterinarian, a local animal emergency clinic, or the National Animal Poison Control Center External Link Disclaimer at 1-888-426-4435. The NAPCC charges a fee for consultation.