Each year as flea season approaches, The ASPCA’s Poison Control Center hears from thousands of cat owners with a common problem: the symptoms their cats are exhibiting that stem from applying their dog’s flea products to their cats. Cats react very differently than dogs to some insecticides; because of this, some products that are safely used on dogs can be deadly to cats, even in small amounts. An example of such a species difference is permethrin sensitivity in cats.
“The misuse of flea and tick products can be extremely harmful or even deadly to our companion animals,” comments Dr. Steven Hansen, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “By taking the time to read a product label carefully, a pet owner could save their animal’s life.”
There are over 18 brands of permethrin spot-on products available that are labeled for "dogs only." These typically contain high concentrations (45-65%) of permethrin insecticide and are used for flea and tick control. These permethrin products have a good margin of safety when used on dogs, but even a few drops of concentrated permethrin could be lethal to a cat. Owners most commonly expose cats to these products through inappropriate or accidental application. The signs commonly seen with permethrin toxicity in cats include generalized tremors, muscle fasciculation and seizures. Signs can develop within hours or may be delayed up to 48 hours.
Most cats have a good chance of recovering with prompt and aggressive veterinary treatment, including medication to control tremors and seizures, IV fluids, bathing and other supportive care. To avoid potential problems, before purchasing any flea product for their pet and/or home owners should consult with their pet’s regular veterinarian, and should always read the label instructions completely before using any product on their pets.
To view additional items that are toxic to animals log onto www.aspca.org/apcc. If you have used a flea control product, and notice that your cat is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, call your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435 immediately for assistance.
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