Category Archives: case report

Pyrethroid Toxicity in a Cat

Last week we saw a cat with a toxic reaction to an over-the-counter flea/tick prevention product.  The owner had utilized the company’s cat product, at the appropriate dose, applied per the instructions.  This cat, however, developed the most obvious and common of the signs associated with a toxicity to one of the ingredients in the product.  The video below shows you what we saw when the owner brought the cat in.



Flea and tick topical products use a pretty wide range of ingredients.  There are a LOT of different products out there.  For most owners, knowing what might be problematic is almost impossible.  Given that a company is marketing a product for a particular species, age, and weight range, a consumer would generally believe that it’s safe and effective.  Sadly, we see often enough that safety and efficacy are lacking in some products.


In this case, the prevention contained a product that belongs to a  class of pesticides known as pyrethrins/pyrethroids (Pie – reeth – rens).  They’re modeled after a naturally occurring toxin in chrysanthemums.  These chemicals cause nerve cells to malfunction, leading to paralysis of the affected organism.


Most animals can break down the toxin fast enough that it doesn’t cause them any trouble.  The liver is responsible for a lot of the breakdown of the chemical.  However, cats lack a specific enzyme that the liver uses to destroy the toxin molecules.  This makes cats far more sensitive to the effects of pyrethroids.


Pyrethroids are used in many dog products, including some that we recommend and use.  Dogs aren’t anywhere near as sensitive to these products as cats, so we feel that the dog products are safe for use in dogs.  Owners have to be VERY careful, however, to never apply the dog products to cats, nor to let cats lick the freshly applied product off the dog.  Serious, potentially lethal toxicity WILL result from the use of dog products on cats.  No doubt about it.  I haven’t seen a cat show toxicity simply by living with a dog that has a pyrethroid-containing product on its skin.


There’s no direct antidote to pyrethrin toxicity.  We decontaminate the animal by washing them in dish soap.  This strips the oil and product off the skin, so no more is absorbed into the animal’s body.  If the tremors are severe, a muscle relaxant can be given to lessen the twitching and tremors.  I don’t think death from pyrethroid toxicity is very common, but it’s definitely possible.


I’m deliberately not mentioning the name of the product used on this cat, nor the specific names of the products we use.  I’m doing so to avoid libel/slander claims.  Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your pet and your home environment.  Regional variations in which products are needed to control fleas/ticks are also something we have to acknowledge.  What we use up here in Michigan may not be effective in Florida, for example.


Avoiding products with pyrethroids is the easiest way to lower the risk to your cat.  We recommend products that do not contain pyrethroids for our feline patients.




Filed under case report, cats, medicine, toxicology


Dr. Wright and I both have over 10 years of experience being vets.  We’ve both worked in emergency hospitals, and we’ve both seen our fair share of crazy things.  It takes quite a bit to rile us up.  Usually, when a receptionist or technician lets us know that there’s an emergency coming in, we’ve dealt with the problem before.  Sometimes, what’s coming in is a new experience or a big twist on an old theme.  In the past 2 weeks, we’ve had that happen twice.

The first case was a dog with a fishhook.  That’s nothing special — happens all the time.   The hook usually ends up in the lip or the tongue, which is easy to deal with.  A quick pop of anesthesia, push the hook through, cut it off, and you’re done.

This one?  Not so easy!  We had a bit of line coming out of the dog’s mouth with no hook in sight.  I decided it must be partway down the throat, which is still reasonably easy to retrieve.  We took an x-ray to confirm.  I was wrong.  The hook and swivel attachment were in the stomach.

After discussing the possibility for using an endoscope to retrieve the hook, the owner opted to have us retrieve it from the stomach surgically.  As it turns out, this was the right way to go.  Though I didn’t know it at the time we started surgery, this dog had swallowed the hook, then tried to run on the dock.  The line and fishing pole were enough weight to set the hook in the stomach.  What should have been a simple hook retrieval turned into quite an ordeal.  Definitely not one of the simpler surgeries that I’ve completed.

We did all right, though!  The dog has made a good recovery and shouldn’t be any worse for the wear.  Moral of the story:  keep your dog away from fishing tackle.

The second case is quite a bit more shocking.  We’re all familiar with the usual risks for small dogs.  They have problems with dental disease, heart disease, back injuries, and higher risk for injuries from jumps and so on.  What doesn’t always occur to us is the risk of a dog becoming prey for a larger wild species.  Hawks are a prime example of this kind of risk.

A very small dog was outside in the yard with the owner.  He heard a scream and turned to see a large hawk standing on his dog.  He managed to scare the hawk away, scooped up his dog and raced to the hospital.

Dr. Wright was able to stabilize the poor little dog.  He didn’t have any immediately life-threatening injuries, but one eye had been badly damaged by a claw or beak.  We sent him to the emergency hospital for overnight monitoring and aggressive pain control.  Even if the eye can’t be saved, this little dog should recover fully.  Moral of the story:  Keep a -close- watch on your small dogs when you’re out in the yard.  Even in the suburbs, there are potentially dangerous predators nearby.

See you in two weeks!


Filed under case report, emergency, practice