Navigating flea and tick products for the average consumer is difficult. It usually means we read a label we don’t understand. The ingredients on flea and tick products commonly are disguised with other names “trademarked” to a certain manufacturer though they are similar or the same as other ingredients. Packaging is often misleading and complete adverse reactions are never listed.

For example, Bansect flea collars are made by Sergeant’s. The EPA designates a registration number to each product, yet often the same registration number is found on both cat and dog products, and products marketed under different brand names. In the case of the Bansect collar, both dog and cat versions have the same registration number. To complicate it further, the other day in the grocery store, I saw several other brand names by Sergeant’s all with the same EPA number. They ranged in price from $19.99, $16.99, $12.99 and the Bansect brand collars were priced at $3.99. Theoretically, there should be no difference in these products, but obviously there are. One is the packaging. Bansect looks “generic” and the name Sergeant’s is very plain, flat and small in the upper left hand corner. On the more expensive packages, there are colors, happy animals, they have UV coating which makes them look shiny and the Sergeant’s name is prominent. The most expensive have gold trim around the lettering. Yet, theoretically, they should all be the same since they all share the same EPA registration number.

Often ingredients, especially permethrin, has a few lines of the chemical structure when listing the active ingredient, which obscures the actual name of the chemical by it’s mere “overwhelm” factor.

Other companies will change the names of common ingredients to try to fool consumers. I assume this is due to the bad publicity many of the products have received lately. An example is Sergeant’s Gold Sqeeze On, which claims the active ingredient to be Gokliat. If you look up Gokliat, it only exists in the world of Sergeant’s. They made up the name. This is what their website says about it in their FAQ section with a charming looking guy named Dr. Van Horn:

The active ingredients in the Gold product are gokliat and nylar. Gokliat is commonly known as the adulticide. Nylar is the Insect Growth Regulator in the formula, which prevents fleas from hatching and reinfesting the pet.

Yet, on the label, there is no reference to Nylar or Gokliat. Gokliat is semi-imaginary and Nylar actually goes by a different chemical name all together. As you can see, the dog version label says, “Cyphenothrin” and “Pyriproxyfen”. The cat version states the active ingredients to be “Etofenprox” and “Pyriproxyfen”. [Click the images for the enlarged views]

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Dr. Van Horn is cheery and colorful in his green windbreaker, wearing a stethoscope to add to his credibility. He appears to be Photoshopped into the backdrop of a vet practice, complete with an exam table and a kitty carrier behind him. The backdrop is washed in blue hue, which makes his friendly mug stand out more. Did you know that psychologically the color green makes you feel friendly?

Hmmm. This picture looks an awful lot like his Facebook profile picture, only with a different background.

I am almost ashamed to tell you that Dr. Rod Van Horn went to Oregon State University. (We live in Oregon.) He graduated in the 1980’s, yet there are no reviews for him as a clinician, or his supposed vet practive, Omaha Animal Medical Group which he started 18 years ago. According to Google, his thriving vet practice is listed under “Boarding and Pet Sitting”.

On the Sergeant’s Look at the Label website, they describe Dr. Van Horn as:

Dr. Van Horn received his undergraduate degree from Northern Arizona University, upon which he attended Oregon State University. He graduated from OSU in 1988 with his Doctorate of Veterinary medicine. He practiced in Arizona for 4 years and then moved to Omaha to establish Omaha Animal Medical Group in the spring of 1992.

Notice it doesn’t really say what Omaha Animal Medical Group is? It’s about as vague as his description of Gokliat. According the Nebraska Secretary of State search, Omaha Animal Medical Group is not an active or inactive business entity. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services licenses veterinarians, and he does have a license to practice in Nebraska, but again, when you search for the Omaha Animal Medical Group, it is a non-existant entity both active and inactive and Dr. Van Horn does not own any entity in the state of Nebraska.

Dr. Van Horn does have a license in Arizona, with one complaint a scant 2 months after he got his license. If you are the enterprising type of sleuth, and have time on your hands, feel free to check with every state licensing board for veterinarians. He claims to hold license in “several” states, so there may be more.

These are just some ways in which companion pet companies try to lend credibility to their name, brand and products. Dr. Van Horn has been on numerous videos and newscasts as a spokes person for Sergeant’s. However, under his face, it usually says “Veterinarian” or “DVM”.

These pages are an attempt to give you an inside view to what’s really inside and behind these pet products. The first step to being an educated pet parent is being able to have the information to make logical decisions at your disposal. Since the manufacturers seem not to be willing to do so, it’s up to us to educate each other.

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