Protect against permethrin poisoning campaign

Print this pagePrint this page

BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS!

A great day for cats - PDSA and Bob Martin join International Cat Care’s campaign to help prevent permethrin poisoning in cats

Yesterday, on the same day that PDSA vets chose to back International Cat Care in warning of a ‘cat-astrophe’ as thousands of pet owners are mistakenly poisoning their cats by applying the wrong flea products, pet product manufacturer Bob Martin announced that it has made the decision to move its permethrin-containing on-animal flea treatments out of general sales and into restricted sales only.  By doing this, anyone who wishes to buy such a product will have to obtain it through a vet, a pharmacist or other suitably qualified person, enabling advice to be given at the point of sale about dangers to cats.

The PDSA is backing International Cat Care’s campaign, launched last year, which is calling for a change in licensing of all permethrin-containing products by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, as is Bob Martin.

Vet charity PDSA issued the warning to cat owners, after the charity revealed that around 20 cases of accidental poisoning are being seen by its vets every month due to flea treatments intended for dogs accidentally being applied to cats. And experts fear this could be just the tip of the iceberg as many cases are going unreported.

Flea products intended for dogs can be fatal if given to cats, due to an insecticide called permethrin, found in some products which is highly toxic to cats. Some owners are also mistakenly failing to follow the on-packet guidance relating to dosage.

PDSA Senior Vet, Sean Wensley, said: “Despite packs now containing warnings, many cats are continuing to fall victim to accidental poisoning by certain flea treatments. This is due to lack of awareness of the dangers of using products intended for dogs on cats. This oversight is having devastating consequences, with many much-loved cats suffering terrible reactions including respiratory and neurological problems, convulsions and tremors. Tragically, the poisoning even results in death in many cases. Whatever the outcome, it also causes great distress to their devoted owners.”  

Cats can even be poisoned through contact with dogs in the same household who have been recently treated with flea spot-on products containing permethrin. 

In homes where there are cats and dogs living together, dog flea treatments which contain permethrin should be avoided; there are many flea products for dogs which do not contain this chemical which owners can use. But if owners do use this type of product on their dog, they should keep the cat and dog completely separated for 72 hours to ensure there is no risk of accidental poisoning.

International Cat Care is petitioning to change the regulations so that permethrin-containing flea products would legally require dispensing by a suitably qualified person giving the opportunity for good verbal advise at the point of sale. This would help to prevent unsuspecting pet owners from purchasing unsafe products from pet shops and online sites.

International Cat Care Chief Executive, Claire Bessant said: This is a great day for cats in the UK and we applaud Bob Martin for making this decision.  Cat deaths caused by permethrin are totally preventable. This is often simply down to mistakes at point of purchase, with pet owners mixing up cat and dog products, or just unaware that you cannot use a dog treatment on a cat. International Cat Care strongly feels that these treatments should be reclassified by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate so that they may only be purchased if advice is given about their correct use. Last year, as part of our campaign Pets At Home in the UK introduced a voluntary till prompt on any such products so that advice was given to owners as they bought them.  Now Bob Martin has voluntarily changed the status of its permethrin-containing products.  As well as checking its intended use, pet owners should be asked if there are cats in the home which may come into contact with a recently treated dog, so that they can be warned to keep the dog and cat apart, or advised to use a different product. The saddest thing of all is that cats are dying because owners are trying to do the right thing and treat their cats for fleas. They could be forgiven for not knowing that even a few drops of such a product for dogs could kill their cat. There are still numerous permethrin-containing products from other companies out there and this is a world wide problem, so our work is not over.  But thank you Bob Martin for leading the way – it is a substantial step forward.”

In a recent survey conducted International Cat Care with its veterinary members across the world, on average more than 1 in 4 vets saw a case of permethrin poisoning in cats in the first 6 months of this year, and more than 1 in 2 saw a case during 2013.  While inappropriate use of dog spot-on products on cats was the most common cause, cats in close contact with treated dogs accounted for a number of cases, as did the use of permethrin-containing flea collars designed for use in cats.

Animal lovers can back the campaign and sign the petition here

At International Cat Care we are warning cat owners not to use dog flea treatments on their cats after a spate of deaths reported by UK vets.

The deaths are due to the insecticide permethrin, commonly found in dog spot-on treatments, which are widely available. This is highly toxic to cats, with often fatal consequences – see our permethrin poisoning cases.

Instead of using a cat-specific product, cat owners are mistakenly using flea treatments designed for dogs, which contain a toxic and concentrated dose of permethrin. Whilst there are warnings on packs, accidents continue to happen, causing suffering and death to cats.  

Cats can even be poisoned through contact with dogs in the same household which have been recently treated with flea spot-on products containing permethrin. 

International Cat Care is warning consumers to check any flea products they have recently purchased. If pet owners apply any spot-on product containing permethrin to their cat, they are advised to wash it off immediately with water and a mild detergent, then seek immediate treatment from a veterinary surgeon. 

We are petitioning for a change in licensing of permethrin-containing products by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The petition asks that these products legally require verbal advice at the point of sale from a suitably qualified person. Under their existing licence products containing permethrin can be bought directly off the supermarket or shop shelf with no advice. Please sign our petition and urge any friends or colleagues to do the same.

Pets at Home has already joined the campaign and will be putting safeguards on the sale of these products into their shops - International Cat Care wants other pet shops to do the same.

Claire Bessant, Chief Executive of International Cat Care, comments:

These cat deaths are totally preventable. This is simply down to mistakes at point of purchase, with pet owners mixing up cat and dog products, or simply unaware that you cannot use a dog treatment on a cat. The charity strongly feels that these treatments should be reclassified by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate so that they may only be purchased if advice is given about their correct use. As well as checking its intended use, pet owners should be asked if there are cats in the home which may come into contact with a recently treated dog, so that they can be warned to keep the dog and cat apart, or advised to use a different product.

The true number of deaths may be much higher as all too often it is not reported. If you have an incident, please help us make sure that no one else suffers by contacting the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to report a problem, and signing up to our petition. 


Spot-on flea treatments comprise a small amount of liquid that is applied directly onto the skin of the animal’s neck, as shown in the picture, right. They can be easier to give than traditional flea treatments, removing the need for messy powders or sprays which can cause stress to cats.

Permethrin products are safe for dogs, as they are far less sensitive than cats to the toxic insecticide. Cat flea spot-on treatments do not contain permethrin and neither do many newer dog spot-on products.

For full details of permethrin poisoning in cats, including a list of the dog spot-on products which contain permethrin, see our links (right).

Tranlslate this page