Following a spate of cat deaths reported by UK vets, International Cat Care (formerly the Feline Advisory Bureau) are are warning cat owners not to use dog flea treatments on their cats, as the insecticide permethrin, commonly found in dog spot-on treatments, is highly toxic to cats, with often fatal consequences.
Cats treated with even small amounts of spot-on products containing permethrin, or allowed to groom dogs treated with any of the products in the list below, can develop nervous signs such as depression, drooling, tremors, seizures, vomiting and staggering, and can die.
There is also a risk to cats which come into contact with recently treated dogs if the product is groomed off the dog or rubs off onto the cat.
Spot-on flea treatments comprise a small amount of liquid that is applied directly onto the skin of the animal’s neck, making them easier to use than traditional powders or sprays which can cause stress to cats.
Permethrin products are safe for dogs, as they are far less sensitive than cats to the toxic insecticide. Cat flea spot-on treatments (and many of the newer dog spot-on products) do not contain permethrin. Active ingredients that are safe for both dogs and cats include fipronil, imidacloprid and indoxacarb.
Flea collars for cats may also contain a low concentration permethrin and, on their own, should not cause problems but if the cat is also exposed to other sources of permethrin, they could contribute to poisoning. There are much safer and far more effective flea control methods for cats.
The warnings on packaging tend to be small and for those who shop without their glasses, or in a hurry, they can easily be missed, so if you have bought any flea products recently, the advice is to check carefully what they contain and if you are ever in doubt, contact your vet for advice.