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November 13--  WSB-TV in Atlanta reports on the case of a flea/heartworm pill which a Florida breeder suspects may have caused the death of three puppies.  The manufacturer does not agree.

flea meds photo
Tucker died on Sept. 19, shortly after taking the flea drug Trifexis.
flea meds photo
Jade died on Sept. 22, shortly after taking Trifexis.

Following a Channel 2 Action News Investigation, Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland obtained documents from a pathologist hired by drug maker Elanco that said three puppies did not die from taking the drug Trifexis, made by Elanco.

"Trifexis played no role in the death of this dog," Dr. Jeffrey Engelhardt wrote.

In the case of three dogs, Engelhardt said Trifexis' involvement was unlikely. The dogs died of heart failure in September.

Engelhardt did not examine the dogs' remains, only their pathology reports. Engelhardt is a former scientist with Eli Lilly, Elanco's parent company.

The dogs' breeder told Strickland the puppies came from five generations of Vizsla stock with no history of heart problems.

"I breed for temperament. I breed for health, and I've never had something like this ever happen," said breeder Jan Fowler.

Four of Fowler's puppies born on June 5 are thriving. They were never given Trifexis, a once-a-month pill to kill fleas and prevent heartworm.

The three that died had one dose of the drug and became weak and lethargic. Two of the dogs died three weeks after taking the pill. One died in six days.

"We have not been able to identify with all of these reports, any specific trends we can link directly to the use of the product," said Elanco veterinarian Dr. Stephen Connell. "Certainly we want to investigate these cases. We want to get to the bottom of this as much as anyone does."

"I've been showing with these dogs for 20 years, I know all the dogs behind them," said Fowler. "As a breeder, I need to know what happened to prevent it from happening again, in case it was something in my line, which I don't believe it is."

Marietta veterinarian Dr. Michael Good has prescribed the pill, although he said he prefers other products. Good said with any medication, owners ought to take the lead from their pets.

"I would think most veterinarians whose clients complain, 'Hey, my dog is sick,' (would advise) 'then don't give it to your dog,'" Good told Strickland.

Elanco insists any side effects are mild, not fatal.

"We still feel this is a safe product for the vast majority of pets that receive it," said Connell.

Georgia Veterinary Medicine Association Responds

The GVMA issued the following to member veterinarians after WSB's report.

"The GVMA would like to let GVMA members know about a story that aired on November 11 on WSB-TV in Atlanta regarding the possible link between the death of three dogs and Trifexis.

Please view the segment here.

Trifexis manufacturer Elanco has released some information that may help you when talking with clients. They have also created a phone hotline where consumers can get more information – 888-545-5973.

Veterinarians with questions may wish to contact Elanco Chief Veterinarian Dr. Steve Connell at 317-433-5488 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

You can also view the additional medical documentation here:

Bishop Necropsy

Jade pathology report

Tucker pathology report

GVMA response

The GVMA posted the following responses to the GVMA Facebook page as well as the Facebook page for WSB. We encourage you to use these posts in communications to clients on this topic.

Stories such as this demonstrate how important it is to have a relationship with your veterinarian.  With knowledge of your pet’s medical history and lifestyle, a veterinarian can recommend the best product for your pet. With the use of any medication, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about any changes in your pet’s health or behavior. 

It is important to note, heartworm disease is a very serious and sometimes fatal medical condition. The threat of heartworm infection in Georgia is year-round, and a few areas in Georgia have some of the highest levels of incidence reports in the nation. Fortunately heartworm disease is easily preventable. That is why the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association encourages the year-round use of heartworm preventative. Because there are many options for heartworm prevention, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about the right medication for your pet."