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Permethrin Poisoning in Cats

 Permethrin (a pyrethroid) is highly toxic to cats and is found in many insecticide and pest control products (e.g. fly spray, garden insect sprays, cockroach spray, ant powder, mosquito coils) and many flea and tick spot-on products for dogs. 

Never use flea spot-on treatments for dogs on your cat – this is the most common way cats are poisoned.

Cats lack the ability to metabolise permethrin (and other pyrethroids) in their liver when they come into contact with it through their skin or when they lick it off their fur while grooming. Another common way cats can be poisoned is when they have had physical contact with a dog who has recently been flea treated. When flea treating your dog, keep them away from your cat for at least 72 hours.

The most common symptoms of permethrin poisoning include:

  • Muscle tremors

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Frequent twitching

  • Seizures

  • Excess saliva or drooling

  • Fever

  • Dilated pupils

The most common treatments for permethrin poisoning are:

  • Decontamination: This will help cats if their skin has come into contact. Decontamination consists of bathing the cat in warm water. Using a mild detergent, the vet will remove as much of the product as possible to prevent further absorption through the skin.

  • Induced vomiting: This will help if your cat has ingested the poison. This can also include gastric lavage (stomach pump) and the use of absorbent material such as charcoal to try to absorb the toxin from the intestines.

  • Seizure & Tremor Control: The vet will administer treatment designed to reduce seizures and tremors. They may also use muscle relaxants, anaesthesia or heavy sedation to help your cat.

  • Supportive Care: This may involve intravenous fluids, temperature readings and other forms of care. In severe cases, this treatment may have to continue for a few days. 

  • Lipid Infusions: This can be helpful in extreme cases. The lipid may help to remove permethrin from inside your cat or to reduce the toxicity

If you suspect your cat may have been poisoned, contact us at the clinic immediately. In many cases, a cat treated promptly by a vet will make a full recovery. 

Image by Sam Chang