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Why Is Permethrin Toxic To Cats?

Aimee Labbate
  • Aimee Labbate

  • RCVS: 700039

 

What is permethrin?

Permethrin is a commonly used insecticide in dog-only flea control products such as spot-ons, sprays, collars and shampoos. It is HIGHLY toxic to cats and should never be used on cats, and care should be taken to ensure they are not exposed by accident.

Permethrin insecticides are usually inexpensive and available to buy over-the-counter without veterinary advice. This means that they may be applied to cats without an awareness of the danger. The spot-on products are particularly dangerous as they are so concentrated - cats are sometimes exposed by sharing a bed with a dog that has had the product applied, for instance.

Why is permethrin toxic to cats?

A cat is not a small dog – they react differently to permethrin and it affects their nervous system, causing twitching and seizures followed by paralysis.

What are the symptoms of permethrin toxicity in cats?

Permethrin is absorbed through the skin into the blood, and symptoms typically start a few hours are exposure, although they can be delayed up to 36 hours in some cases. They normally include:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Wide pupils and confusion
  • Twitching and muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • A high temperature
  • Collapse and death

If your cat has been exposed to permethrin then quickly remove as much as possible using warm soapy water to reduce contamination. Call your vet asap as they will need immediate veterinary treatment.

How to treat permethrin toxicity in cats?

To increase the chances of treatment being successful, early recognition of possible exposure is key to allow prompt veterinary management of the ensuing neurological signs.

Treatment usually involves:

  • Medical management to control tremors, twitching and seizures
  • Decontamination of the skin and coat to reduce absorption
  • Intravenous fluids (a drip)
  • Nursing care including monitoring of the temperature

Will my cat recover from permethrin toxicity?

Prompt treatment is the key to successful – if cases are caught and treated early then the outlook is generally good. Sadly however, if cats are more severely affected by twitching and seizures then the prognosis is poorer.

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Permethrin Toxicity in Cats

Permethrin is a commonly used insecticide in dog-only flea control products such as spot-ons, sprays, collars and shampoos. It is HIGHLY toxic to cats and should never be used on cats, and care should be taken to ensure they are not exposed by accident.

The spot-on products are particularly dangerous as they are so concentrated - cats are sometimes exposed by sharing a bed with a dog that has had the product applied, for instance.

Permethrin causes twitching, seizures and paralysis in cats, and can be rapidly fatal. If your cat has been exposed to permethrin then quickly remove as much as possible using warm soapy water to reduce contamination. Immediate veterinary care is then needed to improve the chances of survival.  If cases are caught and treated early then the outlook is generally good. Sadly however, if cats are more severely affected by twitching and seizures then the prognosis is poorer.


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