Search form


French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

The article has been added to your library

Updated on 25/04/2018

The proper use of ectoparasiticides in domestic animals

Keywords : Veterinary medicinal products, Antiparasitics

Ectoparasites (parasites living on the outside of their host) can cause serious diseases in animals as well as diseases transmissible to humans. Veterinary medicinal products are available to control and/or prevent these diseases.

Ectoparasiticides are pesticides designed to kill parasites that live on the exterior of a host. They can be used to treat and/or prevent insect infestations (fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, sand flies or biting flies depending on the medicinal product) in animals. As for all veterinary medicinal products, their marketing authorisation is issued once an assessment of the data relating to their quality, safety and efficacy has determined that the benefits of their use outweigh all of the risks run by the animal receiving the treatment and the person administering the medicinal product or the people in contact with the treated animal.

Marketing authorisation procedure

The risks to humans are assessed during the marketing authorisation procedure for veterinary medicinal products, and any precautions to be taken by users and recommendations regarding people in proximity to the animals are described in the summary of product characteristics (SPC) for each product ( - in French) and included in its instructions for use. During this assessment, the specific case of potential close contacts between the animals and children is given special consideration.

The results of this assessment can lead to measures being taken to limit user exposure. Recommendations for use can be mentioned in the authorisations, for example, wash hands after use, carefully rinse eyes with water in the event of accidental exposure, do not smoke, drink or eat during application, wear gloves when administering the medicinal product.

Specific precautions for children can also be included. For example, for concentrated ectoparasiticides in “pipette” form, additional precautions may be added if necessary: “Until the application site is dry, do not handle the treated animals and do not allow children to play with them. It is therefore advisable to treat animals not during the day but rather in the early evening, and to not let animals that have just been treated sleep with their owners, children in particular”.

Veterinary pharmacovigilance

Once these medicinal products have been placed on the market, the side effects for humans and animals are monitored via the veterinary pharmacovigilance system. Indeed, adverse events in humans can occur through contact with treated animals, through direct contact with a veterinary medicinal product during administration to animals, or following an error of handling or use, such as accidental ingestion by a child.

In France, all of these reports of adverse effects that occur following the use of veterinary medicinal products are recorded by ANSES and continuously monitored. The results of this monitoring can lead to the revision of the marketing authorisation for the medicinal product, the addition, for example, of precautions for use, or the suspension or withdrawal of this authorisation if it is considered that the risks outweigh the benefits.

The most common symptoms observed in humans following the use of veterinary medicinal products primarily involve temporary and relatively benign irritation (essentially dermal, ocular and/or respiratory) with ectoparasiticides and inflammatory reactions in case of accidental injection.

As for all medications, it is therefore essential to read the instructions before using any veterinary medicinal product and strictly comply with the precautions for use included in these instructions.

Unless there is an emergency, any adverse effect occurring in humans following the use of a veterinary medicinal product should be reported via the Reporting portal for adverse health effects of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (in French).

In case of poisoning, call the locally competent poison control centre ( - in French).