Flea and tick season is here!  It is so important to have your pets on prevention, but it needs to be the right product, especially for cats!  We have multiple kinds of products for cats, and dogs! 

The wrong product can cause severe illness and even death when used on cats.

Check out these tips on how to keep your cat safe from flea/tick prevention toxicity!

The most common ingredient in flea and tick prevention products is pyrethrin, an insecticide that is used to repel fleas and other insects, as well as to repel insects from food plants.

Cats are much more sensitive than dogs are to pyrethrins because they’re unable to break down these agents quickly and efficiently due to their peculiar liver metabolism.  Because the level of pyrethrins will be higher in a flea repellent for dogs, cats will commonly fall ill after being treated with a flea or tick product that was made for dogs. 

Unfortunately, toxicity most commonly occurs as a result of owner error, particularly by applying a product that was formulated for a different species.  The synthetic versions of pyrethrin have an even higher incidence of toxicity for cats when used improperly (the toxicity risks also increase for humans).  Users can distinguish other synthetic pyrethroids in insecticide products by looking for ingredients that end in “thrin” in the ingredient list.

Signs of Flea Product Toxicity in Cats: What to Watch For

Signs of pyrethrin toxicity in cats are serious and life-threatening and can include all or any of the following listed. Any signs warrant an immediate visit to the veterinarian for further treatment.

  • Shaking/Twitching/Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Incoordination or difficulty jumping, standing or walking
  • Excessive salivation/drooling
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Hiding
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • Hypothermia or hyperthermia

Prevention of Flea Product Toxciity

  • Prevention is simple – Only use cat products on cats. Use the appropriate weight range for your cat. Do not use part of a larger size, or more than one smaller size, flea and tick preventative, as this may result in a poisoning. NEVER apply a “small dog” flea and tick medication to a cat.
  • Keep your cat separate from any dogs that have been treated for 12 to 24 hours. This allows the product to dry thoroughly. When in doubt, a t-shirt can be applied to your dog to prevent accidental exposure to your cat until the product is dried.
  • Never use a product on a pet that’s not intended to be used on animals!
  • Only use products recommended by our clinic.

Call us at the Granville Veterinary Clinic at 740-587-1129 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680 immediately to determine if your cat has been poisoned.  The sooner you seek treatment, the better the prognosis and outcome for your pet!  Pyrethrin toxicity is fatal for cats if not treated immediately.  If your cat is wearing a flea collar or other insect repelling device, remove it.  If you applied a topical product, your vet may recommend that you bathe the product off with Dawn® dishwashing soap (or similar) and immedialtey head toward our hospital or the MedVet Columbus emergency room.