‘Her Neck Was Raw and Bleeding:’ Pet Owners Begged Feds for Help With Deadly Seresto Flea Collars

‘Her Neck Was Raw and Bleeding:’ Pet Owners Begged Feds for Help With Deadly Seresto Flea Collars
Graphic: Karl Gustafson

When you put a protective flea collar on your dog or cat, the last thing you expect is for that product to hurt your pet. Or kill them. Enter Seresto Flea and Tick Collars, which did just that. At least 2,340 pets are believed to have been killed by Seresto collars.

Gizmodo has obtained complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission that include horrific details of the animals’ suffering. We believe the complaints are an important piece in the Seresto story that has been missing until now: Heartfelt, specific testimonials from pet owners about what actually happened to their furry friends in the collars.

Gizmodo obtained 282 complaints to the FTC from pet owners complaining about Seresto flea collars via a Freedom of Information Act request. Some of the complaints allege that fake flea collars were shipped from China via very convincing but fraudulent websites like www.seresto-store.com. The real domain for Seresto is www.seresto.com.

One complainant who said a collar sickened their dog wrote to the FTC, “I demand a full refund plus tax. I cannot find the company to complain so here I am hoping you can help.”

Other buyers complained the product simply didn’t work and their dog or cat still got fleas. Perhaps that’s for the best, given the alternatives. There are even claims in some of the filings that legitimate online retailers such as Walmart delivered counterfeit products from overseas.

But the most heartbreaking complaints in the batch describe allegedly legit flea collars that poisoned pets and sometimes even killed them. Pet owners were livid with Bayer and now Elanco, the company that bought Bayer Animal Health for $US7.6 ($11) billion in 2020.

“I believe without a shadow of doubt in my mind that this product is dangerous and that it killed [redacted dog name], my daughter’s dog since she was a little girl. I also believe it would have killed [redacted dog name] had I not taken them off,” one complainant wrote after contacting PetCo and then Seresto.

Seresto’s collars have never been recalled. The Environmental Protection Agency approved use of the preventative petwear in the U.S. in 2012, but even employees of that agency had been concerned about reports of adverse reactions from pets, according to documents obtained through FOIA by the Centre for Biological Diversity.

“The fact that they continue to peddle the product knowingly when animals and humans have become sick and in worst cases died is disgusting,” one complainant wrote.

For its part, representatives at Elanco says there have been “inaccurate media reports on this topic widely refuted by toxicologists and veterinarians.”

“What I wanted to make sure you understood — for the sake of your readership — is that reports such as you’ve cited do not indicate cause,” Elanco spokesperson Keri McGrath Happe told Gizmodo via email.

“Those are raw data and cannot be used to draw conclusions on what may have actually caused the issues.  Further investigation and assessment are required to determine cause, often a veterinary exam or laboratory diagnostics, as appropriate.  There are important factors that should be taken into consideration when assessing cases like the ones you referenced, including age of the pets and other treatments they may have been taking at the time,” McGrath Happe continued.

Elanco’s PR team also stressed in correspondence with Gizmodo that the number of “incidents” regarding its collars actually went down over the past decade.

“The overall incident reporting rate has decreased from 59.88 per 10,000 collars distributed in 2013 to 17.26 per 10,000 collars sold in 2021. That’s less than a fifth of 1% reporting rate across-the-board,” McGrath Happe wrote to Gizmodo.

“More than 93% of incident reports received for Seresto pet collars in the U.S. from January 2013 to December 2021 are classified after careful analysis as “minor” (70.65%) or “moderate” (22.59%),” McGrath Happe continued.

Elanco did not elaborate on where that left the remaining 7% of incidents. But many of the FTC reports Gizmodo has obtained can probably shed some light.

The complaints below have been lightly edited for spelling and clarity. If you’ve had a bad experience with Seresto collars, we’d love to hear from you: novak@gizmodo.com. Gizmodo could not independently verify the claims made in these complaints to the FTC because most of the identifying information has been redacted by the agency.

“Before I could even get him in to the vet he was dead… I wasted over $US200 ($278) for it to kill my dog”

Purchased Seresto collars for my dogs and put them on. Within 48 hours my oldest dog stopped eating and before I could even get him in to the vet he was dead. My youngest dog about two days later started having trouble breathing. My other two developed rashes. The only thing that changed was putting on those collars. I took them off my still living dogs and scrubbed them down with Dawn soap to get the chemicals off them and within an hour the one was back to breathing normally and the other two have stopped itching and the rashes already look better a day later. I believe without a shadow of doubt in my mind that this product is dangerous and that it killed [redacted dog name], my daughter’s dog since she was a little girl. I also believe it would have killed [other dog name] had I not taken them off. This product needs to be recalled and I wasted over $US200 ($278) for it to kill my dog. You can’t bring him back. You can’t fix that. This product needs to go.

