Feline welfare charity International Cat Care is warning cat owners not to use dog flea treatments on their cats after a spate of deaths reported by UK vets.
The deaths are due to the insecticide permethrin, commonly found in dog spot-on treatments, which are widely available. This is highly toxic to cats, with often fatal consequences.
Instead of using a cat specific product, cat owners are mistakenly using flea treatments designed for dogs, which contain a toxic and concentrated dose of permethrin. Whilst there are warnings on packs, accidents continue to happen causing suffering and death to cats.
Cats can even be poisoned through contact with dogs in the same household who have been recently treated with flea spot-on products containing permethrin.
International Cat Care is warning consumers to check any flea products they have recently purchased. If pet owners apply any spot-on product containing permethrin to their cat, they are advised to wash it off immediately with water and a mild detergent, then seek immediate treatment from a veterinary surgeon.
The charity is petitioning for a change in licensing of permethrin containing products by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The petition asks that these products legally require verbal advice at point of sale from a suitably qualified professional. Under their existing licence products containing permethrin can be bought directly off the supermarket or shop shelf with no advice.
Consumers can sign-up to the petition at www.icatcare.org/permethrin/petition
Pets at Home has already joined the campaign and will be putting safeguards on the sale of these products into their shops - International Cat Care wants other pet shops to do the same.
Claire Bessant, Chief Executive of International Cat Care comments: “These cat deaths are totally preventable. This is simply down to mistakes at point of purchase, with pet owners mixing up cat and dog products, or simply unaware that you cannot use a dog treatment on a cat. The charity strongly feels that these treatments should be reclassified by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate so that they may only be purchased if advice is given about their correct use. As well as checking its intended use, pet owners should be asked if there are cats in the home which may come into contact with a recently treated dog, so that they can be warned to keep the dog and cat apart, or advised to use a different product.”
Claire Matthews, Pegasus
T: (01903) 821550 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Boiling, Pegasus
T: (01903) 821550 E: email@example.com
Notes to editor:
Case studies are available on request.
International Cat Care advice for cat owners:
1. Never purposely use dog flea spot-on products on cats
2. Never scale down dog treatment to fit a cat – even half or a quarter of a dose can be lethal. A cat is not a small dog
3. Where there are cats and dogs in the same house do not use a dog spot-on which contains permethrin (there are many flea products for dogs which do not contain this chemical). If you do, keep the cat and dog separate for 72 hours
4. Always read the pack and heed warnings – just because a product is cheap and easily available does not mean that it cannot cause harm
5. Treatment for fleas is important to cat health – choose the right product and, if in doubt, ask your vet. There are many safe and effective flea spot-ons and other types of flea treatment which are suitable for cats
6. Store dog and cat products separately at home – it is very easy to mix up the small pipettes from multi-treatment packs and use the wrong one
7. If you have applied any spot-on product containing permethrin on your cat wash off the product with water and a mild detergent and seek immediate treatment from your veterinary surgeon. Take the product package with you and show it to your vet
8. If you have an incident, contact the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (https://www.vmd.defra.gov.uk/adversereactionreporting) and report the problem. All too often it is not reported and the true number of incidents is not recorded and nothing is done
9. Support International Cat Care’s campaign to ensure that permethrin containing dog spot-on products are only to be sold with advice, either through veterinary surgeons or shops where there are suitably qualified people to advise pet owners – sign up to the petition at www.icatcare.org/permethrin/petition
10. Check what you have in the kitchen drawer – a list of permethrin containing dog spot-on products is available on International Cat Care’s website at www.icatcare.org/permethrin/products, along with more information about permethrin poisoning
As part of the campaign, International Cat Care is also working with pet shops, including:
- Encouraging pet shops to separate dog and cat flea products in displays and have large signs to say that dog products could be lethal for cats if they stock the type containing permethrin
- Asking pet shops to treat the dog flea spot-on products containing permethrin as a different category of medicine which should only be sold to owners with verbal advice given as well
- Urging manufacturers to have even larger warnings both on the pack and on the individual treatment vials and packaging
- Asking supermarkets to stock alternative products if owners cannot be warned properly
- Making advice on the treatment of cats with permethrin poisoning freely available for vets
About International Cat Care:
The International Cat Care vision:
All cats, owned and unowned, are treated with care, compassion and understanding.
The International Cat Care mission:
To engage, educate and empower people throughout the world to improve the health and welfare of cats by sharing advice, training and passion
For more information, visit www.icatcare.org