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Pets Get Topical Heartworm Drug

July 12, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Fido and Fluffy won’t swallow their heartworm pills? Here’s help: Simply squeezing a new liquid drug onto dogs’ and cats’ necks once a month offers the first topical protection against deadly heartworm.

And so pet lovers don’t have to buy numerous medicines, the new drug also kills fleas and treats ear mites, roundworm, hookworm and mange, the government said Monday in approving the drug selamectin.

Pfizer Inc. will sell the drug under the brand name Revolution. It will be available, by veterinarians’ prescription, by September. Pfizer hasn’t finalized a price, but said it should cost $10 to $20 a month, depending on the animal’s size.

While giving pets a pill isn’t always easy, ``what’s important here is really the convenience factor″ of a once-a-month medication that fights seven different parasites, said Pfizer veterinarian Dr. Ed Kanara.

Selamectin comes in premeasured doses according to an animal’s size and age. It’s only for dogs and cats at least 6 weeks old _ and while side effects in healthy animals were minimal, it should be used with caution in pets who are sick or underweight, the FDA warned.

Push aside the pet’s fur and squeeze the liquid onto the back of the neck, between the shoulder blades, said Dr. Elizabeth Luddy of the Food and Drug Administration. The drug is absorbed through the skin.

Mosquitoes transmit heartworms, a parasite that can destroy pets’ hearts. It’s a well-known problem for dogs, who routinely are tested for heartworm. But many cat owners don’t know that heartworm threatens their pets, too. Symptoms include coughing, breathing difficulty, lethargy and weight loss.

Selamectin is an alternative to oral drugs that prevent heartworm. ``It’s as effective as the oral products,″ Luddy said.

In addition, selamectin kills adults fleas and prevents flea eggs from hatching for a month, and treats ear mites, an itchy dog condition called ``sarcoptic mange,″ or scabies, and intestinal roundworm and hookworm in cats.

In studies of more than 1,700 animals, side effects appeared minimal, fewer than 1 percent of cats had hair loss where selamectin was applied, and fewer than 1 percent of pets vomited or had diarrhea.

However, the FDA urged caution in animals who are sick or underweight, because a malnourished stray kitten died eight hours after one selamectin dose.

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