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Permethrin Poisoning in Cats

Warning! Flea control products labeled for use in dogs only should NOT be used in cats, not even a little drop.

Many 'spot-on' flea and tick products formulated for dogs contain permethrin, which can be fatal to cats.

What is Permethrin?   Top
Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide. Pyrethrin is the naturally occurring form derived from dried Chrysanthemum flowers and related species. The synthetic form, permethrin, is found in many ‘spot-on’ flea and tick control products for dogs that are readily available in supermarkets and pet stores.

While pyrethroids are generally safe for most mammals, including humans and dogs, cats are extremely sensitive to their effects. Accidental poisoning is becoming increasingly common, especially in multi-pet households where a tiny amount of the dog’s medicine is thought to be safe. Sadly, this is not the case – please read the label before using any product on your cat.

What are the signs of permethrin toxicity?   Top
Most clinical signs of permethrin poisoning are related to the central nervous system. A cat that has come into contact with a permethrin product, by absorbing it through the skin and/or licking it off its own skin or the dog’s, usually presents with obvious muscle tremors over the whole body. These tremors turn into seizures in severe cases, often progressing to coma and death.

Other signs of permethrin toxicity that may be seen include excess salivation, paw flicking, ear twitching, increased sensitivity to touch or sound, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression and incoordination.

The onset of clinical signs are usually within 1 to 3 hours but can be delayed up to 12 hours and effects can last 3 days or more.

How can Permethrin poisoning be prevented?   Top
Permethrin poisoning in cats can be prevented by always reading and following label instructions before using a flea or tick product on your pet. Never use products labelled 'Do NOT use on cats' or 'for use in dog’s only' on your cat, and don’t use them on dogs if you have cats in your home. Your cat can become poisoned by licking the dog or even by sleeping next to your dog.

Dr Julia Adams - Petalia Resident Vet

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