Posted: 6:51 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013

Company insists flea drug not the cause of dog fatalities

By Jim Strickland

ATLANTA —

Following a Channel 2 Action News Investigation, Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland obtained documents from a pathologist hired by drug maker Elanco that said three puppies did not die from taking the drug Trifexis, made by Elanco.

"Trifexis played no role in the death of this dog," Dr. Jeffrey Engelhardt wrote.

In the case of three dogs, Engelhardt said Trifexis' involvement was unlikely. The dogs died of heart failure in September.

Engelhardt did not examine the dogs' remains, only their pathology reports. Engelhardt is a former scientist with Eli Lilly, Elanco's parent company.

The dogs' breeder told Strickland the puppies came from five generations of Vizsla stock with no history of heart problems.

"I breed for temperament. I breed for health, and I've never had something like this ever happen," said breeder Jan Fowler.

Four of Fowler's puppies born on June 5 are thriving. They were never given Trifexis, a once-a-month pill to kill fleas and prevent heartworm.

The three that died had one dose of the drug and became weak and lethargic. Two of the dogs died three weeks after taking the pill. One died in six days.

"We have not been able to identify with all of these reports, any specific trends we can link directly to the use of the product," said Elanco veterinarian Dr. Stephen Connell. "Certainly we want to investigate these cases. We want to get to the bottom of this as much as anyone does."

"I've been showing with these dogs for 20 years, I know all the dogs behind them," said Fowler. "As a breeder, I need to know what happened to prevent it from happening again, in case it was something in my line, which I don't believe it is."

Marietta veterinarian Dr. Michael Good has prescribed the pill, although he said he prefers other products. Good said with any medication, owners ought to take the lead from their pets.

"I would think most veterinarians whose clients complain, 'Hey, my dog is sick,' (would advise) 'then don't give it to your dog,'" Good told Strickland.

Elanco insists any side effects are mild, not fatal.

"We still feel this is a safe product for the vast majority of pets that receive it," said Connell.

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