Contributed by Tamara, owner of Fuller Faru.
Let me start off by saying we live in south Texas where it's hot and humid and the mosquitoes and fleas are like Navy seals- relentless and the size of Houston itself.
Flea prevention in south Texas is challenge to say the least. We have always used some sort of topical in the past with most of them doing a decent job. Treating acreage/land is just not doable with all the other critters passing through and dropping fleas and ticks along the way.
Last year, the usual topical stopped working. So we decided to try Nexgard (my vet of 20 years highly recommended it, and gave each one of our dogs a free dose). The box said- most common side effect was a little GI upset. All dogs (lab, American bull, coonhound, and boerboel) wolfed down the beef flavored chewy with gusto. All was well and life was good.
That was in October. In October, Faru, our then almost 11 month old Boerboel seemed to be fine with it. He even tried all the usual, sit, down, “aren't I precious?” and “don't you love me?” techniques to try and talk me into another treat. They were apparently yummy. Flea med for fall- done. I don't do flea meds thru the winter because fleas aren't really a problem- so no need to give it.
Fast forward to May 2017.
We went to Grandma's house and picked up a few fleas. Time to give meds again before things get out of hand. So, I dosed all the dogs with Nexgard. It worked on all of them last time...except this time, Faru was older and bigger. Much bigger. At almost 18 months, he was 130# now, and needed not only the XL Dog chew, but a small dog chew as well. Again, everyone wolfed down their “cookie" with gusto. That was FRIDAY.
Saturday we went down to the coast, Faru in tow to visit family etc. We noticed he was super itchy. REALLY itchy. His back legs would crumble under him when you went to give a butt scratch; more than the usual - OMGosh that feels so good. Then he vomited. (We thought maybe something didn't quite sit right as it's a long drive down- I'll add here that he is fed raw AND sometimes food just doesn't sit right). Other than the itchies, he was acting completely normal. When we arrived home, he didn't want to eat dinner. Too much excitement? Tired? Did he eat a crawfish? Was he able to talk a child into something he shouldnt have had? Maybe.
Sunday morning- still itchy. Running around playing with the other boys- but not hungry. Same at dinner. Hubby decided to give him a bath to calm the itch. At this point he couldn't settle. Pacing, scratch, chew, pace, scratch, chew, repeat. When drying him off, that's when I noticed the hives starting on his tummy. I marked them, and watched. 1 hour later they were 2x the size. Started him on Benadryl.
Monday- hives are STILL spreading at this point. More benadryl. Won't eat. Vomited a few times, just bile- since he didn't have anything on his tummy.
Tuesday- at the vet when the doors opened. Still getting hives with the benadryl. My gut was telling me he was reacting to the Nexgard. The vet wasn't convinced yet. After all, the only side effects usually seen are nausea and occasional diarrhea. That's what's on the box. We took an x-ray just to make sure there wasn't an obstruction. All clear. They gave him a shot of dexamethasone, and some anti-nausea meds, canned ID (yuck) for a sensitive tummy, & he was down 5#. He ate later that night-yay!
Wednesday- eating the canned food well and taking anti-nausea meds. It's hard to keep a BB full on canned food - just sayin’.
Thursday- everything on the up and up! Faru is feeling better, eating well (8+cans a day- yikes), playing in the house. Eyes are brighter, etc. We were so happy right up until 7:30pm. Faru came in with our daughter, playing and happy to see his girl. Within 15 min it was very clear he wasn't feeling well. It hit him hard and fast- and then vomiting. Over the next hour or so we monitored him, progressively getting worse. Itching, gassy, burping, vomit. The he started to shake. Luckily he was not having seizures, but shaking like he was cold. I took his temperature, it was 99.9 - kinda low for a dog, especially a BB. It dropped again to 98.6, so off to the ER we went. Vet did another x-ray (All clear again) and a full CBC. All is bloodwork was CLEAR. He has lost another 10# (how is that possible in 2 days?!?!?) I told them I thought he was reacting to Nexgard- again I was told it was highly unlikely. Ok- then what is it?? SOMETHING is wrong with him- what? Ingesting a toxic substance would have thrown off his blood panel.
