Amitraz is a new type of insecticide that has proven to be very effective against ticks and mites. It is used in some brands of dog tick collars and topical solutions and to treat demodectic mange.
However, amitraz is toxic to cats. Most cats suffering from toxicity have had amitraz-based tick collars placed on them by mistake. Within about 2 to 6 hours of wearing or licking the tick collar, your cat will become weak and lethargic.
In dogs, it is highly unlikely that they will suffer from toxicity by wearing the tick collar or receiving demodectic mange treatment. Usually toxicity associated with this insecticide is due to the pet eating the tick collar. The dogs most commonly affected by amitraz toxicity are curious puppies.
Other signs to watch for include vomiting, staggering, diarrhea, and disorientation. Without treatment, coma may result. In severe untreated cases, toxicity may result in death.
Veterinary care is strongly recommended in treating amitraz toxicity.
Diagnosis in both dogs and cats is usually based on physical exam findings and a history of recent access to an amitraz-based tick collar.
Frequently, in dogs, the owner does not realize the pet ingested the collar until pieces of the collar are found in the vomit. Your veterinarian may recommend taking an X-ray of your dog’s abdomen as pieces of the collar may be seen within the gastrointestinal tract. Tissue samples can be analyzed for amitraz but this generally takes days to get results and treatment must be started before the tissues can be analyzed.
Expect your veterinarian to recommend hospitalization with continuous intravenous fluids. Activated charcoal may be given by a stomach tube in order to reduce the severity of the amitraz toxicity. Yohimbine is a medication that has been shown to reverse some of the effects of amitraz. Most dogs and cats treated for amitraz toxicity recover in 24 to 48 hours.
If you realize that your cat is wearing an amitraz-based tick collar, or you witness your pet consuming the collar, promptly call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency hospital.
Based on the time of ingestion, overall health of your dog and other factors, you may be instructed to induce vomiting. This should never be done unless specifically instructed by a veterinarian. Inappropriate vomiting can be dangerous.
If your dog or cat was treated for amitraz toxicity, home care upon release from the veterinary hospital includes a bland diet for a few days and gradual return to a normal diet. Watch for vomiting, not eating or persistent lethargy or weakness. If any of these occur, please contact your family veterinarian as soon as possible.
For cats, the primary prevention is to avoid use of amitraz-based tick collars. Also, make sure that cats in the household do not chew on or lick another dog’s tick collar.
For dogs, follow the directions on the tick collar package. Make sure to fit the tick collar properly so that it is not too tight and not too loose. Loose collars can easily be removed by your dog and ingested. Trim the excess tick collar after fitting it properly.