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Permethrin poisoning in cats

FRONTLINE products do not contain permethrin

A recent study carried out jointly by the Feline Advisory Bureau and Veterinary Poisons Information Service highlighted the problem of permethrin poisoning in cats. It found that 97% of cats showed signs of poisoning after application of a permethrin-containing dog spot on product.

Merial's FRONTLINE products DO NOT contain permethrin but in light of the raised awareness of this problem we thought it useful to clarify the situation.

If you have any questions about FRONTLINE please do not hesitate to call our help line on 0870 6000123.

What is permethrin?
Permethrin belongs to a family of chemicals commonly used as insecticides. It is found in some dog flea treatments and shampoos and also in certain household products such as ant powders.

In most mammals, permethrin has a good level of safety but in cats, for some unknown reason, it is highly toxic. When applied at the concentrations present in some dog spot-on flea treatments, up to 1 in 10 cats die.

How would I know if my cat might have been poisoned by permethrin?
The most obvious signs are twitching, walking abnormally, muscle tremors and seizures. Discuss with your vet immediately.

How quickly do signs develop after poisoning?
Signs usually develop within a few hours although can sometimes be delayed by up to 72 hours. It can often take 2-3 days for the signs to improve.

How would I know if a spot-on preparation contains permethrin?
Only use treatments that are licensed for cats. They will not contain permethrin.

There are warnings on the packaging of permethrin-containing products that state the product is toxic for cats. These warnings can be relatively small and might be overlooked.

Do all dog spot-on preparations contain permethrin?
No, there are a number of spot-on preparations, including FRONTLINE Spot On, which do not contain permethrin.

What should I do if I think my cat may have come into contact with permethrin?
Wash the affected area using a mild detergent.

If your cat shows any clinical signs, seek immediate veterinary advice. Emergency treatment may be necessary.

Can permethrin poisoning be cured?
There is no antidote to permethrin. Treatment comprises controlling the clinical signs, usually by sedation, and removing surface permethrin by washing. Animals may need intravenous fluids and anti-seizure medication. Unfortunately, even with intense treatment and nursing some cats die.

My cat and dog live together in the same house, is it safe to use a permethrin spot-on on my dog?
The safest option if you are using a permethrin-containing product on your dog is to keep the pets apart until the dog's treatment has dried. This is to prevent mutual grooming which could result in poisoning if your cat became exposed to sufficient product. There may be advice on this situation on the packaging of the dog product.