Pyrethrin and Pyrethroid Toxicity in Cats

By April 26, 2016 Uncategorized

Pyrethrin and Pyrethroid Toxicity in Cats 

Pyrethrin and pyrethroid are insecticides typically used for treating flea and tick infestations in pets. Found in many types of flea, tick, and insect control products. Active ingredient names include pyrethrin, etofenprox, allethrin, resmethrin, sumethrin, and permethrin. Several name brands include Adams, Bio Spot, Duocide, Happy Jack, Hartz, K9 Advantix, Mycodex, Ovitrol, Proticall, Raid, and Zodiac.

These toxins cause interference with the pet’s nervous system if overdosed. DO NOT use permethrins on cats and DO NOT use any product on a cat unless it is specifically made for cats. Symptoms may be seen within a couple of hours, especially in cats. An adverse reaction to any of these toxins will affect the cat’s nervous system, The most common signs are tremors, drooling, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, hyperactivity, disorientation, vocalization, depression, difficulty breathing, and seizures. Death is possible. Additionally in cats, may see ear flicking, paw shaking, or contractions/twitching of the skin.


  • Allergic reactions — hives, congestion, itching, extreme sensitivity, shock, respiratory distress, death (very rare)
  • Idiosyncratic reactions — resembles toxic reactions at much lower doses
  • Mild reactions — excessive (hyper) salivation, paw flicking, ear twitching, mild depression, vomiting diarrhea
  • Moderate to serious reactions — protracted vomiting and diarrhea, depression, in-coordination, muscle tremors (must be differentiated from paw flicking and ear twitching)


  • Cats are more sensitive to these insecticides than dogs are; they have less-efficient metabolic pathways, extensive grooming habits, and long hair coats that can retain large quantities of a topically-applied product.
  • Cats with abnormally low body temperatures, such as after bathing, anesthesia, or sedation, are also predisposed to clinical signs of toxic poisoning.


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition.


  • Has your cat been exposed to these substances? How much and when?
  • Has your cat been around other animals that have been treated with them?
  • When did the symptoms become apparent?
  • It can be difficult to detect these forms of insecticides in the cat’s tissues or fluids.

Therefore, these questions are the best way to identify a list of possible irritants.


Adverse reactions such as salivation, paw flicking, and ear twitching are often mild and self-limiting. If your cat has been saturated with spray products, dry it with a warm towel and brush. If mild symptoms continue, bathe your cat using a mild hand-dishwashing detergent.

If symptoms continue and progress to tremors and incoordination, your cat will require immediate care and hospitalization. Cats that are seriously affected will need to be stabilized, including fluid support, seizure control, and maintenance of a normal body temperature. Once your cat is stable, a bath with liquid hand-dishwashing detergent and warm water is critical. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medications to lessen the severity of the symptoms and to help detoxify the cat’s body.


It is important that you do not apply dog-only products on cats. Proper application of flea-control products greatly reduces the incidence of adverse reactions; therefore, closely follow all of the directions listed on the flea-control products you use.

If in doubt, always as your Veterinarian.

Thank you to and VSPN

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