Sally is a dog lover who appreciates canine companionship, but she understands that it isn't for everyone. Owning a dog is a big commitment.
Flea and Tick Product Toxicity in Dogs
I want to start out by saying that there are lots of websites and message boards online that tell you not to use Sergeant's Gold Flea and Tick Squeeze-On, and they are all correct; however, I (like many people) had not seen them when I did use this product and my dog experienced problems with it.
Prescription Products Can Be Expensive
In the course of this incident, I talked to quite a few people who advised me that over-the-counter flea products are worthless and dangerous and should never be used. That may very well be true, but I know that there are lots of people just like me who want to do something to keep fleas off their pets and simply do not have the money to buy prescription products from the vet.
I fully understand that choosing to buy OTC flea products is not necessarily a matter of not thinking your pet is worth the money (as many people will imply). It’s a matter of just not having the money. Although I now think you would be wise not to choose this particular product, the purpose of this article is not to tell you not to use it.
Know What to Do If Your Dog Has a Reaction
The purpose of this article is to tell you what to expect and what to do if you do use this product and your dog has problems. I am writing this article because when I was looking for just this kind of information online, I didn’t find it! So here’s what happened with me and my dog. I hope it’s helpful for you.
How to Find a Safe Product
When using over-the-counter flea products, it is important to protect yourself and your dog by:
- Doing your research first
- Asking your vet for advice
- Avoiding products containing cyphenothrin
- Keeping your receipts
- Keeping all packaging
- Reading instructions completely
- Applying the product carefully
- Staying with and observing your dog after application
Warnings and Side Effects for Flea Prevention
My Dog's Scary Reaction
There are many over-the-counter preparations for fighting fleas and ticks in dogs. I’ve used a variety of brands for a number of years without problems. I’ve heard that other people’s dogs have had negative reactions, but that has not been the case with my dogs; however, yesterday I got a little careless and neglected to read the application instructions before giving my dogs their first flea treatment of the flea season.
When the Symptoms Appeared
I applied Sergeant’s Gold Flea and Tick Squeeze-On as I had applied a different product last year in spots at the shoulder blades and base of the tail. This was at about 6 pm in the evening. All was well for several hours. I took my big dogs out for their walk, gave them dinner, and settled in for the evening. Then, my oldest dog, Daisy, began licking at the spot at the base of her tail. She began to gag and became very anxious, shaking, and acting like she wanted to jump out of her skin.
She was also drooling and seemed to be a little bit off-balance, but it was hard to tell if it was a reaction to the chemicals or just anxiety because she tends to be an anxious, shaky sort of dog anyway. She paced around the room and seemed like she didn’t want to put her feet on the floor.
Symptoms of Topical Flea Treatment Toxicity
Here's what to watch out for when using cyphenothrin and topical flea products in dogs. The following symptoms may indicate an adverse reaction:
- Hair standing on end
- Unsteady gait
- Tenderness in paws
- Seizures (in severe cases)
What to Do If Your Dog Shows Signs of Toxicity
Here's what to do if your dog has a negative reaction to cyphenothrin or any other topical flea product:
- Wash your dog thoroughly with warm water and dish soap (no bleach added).
- Keep your dog comfortable and keep a close eye on him/her.
- Make sure water is available and encourage your dog to drink.
- Do not induce vomiting.
- If no improvement is noted within 30 minutes, take your dog to the vet.
Call the Manufacturer to Report It
I called the number on the Sergeant’s package (1-800-781-4738) and it was answered right away by a woman who told me to wash all the product off of Daisy using dish soap (with no bleach added) and water and to take her to the vet if her symptoms worsened.
She said that the amount Daisy would have gotten licking it off one spot like that was not enough to do damage, but it would taste terrible and cause a tingling pins-and-needles sensation in the mouth and throat. The woman also gave me her name and a case number for future reference.
I washed Daisy off, made her comfortable, and looked up the chemical (cyphenothrin) online and found toxicity and regulatory information.
Warnings About Seargent's Gold Flea and Tick Product
It seems that this pesticide has caused problems in a number of dogs, but in small amounts, it is not fatal, and it doesn’t cause permanent damage except in large doses. The treatment recommended is to wash the affected area and to give water to the dog to dilute any of the product that has been swallowed. Instructions said not to induce vomiting.
Other instructions I located explained that, if washing did not help, you should take your dog to an emergency clinic where a medication called Robaxin (methocarbamol) would be given to stop the shaking and then the dog would be given IV fluids to help with a quick recovery.
Daisy’s symptoms started at about midnight, worsened for an hour (she experienced some weakness in her legs), and then became less and less until about 6:30 am when she got up and had some food and water.
