Pets in Peril

WSVN — From the moment you bring them home they own your heart.

Aaliyah Booker: "We play together and read books and watch TV together."

But, in too many cases the family has to watch as their pet suffers.

Yolanta Booker: "It was heartbreaking. My children were crying."

Victoria's family watched a few days earlier, the Booker family had to see the same thing.

Yolanta Booker: "Aalliya was saying, 'Mommy we poisoned her.' I said, 'Aalliya we had no idea she was going to have such a reaction to the medication.'"

What did the Bookers and the Garcias and so many families do to their dog to cause this horrible pain? They treated them for fleas.

Yolanta Booker: "We almost killed her. I was crying. I was so upset."

Yolanta Booker put flea drops on her dog, Mia.

Victoria Garcia: "This dog was foaming at the mouth yelping in pain, rolling on the floor, vomiting, lost all bladder control. Just a horrible site."

Victoria Garcia also put this ointment, or what vets call a spot on treatment, on her dog. Carol did the same thing.

Carol Bleecker: "I really thought the other day that I was going to lose her, because she was so bad."

Three South Florida families we discovered in just a few days tried to keep their dogs healthy, and instead, the flea ointment made them very sick.

Dr. Darko Mladenovic, Animal Wellness Clinic: "It can be fatal to the dogs or cats."

Plantation veterinarian Darko Mladenovic says, when pets react horribly to the flea and tick treatment, they do it right after it's put on.

Dr. Darko Mladenovic: "It feels like you put hot oil on them. It's a burning and itching sensation. You can see the burn mark, we call it a chemical burn, the hair would be sticky."

The Bleecker's spent around $2,000 to save Kaluha. The pictures we took show it still in terrible shape a week after putting on the flea ointment.

Carol Bleecker: "All these movements are different. All of these are part of the neurological problems that I hope goes away."

But these South Florida dogs are not alone. The Environmental Protection Agency received 44,000 complaints in 2008 from pet owners who say the flea treatments hurt their dogs.

Marty Monell, Deputy Director EPA: "They range anywhere from dermal, that's skin irritation, to gastrointestinal, seizures even in some cases death."

One thing people may not realize is how the flea treatment is classified.

Marty Monell: "The spot on products are not actually considered animal medications, they are they're pesticides."

Despite the complaints, the EPA has not blocked the products from being sold, outraging pet owners whose animals have gotten sick.

Carol Tollin: "At least tell someone. If you take this product there's a very good chance that your pet is going to go into convulsions."

In many cases, the pet owners are blamed for not reading the instructions on the label. For example, putting dog treatments on a cat,

but in defense of pet owners, the labels are not always clear. For example, the flea treatment is sold for dogs weighing from five to 20 pounds. Put it on a 15 to 20 pound dog like this and they are fine, but the same amount on a five pound dog and you might have a problem. Pet owners are not told that, so the EPA may require it.

Marty Monell: "One of the regulatory fixes we are considering is narrowing that weight band, so that for the very small dogs there would only be a 10 pound weight range."

Yolanta Booker: "Kaluha come on."

But, for pet owners like Carol…

Yolanta Booker: "I'm not going to use anymore spot ons. It's something I'm going to stay away from."

Victoria Garcia: "I'm trying to look at natural products."

And Yolanta…

Yolanta Booker: "Dogs can't talk. Cats can't talk, they rely on us as people to take care of them."

They'll get rid of their dogs fleas, but they don't want to put their pets in peril to do it.


List of EPA Registered Spot On Treatments:

Details of EPA inquiry into Spot On Treatments: