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Cats can become extremely sick and even die if their owners treat them with flea products intended for dogs only, said veterinarian E. Kathryn Meyer.
DOG FLEA PREVENTATIVE CAN BE BAD FOR YOUR CATS
It is critical for owners to be aware of the severe consequences of using flea products incorrectly -- particularly when cats are involved -- because cats can be very sensitive to certain chemicals," said Meyer, who coordinates the U.S. Pharmacopeia Veterinary Practitioners' Reporting Program.
The organization, which identifies quality problems with products, medication and chemicals used in veterinary medicine, published a report on the topic in today's(sic) issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
While flea products often are packaged similarly, the active ingredients can vary greatly, especially among popular "spot-on" products in which a small amount of liquid is applied directly to the animal's skin.
A common chemical in such products is permethrin, which can be toxic to cats. In products made for dogs, permethrin is usually concentrated at levels of 45 percent to 65 percent. Flea sprays intended for cats contain much lower -- and safer -- concentrations, often about 2 percent.
Meyer advised cat owners to closely follow directions on flea products because even small amounts of permethrin can be bad for cats.
"Furthermore, people who own both dogs and cats should be aware that 'dog -only' flea products applied to their dogs can cause illness in cats that are in close contact with treated dogs," she said.
Meyer's organization received 11 reports between August 1997 and September 1998 involving 12 cats that were hospitalized after exposure to a concentrated permethrin flea product. Four of the cats died.
The article also cites similar cases reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, which received accounts of about 125 cats that got sick or died following incorrect applications of permethrin. About two dozen of the felines became ill or died because of contact with treated dogs.
Symptoms of permethrin toxicity in cats include excitability, twitching and seizures. Cat owners noticing signs should quickly bathe their pet in mild dishwashing detergent and seek veterinary care.
The U.S. Pharmacopeia Veterinary Practitioners' Reporting Program can be reached at http://www.usp.org/practrep/vprp.htm
Permethrin, an EPA-approved insecticide used in the household and garden. It is a synthetic analog of pyrethrins which are derivatives of pyrethrum plants (chrysanthemums). Dr. Jill A. Richardson, DVM, a Veterinary Poison Information Specialist with the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center recommends that you NEVER use flea control products on your cats that contain permethrin, UNLESS they are labeled for use on cats. These products should contain less than 0.1%.
The acceptable levels of permethrin for dogs is much, much higher (45-60%). So, if you have both dogs and cats be very careful not to use the dog flea control on your cat, intentionally or accidentally.
Cats can develop seizures within hours of over-exposure to permethrin. If you believe this has happened, CALL YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY.
Some Over the Counter Insecticides that contain Pyrethrins and/or Permethrin:
We are not suggesting that you do not use the following products, but you may want to check with your vet before using them.
Check the ingredients of all insecticides for pyrethrins or permethrin. Again, play it safe and check with your vet before using any insecticide or poison product.
Recently a good friend of ours was giving her dogs and cats their monthly flea medication and inadvertently gave to dog's treatment to three of her cats. Within hours the cats were convulsing and were rushed to an emergency vet clinic. Fortunately, the cats survived but just barely, and one still has nerve damage. This simple mistake could easily have taken the lives of all three cats, and did cost the owner close to $2,000 in emergency vet and boarding bills. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!!!!
Here's another incident sent in by "Amy Mac" on May 5, 2005:
"Thank you for article on flea preventative (it's the only one I found on the internet, and more people should know about it!) I found this out the hard way. A few weeks ago, I accidentally put my dog's flea preventative on my cat Fonzerelli.
After calling the manufacturer, I bathed him in cold water so his pores wouldn't open (he was thrilled). I ended up taking him to the emergency vet about an hour later anyway (he only had the stuff on him for about 20 minutes!) He was at the vet hospital for 2 days having tremors and seizures. The veterinarian even told me that some people actually put the dog's meds on the cat so they can save a buck! (A $400 vet bill is no way to do it!)
Fonzerelli is back to swinging from the dresses in my closet now, but his little 12-pound body got a 90-pound dog dose of pesticide! And, I can't imagine what a tough weekend he had!"
Here's another sad story received by PGAA on February 15, 2009:
"I'm sad to say that we, also made the mistake of applying Sergeant's squeeze-on made for dogs and puppies on our 4 month old kitten. It was horrible. Approximately 2 hours later we noticed the cat twitch with convulsions uncontrollably into seizures for about 20-30 minutes. We bathed him and took him to the vet. He died later that evening. He was such a happy cat and a little bundle of joy! Our 10 year old cat also had the dog flea medicine applied to it but has survived. The moral of the story is to be alert and beware and to make sure all labels and directions are read before use of such chemicals and poisons. Also I'd like to mention that the vet bill cost $300. Please pass this message onto others so that the animals and their masters do not have to go through this. To save another animal would make it easier on us. Please!!! P.S.-------R.I.P---- L.S.B. our little joyful kitten!"