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Do not treat your cat with antiparasitics for dogs

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News of 05/05/2021

The return of the warm weather coincides with the return of parasites such as ticks, fleas and mosquitoes, all of which can cause serious diseases in animals These parasites can also carry diseases transmissible to humans. Ectoparasiticides (designed to kill parasites that live on the exterior of a host) are a good way to protect pets. However, it is important to ensure that these veterinary medicinal products are used correctly, particularly in the case of permethrin-based antiparasitic products for dogs, which are toxic for cats.

Marketing authorisations for veterinary medicinal products are issued for a given animal species. So it is important that each veterinary medicinal product be administered only to the species for which it is intended. Permethrin-based ectoantiparasiticides, for example, are intended for dogs. They can cause serious effects in cats, including neurological disorders (tremors, convulsions, ataxia, agitation, coma) sometimes associated with digestive signs, which can be fatal, owing to the inability of cats to eliminate the compound from their bodies. With some concentrated formulations such as pipette products, just a few drops placed on the skin or licked up may be sufficient to induce serious effects in the most sensitive cats. 

Serious accidents still being reported 

Accidents continue to occur despite communication measures targeting veterinarians and animal owners, such as labelling and packaging inserts stating that these drugs are absolutely contraindicated in cats. Between January 2019 and December 2020, ANSES recorded 179 cases of adverse reactions in cats following the administration of permethrin-based products. Of this number, 67 were deemed serious and five cats died following the use of these antiparasitic products for dogs. 

Tips to avoid poisoning 

This context led the Agency to remind cat owners not to treat their animals with permethrin-based veterinary drugs intended for dogs. In the event of accidental exposure, and even if adverse reactions have not yet occurred, owners should wash their cat with warm water and soap or washing-up liquid, and seek veterinary advice without delay.

To prevent cats from being accidentally exposed to these products in homes with more than one type of pet, owners should keep treated dogs away from cats until the application site of the antiparasitic treatment is dry. They should also make sure that their cats cannot lick the application site on the dog.