Popular flea collar may be linked to nearly 1,700 pet deaths

Pet owners are blaming a popular flea collar for their animals’ deaths and injuries. Members of Congress are calling for a recall, but the retailer is pushing back. Anna Werner has more.

Video Transcript

NORAH O'DONNELL: And breaking tonight only here on CBS News, members of Congress are now asking for one of the largest single-product temporary recalls in US history after documents show a top-selling flea and tick collar may be linked to the deaths of nearly 1,700 pets. CBS' Anna Warner investigates.

ANNA WERNER: Alex Yeager and his mom Eleanor say two months after they put a Seresto collar on their golden retriever, Blake, he developed seizures like this one. They say their veterinarian gave the dog epilepsy medication, but Blake was never the same.

- I don't want anyone to ever go through this.

ANNA WERNER: Karen Pisano told us one of her two four-month-old kittens fell ill within two days of putting the collars on in August. Orange Tabby Oscar's legs began twitching.

- And that's when I became extremely alarmed.

ANNA WERNER: On a veterinarian's advice, she says, she immediately removed the collars. But Oscar died that night.

- To see him pass, he didn't deserve that.

ANNA WERNER: Seresto collars contain two different pesticides designed to ward off fleas and ticks. Retailer Elanco says the collars are safe. But government documents obtained by a nonprofit group show since Seresto collars were introduced in 2012, more than 75,000 incidents have been reported to the EPA, ranging from skin irritation to seizures, plus nearly 700 pet deaths. Senior scientist Nathan Donley.

NATHAN DONLEY: The biggest thing that stuck out to me was just how high these numbers are.

ANNA WERNER: Elanco disputes that, saying the incident report rate in the US has been below 0.3%. And the majority relate to non-serious effects, such as skin problems. A company official said that a report is not an indication of cause and said there's no established link between exposure to the active ingredients in Seresto and pet deaths.

But Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi wants the collars off the market, at least temporarily.

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that it's only appropriate in this case that the manufacturer do a voluntary recall.

ANNA WERNER: The company says it's cooperating with the subcommittee but will not issue a recall. That, a spokesperson told us, would be up to regulators. Anna Werner, CBS News, Berkeley, California.