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Ask a Vet: Not all side effects are accurate
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“Dewey defeats Truman.” Maybe you’ve seen the famous photograph of the newspaper with the headline being held by newly re-elected President Truman.

How did it happen? Well, it was a bombastic report. The first paper to deliver it would surely have the edge in readership.

Sometimes journalistic responsibility may be trumped by aspirations of being first to report a story. We’re all human, after all.

Even science can be prey to making a mistake in reporting.

If you design an experiment to see what kinds of loud sounds make a frog jump away, then amputate said frog’s legs and repeat the test, you’ll soon find legless frogs are deaf. After all, they no longer jump away.

Recently, you may have read some articles regarding Trifexis, a heartworm preventive. A breeder reported several puppies from a litter dying after receiving the drug. These reports were then magnified through news media outlets. Reports on side-effect incidences and fatalities were relayed sans explanation.

To put it succinctly, fire was yelled in the crowded theater.

Subsequently, following the examination of the deceased puppies, congenital heart defects were found in multiple pups from the same litter.

When reviews of side effects are done based on science and the available literature, Trifexis has no higher incidence of toxicity than any other heartworm medication. And risk of fatality is no higher than other related medications. Aspirin has a higher incidence of serious side effects in dogs.

Because side effects can be just about anything, you have to accept all reports. If your dog takes a medication to prevent flea infestation, then you step on his foot, you are free to report his limp the next day as related to the medicine. The company is obliged to log the entry.

Hence, you get thousands of reports of negative side effects. Some may not be accurate. Please keep that in mind.

My dog takes Trifexis. And I live with a 6-year-old who can be a harsh taskmaster, and he holds me accountable. Perhaps we should hold our reporters accountable as well.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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