SPECIAL REPORT: ABC 6 Investigates Pet Owners' Claim About Heartworm Medication
Updated: Wednesday, February 26 2014, 11:24 PM EST
WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (Jen French) -- Hundreds of dog owners are claiming a popular pet medication is doing more harm than good. While some dogs have gotten sick, other owners claim they have been forced to put their dogs down. ABC 6 dug into a local pet owner’s animal medical records.
Since it was introduced to the market, 50 million doses of Trifexis have been sold. The product, manufactured by the company Elanco, is intended to protect dogs from heartworm, a deadly parasite. While the majority of dogs have had no side effects, the FDA has received hundreds of reported cases of vomiting, lethargy and even death.
Spokespeople from the drug manufacturer Elanco told ABC 6 there is no proof that Trifexis is killing dogs.
"With more than 50 million doses of Trifexis dispensed worldwide -- there is no link established between product use and death,” Dr. Steven Connell said, Elanco Director of Veterinary Services.
Elanco spokesperson Colleen Decker said Trifexis has the same number of death reports and similar symptoms as other heartworm preventatives.
Nearly 4,000 dog owners have taken their complaints about Trifexis to the internet.
Kathy Jones claims her yorkie puppy Gizmo became deathly ill shortly after taking it. Jones’ veterinarian reported Gizmo’s death to Elanco last April. The company reviewed Gizmo’s file and told ABC 6 there’s no proof that Trifexis killed him. ABC 6 obtained Gizmo’s necropsy. Veterinarians say his cause of death is “undetermined.”
"These animals are almost like our children, and so somebody's got to listen," Kathy Jones said.
When Gizmo was being hospitalized after taking Trifexis, medical records indicate he was also being treated for an intestinal parasite. Elanco told ABC 6 -- that the parasite may have contributed to the animal’s death.
ABC 6 spoke to Jones’ veterinarian Dr. Robert Vanzant, who said intestinal parasites are common among puppies and curable.
ABC 6 contacted Gizmo’s breeder to check if other yorkies had the same problem. ABC 6 found Molly, a dog born in the same litter as Gizmo.
After hearing about Gizmo’s death, Molly’s owner decided not to give her pet Trifexis.
"My dog's not going to have it. We decided right then," Christina Strickland said, Molly’s owner.
According to Food and Drug Administration Adverse Drug Experience Reports, since Trifexis was introduced to the market in 2001 until November 2013, 429 dogs have died shortly after taking the drug. Another 249 were euthanized -- totaling to 678 deaths.
FDA spokespeople told ABC 6 that for every Adverse Drug Experience Report, they cannot be certain that the drug caused the reaction.