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Dog owners question link between meds and death

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Updated: 11/26/2013 11:34 pm
ATLANTA (WSB-TV) — Grieving animal lovers across the country are coming forward blaming a popular pet drug for killing their dogs. Channel 2 Action News has uncovered several cases in Metro Atlanta.

"It's like a piece of your heart is being torn out," said dog owner Beth Timms from Gainesville.

Her dog, Gizmo, died after taking Trifexis. The once-a-month pill made by Elanco is a combination pill for heartworm, parasites and flea prevention. Elanco is the animal health division of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.

Gizmo was a healthy 12-year-old mixed-breed. Shortly after taking Trifexis for the first time, she suffered lethargy, vertigo, seizures and a 106-degree temperature.

"We had to let her go. We had to have her put to sleep," Timms said. "I killed my dog."

Timms emailed consumer investigator Jim Strickland after finding a Facebook page titled "Trifexis Kills Dogs."

Owners from all over the country have posted on the page, blaming the drug for their dogs’ deaths.

The Facebook page led Strickland to a home in Sandy Springs, where a dog bowl still sits empty in the corner. The dog who once used it was a puppy named Bishop.

"He died. For no reason, no warning," said Bishop's owner Jenny Schmitt.

Bishop was a 16-week-old Vizsla, which is a Hungarian hunting dog. He was one of seven in a litter born in June from an American Kennel Club Grand Champion.

Three of Bishop's litter mates are thriving in Florida. A fourth is a healthy puppy living Buckhead. None of them has ever had Trifexis.

Bishop and the other two litter mates, named Tucker and Jade, each received their one and only dose of Trifexis in September. Bishop and Jade died within three weeks. Tucker died in six days. Veterinarians ruled they all died of heart inflammation.

"I think Eli Lillly and Elanco need to ask the broader question, 'Does this drug even need to be on the market?'" Schmitt said.

Elanco is headquartered outside of Indianapolis. Strickland went there to speak with one of Elanco's top veterinarians. Dr. Stephen Connell insisted Trfiexis is safe. He said he gives it to his own dogs.

Connell said Elanco has dispensed 50 million doses since Trifexis hit the market less than three years ago.

"We don't like the fact that it has killed any dogs. But with any pharmaceutical product, we understand that the very rare sensitivities, allergic events -- those types of things are going to happen," Connell said.

Elanco's spokesman later said Connell didn't mean to say the company doesn't like that Trifexis killed any dogs, but rather the company doesn't like hearing reports of any deaths.

Strickland got the numbers on reports about Trifexis made to the Food and Drug Administration. The latest figures are as of April 2013.

Pet owners have filed 2200 reports of the drug causing their dogs to vomit. There are 600 cases of lethargy, and 31 reports of dog deaths. That's about one per month since the drug hit the market.

The warning on the Trifexis box states mild side effects. Connell admitted to Strickland that the company has gotten reports of dogs suffering seizures, but Elanco has found no link to any dog deaths.

A University of Georgia Veterinary School pathology report on Bishop's death stated a bacterial infection likely caused the dog's heart failure. It ruled his symptoms were not typical of drug toxicity.

Trifexis contains two drugs, spinosad and milbemycin.

"The spinosad is from the United States. The milbemycin is sourced from China" said Connell.

He added their Chinese supplier has had multiple inspections and is a non-issue.

He also addressed the deaths of the puppies.

"It is our opinion that there are other factors involved in this case," Connel said.

Bishop's owner doesn't believe that.

"The three puppies that all died within the same week, all had Trifexis, all around the same time," Schmitt said. "It's a heck of a coincidence."


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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

ratgirl22003 - 11/14/2013 1:52 AM
0 Votes
I am also A Veterinary Technician of many years and I agree with nanerkins. Heartworm Disease is no joke and Trifexis is a great product-I have to wonder if it really is the cause of the tragic deaths. I give it to my dog and for all our clients in good conscience. If you don't trust Trifexis that's fine but please do your dog a favor and don't forgo heartworm prevention-the heartworm disease will kill your pet and the treatment is thousands of dollars and could also kill your pet.

LBKropp - 11/13/2013 11:54 AM
0 Votes
My otherwise healthy 8 year old female pitbull went into adrenal crisis after taking Trifexis and stayed that way for a month. She finally came out of it but her adrenal gland is completely killed, it registers no activity. She now has to have $200 steroid shots monthly to stay alive. She will forever suffer from taking this drug. It is so unfair that loving dog owners are trusting this product and it back fires on them and harms their animals... even kills. I have still not completely let go of the guilt of giving this to my girl. If you Google Trifexis you will come up with mainly negative feedback. This drug has GOT to come off the market. If you have had an adverse reaction PLEASE report it to FDA. If they get enough, they will shut them down and make it public! Its the only way to stop it. Elanco takes no responsibility, I reported to them and they could have cared less. No it will not affect every animal but the % is high enough to shut them down. Seizures, liver failure, heart probs, adrenal failure, etc etc etc. Take the warning and don't take the chance with your pet!!! The vets get kick backs for this drug so do not believe them when they say its safe!

CissyClancy - 11/12/2013 12:53 PM
0 Votes
My dog has been taking it since Dec 2012 and first 4 months vomit and sleepy (lethargy)within 40 minutes of each dose. Them he got skin irritation and lumps like bright red and almost looks like exema. That has his beautiful black coat with spots all on his under side, on his chest and both sides. I have been giving him Benadryl which has stopped the bright red and not giving him Trifexis since the dose in September. No vomitting, no more Red Bumps or sores popping up. At first I thought it was fire ants or some other biting insect getting him when he goes out to do his potty. I'm new to the south and never had any of my pets have any of these issues nor have any of past pets had Trifexis. As well as not knowing all the various new insects here compared to up north. After lengthy research about Dog Skin Irritations and found Trifexis and Skin Irritations and so the images which are exactly what my "Murphy" has been dealing with for way too long. Needless to say I haven't given him any meds for heartworm for almost 2 months to make sure this poison Trifexis is out of his system before I put him on Heartgard which is the normal med I always gave my other dogs in the past. IAlso my dog doesn't go outside unless on a leash and to his designated area for potty. So I'm sure his issues are from Trifexis and I am not willing to let my dog die or be poisoned by Chinese products!

nanerkins - 11/12/2013 12:37 PM
0 Votes
I feel terrible for all of those grieving pet owners...I too am an animal lover who has worked in the veterinary field as a vet assistant and I see the horrible effects of heartworm...I own 2 dogs who have been on trifexis for the last 2 years and they are as healthy as they come...maybe I am (or they are just lucky) but I have to swear by it. Our last dog we had who was 13 when we moved to Florida from upstate New York had gotten fleas the first year we were here...he was deathly allergic to them and my vet here put him on trifexis...he never had another flea or any of the problems these poor pets in the news story had...he lived to be almost 16 which was amazing for his breed.Again... I am so sorry for all of your heartbreaking losses...but maybe more research should be done for other common denominators in the deaths...

megaman1045 - 11/12/2013 12:20 PM
0 Votes
My dog Kelsi, a 10 yr old American Bulldog, started on Trifexis April 1 2013 ... she suddenly became ill May 5 2013 ... I had to put her down June 3 2013!!
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