Pyrethrin toxicosis in a cat | VETgirl Veterinary CE Videos

April 2016

*Note: This video has no sound, so no need to adjust your sound!*

In this VETgirl video, we show what “classic” pyrethrin toxicity looks like in cats. Pyrethrins and their synthetic derivative, pyrethroids, are commonly found in household insect sprays and insecticides (e.g., permethrin, cypermethrin, cyphenothrin, etc.). Due to a cat’s altered liver glururonidation metabolism, cats are significantly more sensitive to pyrethrins than dogs. While a precise toxic dose for cats is not well established, products containing greater than a 5-10% concentration of pyrethrins may lead to systemic toxicosis. The diluted amount found in household insect sprays and topical flea sprays and shampoos is typically < 1%. Toxicosis from exposure to these products is highly unlikely. The application of canine spot-on pyrethin/pyrethroid based insecticides (typically ~40-50% concentration) to cats is the primary cause of feline pyrethrin toxicosis. Cats that groom dogs following recent spot-on applications are also at high risk for toxicosis; ideally, pets should be separated until the spot-on product has completely dried on the dog to prevent cat exposure. When in doubt, contact the flea and tick company (which often has a free 24/7 medical information line) or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for life-saving advice as needed.

Signs of systemic toxicosis in cats include GI signs (e.g., hypersalivation, vomiting, nausea), neurologic signs (e.g., disorientation, weakness, hyperexcitability, tremors, seizures) and respiratory signs (e.g., tachypnea, dyspnea). Tremors are extremely responsive to methocarbamol (22-220 mg/kg, IV PRN to effect), a centrally acting muscle relaxant, although oral absorption of methocarbamol is often slower in onset of action. In general, tremors are less responsive to benzodiazepines (e.g., diazepam). Seizures may be controlled with Phenobarbital (e.g., 4-16 mg/kg, IV PRN to effect) or general gas anesthesia. Dermal decontamination is crucial but should be performed after stabilization. This should be performed with a liquid dish detergent (e.g., Dawn, Palmolive). Supportive care including the monitoring and maintenance of hydration, body temperature and blood glucose levels are necessary. Signs may persist for 1-4 days, depending on the animal. The prognosis is excellent with aggressive dermal decontamination and treatment.

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