A common question asked by pet owners is “can you overdose a cat on flea or tick treatment? Yes, the possibility of developing adverse reactions to flea and tick medications does exist that is why it is always recommended that cat parents should consult with the veterinarian before using any flea and tick medication on their pets.
Cats are extra-sensitive to the effects of insecticides, particularly flea and tick medications. This can be attributed to the fact that their bodies are inefficient in metabolizing the chemicals that are present in these products. The effects of overexposure can range from mild to severe, depending on the quantity of chemicals a cat is exposed to.
Here are the most common flea and tick medications used in cats and how they can possibly cause bad reactions.
Pyrethrin and pyrethroid
Pyrethrin and pyrethroid are common chemicals that are used in tick and flea products. Pyrethrins are extracted from Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium and other related species to make natural-based insecticides. On the other hand, pyrethroids are synthetic, and have a longer-lasting action.
Negative effects of pyrethrin and pyrethroid use in cats
These chemicals can cause an adverse reaction in the nervous system of cats. It affects the sodium conductance in the nerve axons leading to repetitive nerve discharges. Cats are more sensitive to the effects of pyrethrin and pyrethroid compared to dogs. This can be primarily attributed to the fact that felines have less efficient metabolic pathways. Their grooming habits and long hair coats are also important predisposing factors as these can retain large amounts of topical tick and flea products.
Kittens, senior cats, sick, or debilitated cats are also at higher risk. Cats that are hypothermic (body temperature that is below the normal level) may also develop adverse reactions. Hypothermia can occur after bathing a cat or when a cat is under anesthesia or has been sedated.
Symptoms of pyrethroid toxicity in cats
Between pyrethroids and pyrethrin, cats are extra-sensitive to the pyrethroids. When products containing permethrin are administered on cats, they usually manifest nervous symptoms, such as seizures, muscle tremors, hyperthermia, and incoordination. Death can occur within hours from the onset of toxicity symptoms if medical intervention is not given. Other symptoms that may be manifested by cats include:
The most common tick and flea medications that belong to the isoxazoline group include Bravecto, Credelio, Nexgard, and Simparica. These are available as pills, chews or spot-ons. These are mostly used in dogs. Adverse reactions to isoxazoline medications mainly involve the nervous system. Affected animals can develop seizures or have mobility difficulties as they tend to stumble as a result of muscular tremors and lack of muscle control.
The isoxazoline class of medications works by binding to chloride channels that are found in the cells of nerves and muscles. This can block the transmission of nerve impulses, causing the paralysis and eventually death of the parasite. This mechanism also occurs in mammals and some other vertebrates, but the mechanism is more potent in insects. Toxicity in mammals can develop depending on the health, physiological state, and medical history of the animal. The good news is adverse reactions to these flea and tick preparations are very rare.
If your pet is currently receiving any medication belonging to the isoxazoline group, here are important things to keep in mind:
Organophosphates are common active ingredients in lawn and garden insecticides as well as flea and tick treatments. Overexposure to the product can lead to the manifestation of signs of toxicity. A cat can experience overexposure as a result of product misuse or when several organophosphate products are used at the same time. Organophosphates may be organic in nature, but tick and flea products that contain them are not without potential risks thus it is always important for pet owners to follow directions. Organophosphates can be absorbed rapidly in the body through the lungs, skin, and digestive tract. It interferes with the normal interaction of the nerves and muscles of the body.
Organophosphates work by inhibiting the action of two essential enzymes in the body — cholinesterases and acetylcholinesterase. These enzymes break down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. When this happens, acetylcholine stays attached to the post-synaptic receptors of neurons, and causes continuous, unending transmission of nerve impulses to nervous tissue, muscles, and organs which is externally manifested as seizures and shaking.
Symptoms of organophosphate toxicity
Carbamate use in cats is generally limited to the flea collars. When buying one for a pet cat, always remember to choose one that is specific for use in cats. Flea collars for dogs may contain higher amounts of the insecticide and can lead to poisoning.
Carbamates cause toxicity in the same manner as organophosphates do; by inhibiting the action of cholinesterase and acetylcholinesterase. An overdose of carbamate insecticide can trigger seizures and respiratory arrest in cats.
Carbamate toxicity can occur as a result of any of the following conditions:
Veterinary attention should be sought immediately when you notice any sign of an adverse reaction to a flea and tick product. Time is of the essence especially when substantial amounts of the product have been applied and ingested.
Activated charcoal is given to help cats eliminate the toxic chemicals from their body.
Bathing the cat with mild dishwashing soap
To prevent the absorption of toxic chemicals through the skin, a cat that has been exposed should be bathe using mild dishwashing soap and dried thoroughly.
Your veterinarian may choose to give prescription medication to control and/or stop the muscle tremors and seizures.
In severe cases, cats may need to be confined in the vet clinic for close monitoring and intravenous administration of fluids and electrolytes. Your cat may have to stay in the hospital for several days until there are no more symptoms and body function is back to normal. While confined, monitoring will include body temperature, blood glucose, kidney function, and other tests that the veterinarian may deem necessary.
These natural treatment alternatives are used on house premises, indoors and outdoors especially during heavy flea infestations. Other popular natural flea repellent alternatives for tick and flea treatment in cats include: