Pet dogs transfer veterinary medicines to the environment

Diepens, N.J.; Belgers, D.; Buijse, L.; Roessink, I.


Worldwide, the number of pet dogs increases yearly, and as a result so does the use of veterinary medicines for flea and tick control. We investigated the potential transfer of veterinary flea products from dogs to the environment in a ‘proof of principle’ experiment. For this purpose, samples of hair, urine, and water after swimming were investigated. Nine dogs were recruited for this study, eight of which had been recently treated with an ectoparasiticide product. Hair and urine samples were tested for afoxalaner, fluralaner, fipronil and imidacloprid. Interestingly, contamination with ectoparasiticides was frequently demonstrated in samples from dogs untreated with these particular substances, suggesting widespread secondary transfer. In addition, hair retrieved from a bird's nest contained fipronil, fluralaner and imidacloprid, indicating a potential pathway for the exposure of juvenile birds. Three of the dogs also participated in a swimming experiment. One had been treated with oral fluralaner, whilst the remaining two had received other compounds not included in our study. However, in all three dogs, both fluralaner and imidacloprid were detected in hair samples. Fluralaner concentrations in the swimming water exceeded Dutch water quality standards, indicating a potential risk to the aquatic environment. Imidacloprid levels increased after each swimming dog, but did not breach Dutch water quality standard levels. These findings all call for improvements in the current risk assessment and management for veterinary medicines, by including companion animals and their exposure pathways into ecosystems.