They gave us a different med that would allow him to rest, more nausea meds, and at 2:30 am I took him home. Needless to say, I didn't sleep that night. I stayed on the couch watching him, listening to him breathe, gently touching him, etc.
It's FRIDAY- and around 7am his heart rate began to drop. It slowed to 40 bpm. I rushed and got the girls up for school, and ready to load Faru up, except I couldn't get him up. He was hard to awaken. When I got him up, he had ataxia (loss of use) in his rear end. He was hunched over with his rear end up under him. My 12 year old and I carried him to the car (thank you for her strength!) Kids to school- and were back at the vet. They came with a stretcher. My vet set us up in his private office so Faru could be quiet (I love my vet- btw). IV fluids asap- warm and fast & more blood work. Faru was a champ thru the whole thing. Not a flinch, not a snarl thru all the poking, prodding, pitching and testing- that's my sweet boy. He's still quivering, body temp down to 98.2. He felt bad...real bad. (It was taking everything I had to hold myself together at this point). An EKG was ordered immediately. Heart rate is off and low (technology is great- we had results in less than 2 minutes from the Cardiologist). Cardiologist ordered Atropene, to regulate it. And we waited. 10 minutes seemed like an hour. But Faru’s eyes perked up about 6 minutes in, and you could noticeably see he was feeling better. Thankfully it worked and he began to return to normal. His temp had come back up to a normal 101.8. My vet asked - you still convinced it was the Nexgard? YES!!- with every fiber of my being. Of course when I couldn't sleep last night I researched. I found ALL of his symptoms had been reported to the FDA as severe reaction to Nexgard. ALL. The vet told the tech to get Merrill (makers of Nexgard) on the phone. She did and gave them the history of what we were going thru. Then my vet got on and spoke with their Attending Physician- they admitted that ALL of his symptoms he had been having the last week have been reported before. My vet was surprised. (They also voluntarily offered to send $500 to the clinic to help with his diagnostics- thanks) Umm…. Admission of guilt??? Yep- I think so!
Faru stayed all day with more fluids and came home that night. I requested his IV catheter remain in place and they send home fluids with me just in case. Thankfully we didn't need them.
Faru continually got better, rested, ate, snuggled, butt scratches, etc all week. Then on FRIDAY he went off his food. Gassy and burping again, then added some diarrhea with it. He was anxious, eyes dilated, nauseated again. Then back to normal the next day.
Did you notice it was FRIDAY again? That's because what I found out is that these systemic oral meds we give for fleas are time released. EVERY WEEK FOR A MONTH. And there wasn't anything I could do until it ran it's course. S#!T.
The one month anniversary of the start of this mess was day before yesterday. It's been an exhausting month. Wondering and waiting if the next Friday would bring a relapse. Thank God, this last Friday he was fine. All is well.
I write this story not to talk you out of using these products. I used it. 3 out my 4 dogs were fine. But my 1 it almost killed. My baby, my Faru. (It's kinda like codeine. You can give it to 150k people, but it can kill 10). The main problem lies in the fact that these are systemic. There is no antidote for a reaction. There isn't a reversal agent. You're stuck for a MONTH until it runs it course. Praying and hoping each time, when the time release comes, it won't be worse. These meds stay in our dogs system for much longer than a month- building up with each dose. I urge you to research EACH product before making a decision. Bravecto & Nexgard both have Facebook pages titled “ --- killed my dog”. Hundreds and thousands of stories like mine, some less reactive, some lost their lives. I'm pretty sure these pet parents aren't over reacting themselves. Dogs are sick and dying from these products.
The FDA has pages of reactions available to the public.
What am I going to do about flea prevention now? I don't know. Faru will get all natural remedies- garlic, DE and EO. What I do know is that it won't be Nexgard or anything systemic.
* Research reactions so that you know what to look for
* Be proactive in your pets healthcare
* Have a good relationship with your vet, and don't be afraid to disagree with them- after all, there aren't perfect either
Sorry this was so long, it's been a long month. Hopefully you can take something of it with you.
Wishing you all the best of luck in raising our wonderful, special, loyal and loving boerboels- they deserve it.