Fleas and Felines: Essential Information

The height of flea season is upon us and any cat or dog that spends time outside is susceptible. The signs of flea infestation can be as subtle as mild scratching, to sores on the skin, and even anemia and death. There are a myriad of products, both prescription and over-the-counter, that can be used to kill adult fleas and prevent infestation. Many pet owners take charge of flea prevention and treatment using a combination of products. While this approach is generally effective and safe, there is one major safety issue that Bayleaf wants owners to be aware of regarding cats and flea treatment.

Our feline companions have very different metabolic systems. Their livers lack the ability to conjugate glucuronide, which means that many medications are much more slowly broken down. This makes cats much more susceptible to the adverse effects of many medications, including common canine flea and tick treatments. Products containing pyrethrins and pyrethroids should never be applied to cats.

Cats can be exposed to these products in many ways. Dog products correctly applied to dogs are generally safe, unless your cat grooms the product off of her housemate, or rubs against the application spot. Other accidental exposure, such as investigating the trash or chewing on plastic applicators found on the counter, are also possible.

But the most heartbreaking exposure occurs when pet owners unknowingly apply product intended for dogs to their cats, either for convenience or to save money. When an entire dose is applied, symptoms range from drooling, vomiting, and tremors to convulsions and death. Treatment involves giving a bath, hospitalization, fluid therapy, and muscle relaxants. Sometimes the tremors are so severe that heavy sedation or anesthesia is required to provide relief.

The team at Bayleaf Veterinary Hospital can help you decide if a product is appropriate for your cat. Manufacturers do a good job of marking their products for the correct species, but if the original packaging has been discarded, it may be impossible to determine safety for cats. If you cannot determine without a doubt that a product is safe for cats, don’t use it! ¬†As always, contact us if you have questions and we will help you design a flea control plan that is customized for your pets and your environment.