In winter, keeping up with flea prevention for your pets may be the last thing on your mind. The winter months however, are the perfect times for those crafty little parasites to rally, mainly because fleas are hardier than you may think – surviving temperatures as low as 37 degrees Fahrenheit! Depending on the species of tick and the life-cycle stage, they can become dormant, or latch onto the soft warm fur of a passing host (such as a deer, or a dog). With that being said, using year-round flea control is definitely in your pet’s best interest, but safety considerations are important, as there are concerns for toxicity in pets.
Pyrethrin, a toxin derived from the chrysanthemum flower, and its synthetic kin permethrins, are both commonly found in flea control products. These toxins work by attacking the nervous system of insects. While these insecticides are relatively harmless to most mammals, cats however tend to become severely affected by this neuro intoxicant, likely because they lack certain enzymes that help them metabolize the toxin. Essentially their sodium channels become disrupted causing prolonged and repetitive nerve firings, or seizures.
Pyrethrin toxicity in cats often occurs because they were given flea control products that were intended for use in dogs.
In some cases, cats can even receive a toxic dose through grooming another pet shortly after a topical treatment was applied. If your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms after being medicated, (or has come into contact with) any sort of flea products, medical intervention will likely be required.
- Ataxia (wobbly gait)
- Muscle twitching
- Dilated pupils
The best thing you can do to ensure that your pet won’t be overdosed with pyrethrins, is to properly read all labels before you use them. Also, talk with your family vet about products that are both safe to use on your pet(s), as well as effective at keeping these disease spreading parasites at bay.