What Our Veterinarian Had to Say
When I talked with my own vet in the morning, he said that if Daisy did not seem fully recovered by afternoon, she should come in for some IV fluids. I told him that she had been drinking well (but not excessively) on her own and seemed to be fine now, and he said that she probably was alright in that case. She ended up being okay after all.
Read Instructions on How to Apply the Treatment Properly
My other dogs did not have any problems with the treatment and I don’t think Daisy would have if I had applied it properly. I would say that washing the product off didn’t really help in this case because I don’t think it was the product on the skin that was causing a problem. It was the product that Daisy had ingested that caused the problem, and she just needed to drink lots of water and rest to get it out of her system.
So, I think in this case it was my own fault that there was a problem. I should have read the instructions before applying the product! With this squeeze-on flea deterrent, you are supposed to apply it on the back of the neck and the shoulders to halfway down the back so that the dog can’t lick it off. Information found online backs this up and says that in some cases where dogs had problems, it was because the product was not applied correctly.
Finding Cautionary Sites by Googling "Sergeant’s Gold"
There are quite a few sites that tell about various people having problems with Sergeant's Gold and Sergeant's Silver, even when they do apply it correctly. In fact, there are quite a few negative reviews of the product on Amazon.
In my opinion, it seems like many dogs are very sensitive to cyphenothrin and it’s best just to steer clear of it entirely!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Tired of euthanizing puppies due to OTC flea products on December 14, 2018:
While I am encouraged that you have done your research, and it is to correct to bathe your pet after anything toxic touches the skin. You should not wait 30 minutes. You should not try to monitor symptoms. Even minimal tremors can cause hyperthermia in a dog in that half an hour and prolonged hyperthermia (even 30 minutes) that you would monitor can cause organ damage and ultimately death. I am an emergency veterinarian and if your dog ever experiences any adverse reaction seek veterinary care immediately. This product is toxic. Many products at pet stores are not safe or approved vet products. A pet stores sole purpose is to sell product and make money. They have no moral obligation to help your pet, your vet does.
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on August 18, 2013:
Yes, Sweetie, ticks are very hard to get rid of. Thanks for reading and voting. Thanks for your comments Steel Engineer. Very good points! ;D
Steel Engineer from Kiev, Ukraine on August 17, 2013:
The mass poisoning of populations (e.g. McDonald's food products; milk, meat, children's toys, and Christian jewelry from China) is so prevalent now, it constitutes a global war.
What you are exposing about this flea collar may be more insidious: The poison on the dog is going to spread to the couch, the people who pet their dog(s), and to many other things contacted by human skin.
Always pray before you buy ANYTHING. And, don't eat tuna (mercury).
sweetie1 from India on August 17, 2013:
My friend had a female German Shephard. She had lots of ticks in season because desite his all tries she would run to a small street pup who had lots of ticks. So definitely we had to get her lots of tick baths and collars but they never helped. Sharing it on hubpages and voting it up.
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on August 03, 2013:
Many thanks! ;D
jtrader on August 02, 2013:
Thanks for the warning. The manufacturers should put a note on the possible side effects right where the package has to be pulled. Voted up and useful!
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on July 28, 2013:
Thanks ladies! Yes, everybody's doing fine now. I actually am using an OTC flea product now that contains permethrin, which is a drug that has been in use for a very long time. Everybody seems fine with that, and it works pretty well on three out of four dogs. My littlest old dog doesn't seem to get any relief from it, though, so I use fipronel on him. It is a little more expensive, but it makes his life worth living! ;D
Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on July 27, 2013:
This is an important reminder to us all to read the directions that comes with the product. I worried when I put the Frontline on my two dogs that one would try to lick the chemical off the other one. That sort of defeats the purpose of putting it between their shoulder blades. Thankfully, that did not happen.
Your article will undoubtedly help others who are tempted to use the Sergeant's product. Thank you for sharing your experience and I hope your pups are doing well.
Barbara Badder from USA on July 27, 2013:
I'm not sure we read the instructions. Now you have me wondering. We use one our vet gives us, but I am sure it still might have something harmful in it. Thanks for the heads up.
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 27, 2013:
Awww, poor Daisy. It's so important to get the word out. Best of luck to you both. Voted up and useful. Sharing.
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on October 04, 2012:
Yes, I agree! There are lots of dogs that have a negative reaction to OTC flea medications! I have been using the Listerine cure I mention above, and I'm happy with it. You have to do it every couple of days, but it works without harm! Hope your little dog has a full recovery!
nenen on October 01, 2012:
i have a pomeranian dog 12 y.o., after bathing her, i use the pronyl otc antiflea med by sergeants. an hour after, she became agitated, so restless, breathing fast and did not sleep. i took her to the vet, wash off the med with dish soap. she improved slightly. this med should be taken off the market. so toxic to the dog. this anti flea med is not worth at all with the negative effect it has on the dog. and there is no antidote for this?!!!
