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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Cats are particularly sensitive to develop a reaction to pyrethrins and pyrethroids which are insecticides that are commonly used in flea preparations

Even though many products containing these compounds are licensed for use in cats and dogs both species may develop an adverse reaction, but cats are particularly sensitive to pyrethrin and pyrethroids because they can not deactivate them rapidly in the body. Signs of toxicity are quite dramatic:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Depression
  • Ear flicking (cats)
  • Paw shaking (cats)
  • Vomiting or retching
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea - due to  bronchospasm)
  • Muscle twitches (cats) and tremors
  • Fits (seizures)-rare
  • Fall in body temperature OR an increase in body temperature
  • Loss of co-ordination (ataxia)

There is no specific antidote but fortunately most pets do not develop severe signs and make a full recovery within 48 hours. Death due to pyrethrin poisoning has been reported but it is rare. Bathing in warm water (NOT hot water) to remove the product from the coat is a good idea, and if your veterinarian sees the animal soon enough (within 1 hour) he or she may give something to make your pet vomit, to remove some of the chemical from it's body.

If your pet gets fleas, or if you routinely apply anti-flea preparations, ask your veterinarian about the most appropriate and safest treatment to use.


Updated October 2013