The Pet Corner: It’s important to read labels

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2019

There are many things in the home that can be toxic to animals.

The most reported toxin in cats is lilies. The plant, which includes Easter lilies, tiger lilies, and Asiatic lilies, is considered to be extremely toxic to cats.

If a cat ingests enough of the plant, it can actually cause kidney failure.

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All lilies should be kept out of reach for any cats even though most cats don’t seem especially interested in eating them. 

Household cleaners are next on the list of most common reported toxins in cats. Fortunately, most general purpose cleaners such as Windex and 409 are fairly safe.

Concentrated cleaners, such as toilet bowl or drain cleaners, can easily cause severe chemical burns, though. Chemical burns typically occur on their paws and mouth from licking their paws.

Flea and tick spot-on products are third on the list. Flea- and tick-killing products are the most commonly seen type of poisoning seen in my practice, especially this time of year.

It is one of the most severe and deadly types of poisoning we see on a regular basis. 

Every year during the summer we see multiple cases of flea- and tick-killing products causing severe illness, and sometimes death, in cats.

Typically, the cat owner comes running into the clinic carrying their precious furry family member in their arms as the cat is convulsing, salivating and losing their bodily functions.

The seizures differ only slightly from other types of seizures by the diffuse involuntary muscle twitching affecting their entire uncontrollable body.

In general, cats are very sensitive to all types of pesticides. Products that kill fleas and ticks, even if the product is approved for applying to cats, are pesticides. Those that contain a class of chemicals called pyrethroids can cause tremors, seizures and even death. Products containing pyrethroids should never be used on cats! 

Please read the label on products you use on your cats. 

It is not necessary for anyone to know which ingredients in these products are pyrethroids. The label should say “not for use on cats.”

Personally, I think these products should be required to have very bold red letters stating “DO NOT USE ON CATS.” This is too often not the case.

I always warn pet owners about the potential dangers of using any over-the-counter pet products.

You should always consult your veterinarian before applying any flea and tick products on your cat.

Flea and tick products approved for dogs are not safe for cats even in much smaller doses.

Too often pet owners assume the flea and tick product they apply topically on their dog will work just fine if they use a lot less of it. Or they figure since the product is just being applied to the skin it can’t really hurt anything.

The problem, as stated before, is many dog flea and tick products contain pyrethroids which may be safe for dogs, but are extremely toxic to cats.

Many times pet owners have admitted to being in a hurry and reached for the cat’s topical flea and tick product and accidentally grabbed the product for their dog. That’s why I say stop and read the labal before applying anything on your cats.

Since this type of poisoning in cats is so common and extremely serious, I suggest pet owners keep their dog products completely separate from the products for their cat.

It is important to consider the type of product you use on your dog if you also have a cat for a pet. There have even been some reports of cats becoming sick from coming into contact with their owner’s dog that had recently been treated with a flea and tick product containing pyrethroids.

If you ever suspect your cat has been poisoned by toxins, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your cat lives a long, healthy and happy life.

Dr. Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.