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on July 09, 2012:
I just discovered this: Spray him all over with original formula Listerine (or an inexpensive generic type) and towel him off. The fleas can't get off fast enough! It keeps them off for a couple of days. Be careful of his eyes, mouth and private parts of course. Listerine can sting and burn. After he is groomed, go ahead and use the Frontline. It doesn't have Cyphenothrin: it's active ingredient is different.
Incidentally, Listerine will also keep flies off a horse or donkey for a day or so! ;D
Denise on July 08, 2012:
Thank you very much for this article. I've ben having a lot of problems with fleas on my shih poo. He is miserable right now. I've tried some otc products but he didn't do well and they didn't work. I can't afford a vet. right now and I'm not really sure what to do. After complaining to the pet store about the last product he gave me frontline to put between his shoulders, but I'm afraid to now because I afraid I'll poison him. Anyone know of some home remedy that might help for a couple of days, hes going to be groomed in a couple of days I'm hoping that helps
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on May 18, 2012:
Mike K: I was very clear about the purpose of this article:
"... the purpose of this article is not to tell you not to use this product.
The purpose of this article is to tell you what to expect and what to do if you do use this product and your dog has problems. I am writing this article because, when I was looking for just this kind of information online, I didn’t find it! So here’s what happened with me and my dog. I hope it’s helpful to you."
I was also very clear about my own error in the situation:
"So, I think in this case, it was my own fault that there was a problem. I should have read the instructions before applying the product! With this squeeze on flea deterrent, you are supposed to apply it on the back of the neck and the shoulders to halfway down the back so that the dog can’t lick it off. Information found online backs this up and says that in some cases where dogs had problems, it was because the product was not applied correctly. " (These instructions differ from most spot on products.)
I wrote this article to help other people who might find themselves in the same situation. These things happen!
Clearly, you did not read or understand the point of the article. Your hateful, inaccurate comment is unhelpful and unappreciated.
Mike K on May 18, 2012:
So you love your pet so much that you would apply an isectacide without reading the instructions. Then you take the time to write at length how bad the product is.
Lorraine Sergeant Sufferer for Life on May 12, 2012:
Keeps Happening!!! Dogs and Cats Suffering as Sergeant's continues to poison our loved ones!!!
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on May 09, 2012:
Hope that works out well. I have 4 dogs, and only one had ill effects, but I won't use the product again!
Joe_Dog_Owner on May 08, 2012:
Just applied 1 tube of Sergeant's Gold to my 40lb Shepherd. No ill effect's as of yet. Exp. date stamped on top of box 10/28/11. A picture illistration on the back of the box (top right corner) shows to apply from shoulder blades to stop at 'mid-back', so dog can't reach around to bite or lick applied area.
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on January 30, 2012:
My pleasure! ;D
Paulart from 2510 Warren Avenue Cheyenne,Wyoming 82001 on January 22, 2012:
Great hub. Thanks for sharing with us.
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on January 17, 2012:
Poor little thing! I'm so sorry to hear that! I've been having good luck with food grade diatomaceous earth. I use it as a flea powder. You have to apply it pretty heavily and pretty often (every day) but it works. Also, you can use it as a wormer in your dog's food. It is completely natural! No chemicals! See my article about natural wormers to learn more! :)
dianewinter on January 15, 2012:
My 10-lb shih tzu, Sadie Mae, was a patient of Animal Poison Control this morning, after applying only 3 drops of Sargeant's Gold to her shoulder area only. She has been jumping out of her skin, crying, spinning, heart beating rapidly for hours with no relief in site for the next 24-48 hr according to the vet. Her symptoms began 10 min after application, at which time I immediately washed her with dishsoap. An hour later, I called the pet hospital which had me contact Poison Control who knew instantly, after hearing the word "cyphenothrin" what was wrong. I urge you to never use this product or any with this ingredient. My Sadie will spend the next 24-48 hours suffering due to my neglect of putting this toxic drug on her back. No flea problem is worth what she is experiencing as I type these words. My guilt is horrendous & my dog is miserable. ps-No relief was given after the bath or two doses of benydryl and was told only time will end the symptoms.
Sally Branche (author) from Only In Texas! on November 22, 2011:
I'm glad your Schnauzers are OK! Yes, it's important to read labels and choose products with care!
Merry on November 21, 2011:
I did same thing did not see my box was for 40 -60 pound , I have 2 schnauzers 10 an 8 year old... Do not use these products they are pesticide an it's like spraying raid on your dog.
My schnauzers are 19 lbs an 24 they got deathly sick ,,twitches,drooling licking an needed emergency care. The company needs to inform people on front box about complications.This is why they use to only sell in veterinary clinics.