Permethrin is a chemical found in a range of insecticides, and in high concentrations in some spot-on flea and tick treatments for dogs.

Spot-on treatments containing permethrin can cause severe illness in cats, which can result in convulsions and death. Cats are also at risk from contact with dogs treated with a permethrin spot-on treatment. For example, cats can become ill from grooming a dog after it’s been treated with a permethrin product.

In response to concerns raised by members about the number of permethrin toxicity cases in cats being treated in veterinary practices around Australia, the AVA began working with industry stakeholders and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) in December 2008.

The aim of the collaboration was to reduce the incidence of accidental poisoning of cats caused by these freely available flea and tick treatments for dogs.

Throughout 2009, the AVA coordinated a consumer research project to develop more effective warning labels for product packaging. The project was funded jointly by all six companies marketing a permethrin spot-on product in Australia, and representatives of five of these companies were on the steering committee to drive the project. The final results of the project were made available in early 2010.

This close collaboration across the industry is unique among countries attempting to address the problem of permethrin toxicity in cats. While many countries have tried to improve package warning labels, Australia will be the first to have consulted dog and cat owners about how best to communicate the warning messages.

Other stakeholders have also explored other potential strategies to reduce the harm to cats from spot-on products. A communication and education campaign for owners and retailers is in the planning stages.

Information

Media release – 19 November 2008

AVJ News article - January/February 2011 issue

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