“One developed bumps on his head and the other became lethargic… I cannot find the company to complain so here I am hoping you can help”

I purchased two collars for my doxens. One developed bumps on his head and the other became lethargic, was hitting, could not eat, could not keep down fluids. We removed the collars and with in a couple of hours he was playful, eating and drinking. Never again. I purchased them from my vet and know I will warn others not to use these collars. I demand a full refund plus tax. I cannot find the company to complain so here I am hoping you can help. I read others complaints. I don’t understand why we still have these on the market!

“Elanco is operating in bad faith”

I purchased a Seresto collar for my dog from Petco in early Spring 2021. Shortly after the purchase, our vet advised us to stop using the collar because there is a concern regarding the risks associated with its use. I contacted Petco, and they told me I needed to go through the manufacturer to seek a refund. I contacted Elanco/Bayer/Seresto to seek a refund and I was given a scripted curt response from customer service two times. They also advised that there is no plans to recall their “safe” product. Varying data suggests otherwise, even Congress is involved in these complaints. The fact that they continue to peddle the product knowingly when animals and humans have become sick and in worst cases died is disgusting. Elanco is operating in bad faith, and at the very least customers should be refunded for a product that they cannot use.

“She had had a reaction to the collar which had never happened before…”

First and foremost I want to say been absolute dedicated customers to Serresto for years. Often referring the collars to family, friends and fellow dog parents. Their flea collars always worked perfectly up until last year. I don’t know if the fleas have become immune to them or not? Or what’s going on. But I called the company to file a complaint about the products. They sent us two replacement collars and a pack of the spot treatment. Fast forward to the spring. We went ahead and put the collars on two of our dogs. Our 3rd dog we used the spot treatment on. She had a reaction to the collar which had never happened before. My sister who is in vet school said it could have been due to her getting wet and the collar irritating her skin. So after we tried the spot we bought another flea collar for her. No reaction this time. We also decided to buy them for the cat since the company stood behind the product. And we figured we would give them another chance. NONE OF THEM WORKED.

“A dog collar has killed one of her dogs and made another one seriously ill…”

Consumer is calling to report that a dog collar has killed one of her dogs and made another one seriously ill. States that there are multiple complaints and outcry and she is upset that they are still on the market. States the company is Seresto marketed by Elanco, a subsidiary of Bayer. States there should be pressured to remove the collars. Tried to speaking to state AG, but was not given any direction. She purchased the product in person at a Petco.

“My dog has had a major skin rash break out”

I contacted an online store on 5/31/19 asking if they could offer me a first time shopper discount. The website I obtained their email address was Collarsonlineshop.com and the email address was shopseresto@outlook.com. I received a response within hours and was given a code for a 20% discount. I immediately ordered flea collars for my two cats and one dog on 5/31/19 paying with my secure PayPal account. Several days later I received my three flea collars and placed them on my animals. I had noticed several fleas on one of my cats but it did not seem bad at all. After several days all three of my animals had fleas. I could see them crawling on my pets’ skin. Finally after 3 weeks of fleas getting worse, now everywhere in my home as well as on my pets I removed the flea collars on 06/28/19. Besides fleas starting to be an infestation on my cats and dogs, my dog has had a major skin rash break out. This first appeared on the dogs neck, now appearing to take over his back and underside of his legs and groin area. He is suffering! Also my two cats are suffering fur loss and scratches that are becoming infected. I replied to the email that I originally received my discount code response from at shopseresto@outlook.com and stated that the collars that I purchased where counterfeit. I also googled and discovered how to identify a counterfeit Seresto flea collar. My collars fit all the descriptions of a counterfeit item including the packaging and effectiveness of the items. In my email I explained my animals suffering and stated I wanted a refund for receiving counterfeit items. The company replied and offered me a 50% refund and a discount for their store. At the same time that I emailed this shop directly, I also filed a complaint through the resolution area with PayPal and was almost immediately given a full refund through Paypal. I searched for this website and was not able to find it again. Upon reviewing my emails I clicked the one link I could find to their store and was directed to another online store similar to the one I went to but now PetCareSupplies.com. I believe this perpetrator is selling counterfeit items. Every email I received in response seemed weird when it had Oriental writing along with broken English. I would like to officially file this complaint and receive fines for my pet care now that I am having issues with my dog’s skin and the flea infestation that has taken over. Thank you for your time.

