Michelle Brognano, DVM, Greater Staten Island Veterinary Services, a member of the GSVS family of veterinary hospitals.
Ticks are a significant problem in the tri-state area largely due to a rising deer population. It’s incredibly important to keep your pets on parasite preventatives year round, but even more so in these warmer months. Dogs and cats that stay inside only are at risk for tick bites and heartworm disease too! Take the time to ensure you select the correct preventative for your pet.
Pyrethrin insecticides are naturally obtained from the Chrysanthemum flower, while pyrethroids insecticides are a synthetic (man-made) version. Insecticides are found in home and outdoor gardening supplies, over-the-counter flea shampoos, and some (but not all) topical flea/tick preventative products. These insecticides are commonly used on dogs without much of a problem, but cats are extremely sensitive to these products.
Cats often present to the emergency room after a canine only-labeled product is applied to them. Some cats may also become ill after the product is applied to another pet in the household with whom they have direct contact. Dogs that ingest flea collars or tubes of topical parasite preventive products will also require emergency veterinary care.
Clinical signs of toxicity are hypersalivation, seizures, paresthesia, tremors, ataxia, hyperexcitability, hypothermia, weakness, vomiting, trouble breathing or even death. The onset of these signs can vary from minutes to hours. If your pet is suffering from any of the symptoms they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Patients are usually admitted to the hospital for IV fluids, heat support, sedation, muscle relaxants and anti-seizure drugs, as needed. Blood work may also be done to assess organ function. The goal of treatment is to manage clinical signs, detoxify if possible, and to provide supportive care. Vomiting is usually not induced due to a risk of aspiration which could lead to a more serious medical condition. For dermal exposures, the patient is bathed in liquid dish detergent with warm water.
Prognosis is usually good for patients treated aggressively and quickly. Failure to do this may result in complications that can eventually lead to death. Prevention is key! Always read the label and follow packaging directions which are based on weight and species. Pesticides should be safely secured out of the reach of children and animals.
Interesting fact: Fish are so sensitive to insecticides that they may die from even the least amount of exposure. For this reason, it is recommended that dogs do not swim in ponds or creeks for 24 to 48 hours after administration of a parasite prevention product.
The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of your veterinarian.