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Pet owner has warning after her dog’s death

PENDLETON, Ind. (WISH) — Pet owners among us know a dog is like a member of the family, and losing a pet is one of the hardest things a family can go through.

That is why one pet owner reached out to I-Team 8. She thinks her dog’s death was preventable and wants to warn other pet owners about what she says caused it.

Jennifer Shelton wrote to I-Team 8 to warn us about Bravecto, a drug that prevents fleas and ticks.

She says the adverse effects of the medicine ended up killing her dog and now she’s finally being heard.

It is easy to tell Shelton is a dog lover. There are signs all over her house. But there was more fur and noise and love before.

It was love at first sight back in summer 2016. Shelton got Scout, a miniature Australian Shepard.

“He just absolutely, right then, was just…perfect,” said Shelton. “He was just kind of a jokester, if a dog can be a comedian, was always right there giving me little pep talks, just greeting me at the door.”

Scout was just shy of one year old when he took his first dose of Bravecto. Around his first birthday, things went downhill fast.

“Within about the first 24 hours, he had some really bad intestinal issues,” Shelton said. “Just really tired, lethargic, you could tell he wasn’t himself, didn’t want to play.”

Scout would be dead within a week. Shelton said he went from diarrhea and vomiting, to a swollen stomach then seizures.

“He would stare out into space, he would almost throw his head back and really spread his legs like he was trying to stand up, and then he would kind of shake his head and then after that he would just immediately have to lay down and he would sleep for like an hour with no energy at all,” said Shelton.

Shelton says within two to three days of the initial dose of Bravecto, Scout stopped eating.  She took him to the vet, but an ultrasound showed nothing conclusive as to why he was so sick.

“I could tell that he just, he was done and in pain,” Shelton said tearfully.

Shelton says the veterinarians told her they tried everything they could, but she was struggling watching her dog in so much pain.

“After we took him out for ice cream, we made the decision that we would put him down,” Shelton said.

Scout’s veterinarian said he and all his staff use Bravecto with their own pets.

“If I didn’t feel it was safe for pets, veterinarians wouldn’t use it,” said Dr. Craig Johnson, Scout’s vet at Parkside Animal Hospital. “We love pets as much as we love our kid, so if we felt it was an unsafe drug, the first thing we would pull off our shelves would be that drug if there was any fear that it was dangerous.”

But Dr. Johnson admits there can be risks with any medication.

“I think any medication I give to a dog has the potential to be fatal to a pet,” he said. “I think that goes for most drugs a human takes as well.”

The Food and Drug Administration found the risks significant enough to call for new labeling on Bravecto and similar pet medications. Months after I-Team 8 first reached out, the FDA said, “These products continue to be safe and effective for the majority of animals. The agency is asking the manufacturers to make the changes to the product labeling in order to provide veterinarians and pet owners with the information they need to make treatment decisions for each pet on an individual basis.”

Merck, the company that makes Bravecto, says it’s still confident Bravecto is safe and effective. They sent I-Team 8 the following statement:

“As part of its regular monitoring of all pharmaceutical products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a review of the isoxazoline class of parasiticides. As part of this review, the FDA has issued a drug safety communication and has requested updates to the prescribing information of all medicines in the isoxazoline class – including BRAVECTO (fluralaner) – to include information about possible neurologic adverse reactions in the precautions section.

Merck Animal Health remains confident in the safety and efficacy profile of Bravecto, which has been established through comprehensive clinical research in more than 170 studies. After three years of post-marketing surveillance of more than 80 million Bravecto doses distributed in 85 countries, the overall worldwide reporting rate for neurological signs, including seizures, remains classified as very rare.

Nothing is more important to Merck Animal Health than the safety and efficacy of our products and the well-being of animals. We encourage all pet owners to speak to their veterinarian before making a decision about flea and tick control products. More than just a nuisance, fleas and ticks transmit disease and pose animal and human health risks. It is critical to protect pets from these parasites.”

To be clear, there was never any conclusive proof Bravecto led to Scout’s death. Shelton would have had to have a necropsy performed to find out.

The ending of this story isn’t altogether a sad one. Carson entered Shelton’s life a few months after Scout’s death. But she does not want this to happen to any other pet owners. Shelton says she shared her concerns and scout’s reactions with her vet, Merck, the FDA, and the EPA, but she also wanted to share them with you.

“I relive it a lot,” she said. “I get mad. I want to make sure that if this is what it was, that other people don’t have to sit here and tell their story, that somewhere along the line it makes a difference, whatever he went through.”

A spokeswoman from Merck says they will work with the FDA to include the new label information. The FDA is still monitoring adverse drug reports and asks owners and vets whose pets had an issue after taking Bravecto to let the drug manufacturer know. Drug companies are required to report this information to the FDA.

You can reach the manufacturers of the affected drugs here:

  • Merck Animal Health (Bravecto): 800-224-5318
  • Elanco Animal Health (Credelio): 888-545-5973
  • Merial (Nexgard): 888-637-4251
  • Zoetis (Simparica): 888-963-8471