Use special care when choosing and using flea products on cats

August 26, 2009 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment

In this week’s Pet Connection syndicated newspaper feature,   Dr. Marty Becker and contributing editor Christie Keith look at the dangers — including death — that face cats when their owners use flea products intended for dogs on their feline pets:

Not reading directions may be a point of pride for many people, but when it comes to flea products, it’s an attitude that can kill a cat.

“Pet owners need to read and follow the labels on flea and tick products, and to never use dog products on cats,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, a veterinary toxicologist at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “Never.”

Hansen’s warning is aimed at the class of products known as “spot-ons,” liquid insecticides that are applied directly to the skin. While they’re normally safe and effective when used as directed, products intended only for use in dogs can cause serious illness or death in cats.

“Cats are very sensitive to a class of insecticides known as pyrethroids,” said Hansen. “That includes permethrin, which is a common ingredient in many flea and tick products made for dogs. And in dogs, it has a good record for being safe and effective. But put these products on cats, and it can be very bad, even lethal.”

That doesn’t stop people from using them, and then rushing their pets to the veterinarian’s when the cat gets sick. Most cats will recover if emergency veterinary treatment is sought immediately, but keeping a cat from the pet ER in the first place is a much better plan. Only around 2 percent of cats treated with feline-approved products according to label directions have an adverse reaction, but that number jumps to 20 percent when instructions aren’t followed

And it’s not as if the labels aren’t clear. “I’ve met with the EPA and the companies, and we’ve worked hard to come up with creative ways to make sure people don’t miss the message,” said Hansen. “The product labels say, ‘Do not use on cats.’ Some of them even have a cat inside a big red circle with a slash.

“The companies struggle with this, the EPA struggles with it, and we at the Animal Poison Control Center struggle with it. We try to find ways to make it so people can’t make mistakes, and they still make mistakes.”

Check out the rest of Dr. Hansen’s warning here, then make sure your cat owning friends and family members get the message!

Rolan Tripp, DVM, and Susan Trip, MS, remind dog owners that the first place to get help when a dog starts having “accidents” in the house is the veterinarian, to make sure a bladder infection or other health problem isn’t the cause (it usually is).

In “The Buzz,” Dr. Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon explain why it is that, while more families in the U.S. have dogs as pets, there are still more pet cats than pet dogs:

How is it that more families have dogs than have cats, but cats outnumber dogs as pets? The answer: Many families have more than one cat. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 41 percent of U.S. households recently reported having at least one dog, while cats ruled in 35 percent of households. (Some families, of course, have both.) But cats were by far the most popular pet, according to the same trade group, which reported recent figures of 78 million pet cats to 65 million pet dogs.

Want more? Read the entire Pet Connection for this week, or view it here in the PDF version we sent to our client newspapers.…

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