Permethrin Poisoning: Why You Shouldn’t Use Dog Flea Products on Cats


If you have a multi-pet household that’s home to both dogs and cats, one of the most important pet safety tips to remember is to never use your dog’s flea and tick treatments on your cat. While it may seem convenient to use one product on all of your animals, cats exposed to an insecticide called permethrin, often found in dog treatments, are at risk of severe illness and even death. Here’s a summary of important facts all pet owners should know, courtesy of the cat advocacy organization International Cat Care.


What is permethrin and what products contain it?

Permethrin is an insecticide derived from compounds found in chrysanthemums. They act as deadly neurotoxins on insects like fleas and ticks. While animals like dogs are generally safe from the effects of permethrin, cats are extremely susceptible to permethrin poisoning due to differences in their liver function.

While various insecticides like household ant and fly killers contain permethrin, cats are most susceptible to poisoning when exposed to the concentrated amounts found in spot on flea and tick treatments and shampoos that are meant to be applied directly to your dog’s skin.


How are cats exposed to permethrin?

Even if you don’t apply products containing permethrin to your cat’s body, he could still be at risk of poisoning just from snuggling with your dog, licking him, or even simply sleeping on his bedding. Cats should be kept away from treated dogs for at least 72 hours.


What are the signs of permethrin toxicity in cats?

Symptoms can appear anywhere from a few hours to 3 days after exposure and include tremors, twitching, seizures, salivation, lack of coordination, fever, and dilated pupils.


How are cats treated for permethrin poisoning?

The most common treatments are decontamination (washing the cat), medicating the cat with anti-seizure and anti-tremor drugs (including heavy sedation), administration of IV fluids and other supportive care, and a newly-developed treatment involving IV lipid infusions. Sadly, some cats may die or need to be euthanized if the poisoning is severe.


Be sure to carefully read the labels of all flea and tick products before buying and treating your pets.


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