All owners and breeders should be aware of the danger of Permethrin poisoning in cats. Permethrin is the active ingredient of a number of over-the-counter spot-on treatments for the control of fleas in dogs. Permethrin is extremely poisonous to cats. It affects the nervous system and causes severe neurological signs eg fits/seizures and even exposure to small quantities can be fatal. There is no specific antidote.
Many cats have been poisoned as a result of owners failing to read the product instructions properly and applying to cats in error. Cats can also be fatally poisoned by coming into contact with dogs who have been treated by licking the product off the skin or even just by skin contact.
International Cat Care has been very active in persuading the maufacturers to improve the labelling of these products and most do now carry clear conspicuous warnings of the danger to cats on the packaging.
All cat owners should take care that any over-the-counter flea treatment they buy is one that is marketed for use in cats and should always read the label and product literature carefully. It is also strongly recommended that cat owners do not use products containing Permethrin on their dogs. The risk of accidental contact is high, treated dogs pose a risk to cats for up to 72 hours after treatment and plenty of cat-safe alternatives are available. If owners require advice on choice of flea treatment for cats and dogs or control of fleas in general it is recommended they consult their veterinary surgeon, or veterinary pharmacist.
Sue Moreland MRCVS
GCCF Veterinary Officer
4th June 2010