cat You may have seen the coverage in local media about Dexter, a very lovable tabby cat, who nearly died after he was innocently treated with a flea control product meant for a dog. He was nursed back to health after being treated by our wonderful Te Puna team but it was touch and go for a while, highlighting how important it is to treat your pets correctly with appropriate animal-specific products.

The story was shared from our Facebook page, sparking some interesting discussion among pet owners. It appears many people are completely unaware of the risks associated with using flea control products meant for dogs on their cats.

The health issue is less to do with the size of the dose and more to do with the fact many flea control products for dogs contain a permethrin base which is particularly toxic to cats. It can cause severe muscle twitching, seizures and eventually death.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Dexter’s owners used a flea product for dogs they had bought from the supermarket and stored away. About 18 hours after they treated him for fleas, his owners woke one morning to find him uncontrollably shaking. They took him to our Te Puna clinic for emergency treatment where veterinarian Kate Heller quickly identified Dexter was suffering classic signs of permethrin poisoning – facial twitching, rigidity in his legs and a rising temperature due to the heat generated from his muscle tremors.

Because there are no specific antidotes for this type of poisoning, our care involved treating the symptoms and providing support until Dexter’s body processed and got rid of the toxin.

Dexter was heavily sedated for about two days and was given fluids intravenously to keep him hydrated. Our team monitored his temperature closely and continued to top up his sedation throughout the night as the tremors were persistent.

Preparing for the worst, his Whakamarama family took him home but as soon as Dexter was carried inside, his head lifted and he began perking up. The next morning he was back to his normal self.


His owners made the innocent mistakes of not reading the product packaging and assuming the flea product they had for dogs could be applied safely to cats as well.
Fortunately for Dexter, at 8kg, he was a very large cat. Had he been smaller, the toxic overdose could have been fatal.

He has fully recovered from his near-death experience which his owners are very happy about. But the incident serves as a useful lesson to all pet owners who need to take special care to ensure the products they use are suitable for the size and breed of their pet. Cat products are for cats and dog products are for dogs. Owners should also follow the warning labels and instructions on flea treatment packaging.

When it comes to fleas, this is the time of the year when their numbers thrive more than any other time. If left untreated, they can infest your homes and badly affect your animals, causing inflammation, hair loss and excessive scratching that often leads to secondary skin infections. The key to avoiding infestations is to treat your pets all year round.

Ideally, all pets in the house should be treated at the same time.

Since 95 per cent of the flea population and lifecycle live in the environment, including your home and carpets, we recommend using Indorex foggers to minimise reinfection of your animals after they’ve been treated.

Our clinics on Cameron Rd, in Te Puna and in Katikati, stock a complete range of high quality flea control treatments for dogs and cats and our staff are always happy to discuss your options with you.

On a final note, we’re very grateful to Dexter’s family for allowing us to share the story and help spread what is an important pet care message.