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Permethrin and Pyrethrin (Flea Product) Toxicity in Dogs

Overview of Permethrin and Pyrethrin Toxicity in Dogs

Fleas are frustrating and annoying insects that thrive on our dogs, and getting rid of them is an important and sometimes difficult process. Fortunately, many products are available to reduce the flea population within our homes and on our dogs. The most popular products include those supplied in small tubes that are applied to the back of the dog. This type of product generally lasts for about 30 days.

The most common types of insecticide used to kill fleas are pyrethrins. These products are derived from the chrysanthemum plant. When used according to label directions, pyrethrins are safe and effective. Synthetic insecticides have more recently been formulated to increase strength and effectiveness. The active ingredient in these synthetic-based insecticides is permethrin.

Toxicity related to pyrethrins is usually associated with applying much more of the product than directed. Overdosing can cause toxic signs in both dogs and cats.

Permethrins, the synthetic insecticide, has a much greater potential for resulting in toxicity. Permethrin based topical flea products are usually labeled “for use in dogs only.” There is a wide safety margin for permethrins in dogs. Cats, however, are exquisitely susceptible to the toxic effects of permethrins. Application of permethrin-based insecticide to a cat will usually result in toxic signs within 6 hours.

What to Watch For

Signs of flea product toxicity in dogs may include:

Diagnosis of Permethrin and Pyrethrin Toxicity in Dogs

Treatment of Permethrin and Pyrethrin Toxicity in Dogs

Home Care and Prevention

If you suspect your dog may have permethrin/pyrethrin toxicity, the most important part of home care is to bathe your dog in lukewarm water using mild dish soap. Do not use flea shampoo. Avoid hot water since that will dilate blood vessels in the skin and increase the absorption of the flea product.

Once the dog is bathed, contact your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency facility immediately. Additional treatment is probably required.

The best way to prevent toxicity to flea products is to read the labels and follow the directions.