In Australia around 75,000 dogs and cats are paralysed by deadly paralysis ticks each year. As we approach the traditional paralysis tick season in Far North Queensland, many pet owners will be purchasing tick prevention for their pets in the coming weeks. Around this time, veterinarians not only see paralysed pets on a daily basis, but they also see an increase in the number of cats being accidently poisoned by their good intentioned owners.

Permethrin is a common chemical used in many spot on products such as Advantix, Exelpet and permoxin rinse as it is very effective at killing insects and parasites. While nontoxic to dogs unless overdosed, this chemical is extremely toxic to cats and is responsible for 50 percent of reported poisoning in cats worldwide.

Signs of permethrin poisoning

When applied to the skin of a cat, permethrin poisoning usually develops within a few hours but effects can be delayed for up to 72 hours. The most common signs of toxicity include:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Twitching
  • Seizures
  • Salivation and vomiting
  • Incoordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Depression


Treatment for permethrin poisoning is intensive and there isn’t an antidote available. Treatment usually involves hospitalisation, medications to control the tremors and seizures, I/v fluid therapy and sedation to calm the cat. Unfortunately, even with treatment and nursing, some cats die.

If you accidently apply a permethrin based product to your cat, it’s important to remove the product immediately to reduce the amount of permethrin absorbed into the cat’s skin.  Remove using water and soap and then rinse the coat well. Seek immediate veterinary attention as the earlier the treatment begins, the better the chance of survival.

How to prevent permethrin poisoning

Seek veterinary advice before purchasing flea and tick prevention products.  As a result of increased online and retail tick and flea prevention purchases, permethrin toxicity is occurring more often due to purchasers not receiving the correct instructions on the use of products by trained and qualified veterinary staff. Always read the product label carefully and follow the directions for use diligently.

With trained and qualified veterinary staff, Cairns Veterinary Clinic has a full range of safe and effective tick and flea prevention products available. For information on the best and safest flea and tick prevention for your pet, contact us before making a purchase.