“She had a allergic reaction to the collar, her neck was busted open and bleeding…”

I ordered five Seresto dog and cat collars from pet supplies online shop, I was told the home base was in Moorehead, Minnesota, I ordered them July 22,2019, and got them two days later after I paid an extra $US30 ($42). I got them on the 24th of July, I put them on my pets, which was three dogs and two cats. My youngest dog about chewed her tail off even with the collar on, I looked and her tail area was infested with fleas. My oldest is 7 years old and I have had her since she was 7 weeks old. We’re as tight as a mother and child. She had a allergic reaction to the collar, her neck was busted open and bleeding, her ear was cut along with her side and she got so sick. I really thought I had lost her. I immediately called her vet and he put her on medication and took the collars off. When I looked at the package where the collars came from it said China. I emailed the company and got an email back from [redacted]. I am a very responsible pet owner and I take care of my animals. I sent an email and ask him if these were fake or real and I wanted an honest answer, he sent one back telling me that the collars were 100% safe for my pets. There is a group on Facebook called Seresto group and you can go on there and see that other people also have gotten fake collars. One woman lost all three of her dogs due to the collar. I would really like to know if this is a real address and who the owner of this company is. I would really like to see them shut down. These collars are not safe for animals. Plus I have had to spend more money for the vet and medication and more flea pills for all five of them. I am a widow living on a widow’s pension but I still take care of my animals. I would like to know who owns this company and I would like to see them shut down, but I want them to pay for what they did to my animals. None of this right, and I would like to hear from this company… I want them to pay……..

“I don’t want anyone else to get tricked”

I ordered six cat Seresto collars and one small dog Seresto collar from this site. Received the collars and put them on my animals. Noticed that my animals still had fleas, that the collars were not working. So I investigated and compared these collars and the tin cans they came in to a real Seresto collar. The collars did not have an odor, did not have any labels etched into the collar like the real one did and the labels were different on the cans. Clearly these ones were fake. I don’t want anyone else to get tricked into this scam and buy these fake collars.

“I didn’t think twice about clicking on this link”

I went onto Google and searched Seresto flea collars and clicked on the first website that came up. Normally legit companies pay to be the first search results, so I didnt think twice about clicking on this link. The website looked totally legit. Nothing stood out to me. The Bayer trademark was even used. I purchased four collars. The site was running an early Black Friday sale for 70% off. I thought I had just scored a great deal. But once I submitted my order the confirmation email came from a Chinese email address. I instantly knew I had been scammed. I emailed the company immediately to say I wanted to cancel my order and get my money back. They asked for my information and then stopped responding. I got a confirmation email that my order shipped from China! After this happened I had heard that people are knocking off the real company and the real collars. This is so dangerous! Who knows what they’re giving us to put on our pets! I am going to reject the package and put return to sender on it because I am not letting a foreign package come into my home and around my family that is not legit. This is scary! The emails I have from them are all in Chinese writing as well. This is completely a counterfeit scam they have going on and theyre using Seresto’s name and trademark as well as Bayer. The email on the PayPal account is [redacted].

“Her neck was raw and bleeding, along with her ear and her side”

I needed five seresto collars for my pets. I saw a bayer website that offered dogs for $US17.99 ($25) and cats for $US15.99 ($22), so I am thinking ‘ok Bayer makes these collars so I ordered five, for $US100.89 ($140) plus $US30 ($42) shipping and handling to get them in two days. That was July 22, 2019. I got them July 24, 2019. I put them on them the same day and two days later I noticed my oldest dog of 7 years old which i have had her since she was 7 weeks old, her neck was raw and bleeding, along with her ear and her side. I was pissed, I called her vet and he gave me medicine for her. after that time i noticed they were all still scratching, i thought something is wrong they dont do thst within 48 hours the fleas are dead. then i went and started doing research on this company after I looked at the package and its marked CHINA, not USA. I have found out that these collars are fake. In the meantime I have had to buy 5 flea pills one for each of my pets. the website they have is bayeronlinestore.com, wrong the email i got back from them is mortyonlinestore.com, they are not in Minnesota but they are operating through China based. I am really upset I am a responsible pet owner and i take care of my babies before myself. I have 3 that are rescue and I explained to him that I took them out of danger not to put them in danger. My 7 year old is still not well I had to go back today to her vet to get more medicine. I have emails from them that I can send to you through email if I had an email address. I asked him three times if they were fake and if they were from china an he replied to me that there is nothing in the collars to hurt my pets. If that was so then why does she have allergic reaction to it and her neck, ear and side are cut and bleeding. This company is fake along with the collars.

“The website has completely changed to a hydro flask company.”

Ordered 3 Seresto collars from the website serestonet.com with the expedited shipping. Since the purchase I received no product and the website has completely changed to a hydro flask company. The order details are from pay pal but when I log into their site they have no knowledge of the transaction.

“I was told they are counterfeit. They look amazingly real.”

Purchased 2 Seresto cat flea and tick collars.I went directly to what I thought was the Bayer Seresto site, which looked perfect. When I received the two tins with the collars in them the collars didn’t have serial numbers on them as they did in the past. I called Bayer Seresto consumer line and described them to their representative. I was told they are counterfeit. They look amazingly real. I contacted my credit card co and am disputing the charge due to fraud. I think you should look into this and take down their websites. Bayer Seresto does seem aware of this.