CVMA | Documents | Flea and Tick Products Can Be Toxic to Cats

Flea and Tick Products Can Be Toxic to Cats

May 12, 2014

Sadly, every year many cats arrive at veterinary hospitals with high body temperatures and tremors, shaking and even seizures. These cats may have been treated with flea and tick products that are intended for dogs. A portion or all of a dose intended for dogs can be very dangerous to the health of cats. 
Toxicity from dog flea and tick products is a medical emergency. The longer your cat is left to shake, the greater the chance of permanent damage (death included). If you have used a flea and tick product that is intended for dogs, call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately. Bathe the material off quickly from the fur with warm soapy water, as most frequently it is the spot-on or pour-on permethrin-type products that are problematic. Do not even dry your cat—instead wrap kitty in a towel and go immediately to a veterinary hospital for help. 
If treated quickly, chances of recovery are excellent. Your veterinarian will provide intravenous medication to help reduce the temperature and motor activity and perhaps a binding drug to help the cat clear the toxin. This will provide hydration until the cat can again eat and drink on its own.  
Signs may vary from mild to very severe depending on the dose, health and age of the cat and type of chemical. Those left without care for a long period, or those receiving doses for large dogs may pass away in spite of therapy. Usually at least 24 hours in hospital is required to let the cat eliminate the toxin.
It’s important to read the product packaging at the store thoroughly. Dog products should never be used for cats, as cats lack some of the key processing enzymes in their liver that are present in other species. Cats should be kept away from dog tick collars, as they can lick the drug into their system.
Cats are not small dogs. Medications should only be given to these unique animals under veterinary supervision. Veterinary-approved and tested products are available for cats. These products offer extensive safety testing assurances. Side effects from veterinary licensed cat products are very rare. 
Tips for Feline Flea and Tick Prevention:
  • Only use products licensed for cats. Ask your veterinarian for product recommendations.
  • Read the label very closely before use of a product to ensure it is safe for cats.
  • Seek help immediately if your cat experiences dullness, tremors, shaking or seizures.