Flea Products Could Be Deadly

First-person report by Dr. Dolores Roeder, D.V.M., our electronic vet, exclusively at CBS.com

Cricket the cat was a happy, healthy 2-year-old indoor feline whose life's ambition was to dance with the sunlight that filtered through the curtains and to stir up the "dust bunnies" that seemed to multiply under the bed. Her days of contented leisure were cut short when her owners made the fatal mistake of picking up an over-the-counter topical flea medication and applying it to Cricket without reading the label. The owner saved five dollars, but it cost Cricket her life.

News About Animals

There are so many flea products available to the consumer that it is possible to be numbed into forgetting that these products are potentially dangerous. Advertisements for "easy to apply" and "long lasting" topicals are enticing; who wouldn't be interested in a liquid you apply once behind the neck and then don't need to apply again for another month?

Two excellent cat-approved topicals include Frontline by Rhone Merieux (active ingredient: fipronil) and Advantage by Bayer (active ingredient: imidacloprid. Both of these products have been specifically used safely and effectively on cats.

Unfortunately, some consumers have confused some over-the-counter DOG products with these, resulting in fatalities like Cricket's. Often, the active ingredient in these over-the-counter products is permethrin, an insecticide that is specifically contraindicated in cats. Cats lack the ability to break down and detoxify the permethrin fast enough to avoid intoxication.

Despite blatant warnings on the front of the over-the-counter products and the repeated warnings in the directions section, owners who apply permethrin-containing products risk seizures, coma and death to their feline pets they apply these topicals to.

In one instance in New York, applying the over-the-counter permethrin to the dog in the house resulted in the death of the companion cat when the dog and the cat cuddled together on the couch within an hour of applying the permethrin to the dog. The cat started seizuring within six hours and died despite medical intervention.

One sure way to avoid such a costly disaster is to ALWAYS read the label of any product you use on your pet. Such common sense DOES save lives. Ideally, you should consult your pet's veterinarian to discuss your pets individual needs. Your pet is a member of your family and relies on YOU to make the best decisions on his or her behalf.

By Dr. Dolores Roeder, DVM. ©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed