Why Are Dog Flea and Tick Products Dangerous for Cats?
The danger to cats from dog flea and tick products is linked to pyrethrins, a blending of six chemicals that is toxic to ingest (it is also a naturally occurring substance in some chrysanthemum flowers). Pyrethrins have a synthetic derivative known as pyrethroids. One type of pyrethroid, permethrin, is a common ingredient in dog flea and tick products and is lethal to cats. Permethrin can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.
These chemicals are commonly found in household insect sprays, as well as flea and tick preventives and treatments for dogs. Permethrin can be found in many formulations including:
There are currently over 1,400 registered US products containing permethrin.
Pyrethrins, pyrethroids, and permethrin can be found in many common formulations that you likely have around your home. These chemicals are dangerous to cats, and it is important to proactively prevent exposure. They can cause serious side effects, even death.
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What Happens When a Cat Ingests Permethrin?
Signs of pyrethrin (including permethrin) toxicity in cats can include:
Cats can ingest pyrethrin from oral, respiratory, and topical routes, including licking or grooming a companion dog that has been treated, walking through moist areas recently treated, or rubbing against surfaces where permethrins have recently been applied.
If your cat gets into a flea and tick product that is made for dogs, seek veterinary care as soon as possible to limit complications.
Your veterinarian may be able to treat your cat on an outpatient basis, or hospitalization may be required. The prognosis depends on the severity of the exposure, the clinical signs your cat is displaying, and the response to treatment. The prognosis can range from good to poor; cats can die from pyrethrin toxicity.
If in doubt, contact the Animal Poison Control Center or the manufacturer of the flea/tick medication to discuss details about exposure.
Can You Put Dog Flea Treatment on Cats?
Can you use dog flea control on a cat? The short answer is no. It is not recommended to use any product labeled for dogs on your cat. However, sometimes even products labeled for cats are often not safe either. Educate yourself on what to look for and what to avoid in cat flea prevention. Quick note: Your veterinarian is always a great resource for safe and effective flea prevention recommendations. Its still a good idea to know what your options are and what may work best for you and your cats lifestyle before reaching out to them for suggestions.
There are a variety of different types of flea medications and routes of administration. Many are unsafe, if not toxic, to cats, and it can be confusing figuring out if you can give the same thing to both your dog and your cat. Knowing what safe flea medication options you have for your cat can help not only keep fleas away but will also help prevent serious harm.