Neil the vetWhat made it even worse was that Cheeky did not even have fleas in the first place. And none of it would have happened if people weren’t so bloomin’ untidy. It all started innocently. A wee visit to the shops for some early Christmas shopping. An impulse purchase. (Aren’t supermarkets just great for selling you things you never knew you wanted?) And it all lead to disaster and a late night visit to our emergency service.

Cheeky is a very nice cat. And her owner is a very nice owner. So when she saw what she thought was a cheap flea treatment in a lovely shiny box sitting tantalisingly alongside a large picture of a cat (who looked just like Cheeky) on the shelf of a large ‘convenience’ store she couldn’t resist the urge to buy it. She loved Cheeky after all. Little did she know it was destined to become the most expensive ‘cheap’ flea treatment ever.

Back home, with the contents of various 5p plastic bags in disarray on the floor, Cheeky’s owner rummaged for the flea treatment (a ‘spot-on, no less, just like the one she used to get from the vets). With Cheeky in one hand and the pipette in the other, it was awkward to apply and the volume seemed excessive. The net result was a little of the contents ran down Cheeky’s neck, where our intrepid cat’s tongue could reach.

Pretty soon she was salivating. Then the shaking started. Cheeky, inherently sensing something was wrong, headed for the sanctuary of her basket but her legs would not carry her. She lay on her side, her muscles twitching, her pupils wide and her breathing rapid. Her owner returned from the kitchen just in time to see the start of the first full blown seizure and she reached for the phone to call us.

Cheeky was suffering from permethrin toxicity. This insecticide, whose origins lie with Chrysanthemum plants, is present in a large number of over the counter flea treatments. Cats are particularly sensitive to its effects and over application of spot-ons or accidental ingestion of the product rapidly leads to neurotoxicity with fatalities occurring commonly.

Cheeky was lucky. Her owner was able to recognise the problem and get early intravenous treatment to control the seizures. The excess material was washed off with detergent to reduce further absorption. A quick investigation showed that Cheek’s owner had inadvertently picked up a box of dog spot-on that had been carelessly put back in the cat section by another shopper. Cheeky’s recovery was good but the image of her fitting will remain in her owner’s mind forever.

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Five Good Reasons for Having Your Cat Neutered

  • Reduces fighting, injury and noise
  • Reduces spraying and smelling
  • Much less likely to wander and get lost
  • Safer from diseases like feline AIDS, mammary tumours and feline leukaemia
  • Reduces the number of unwanted kittens

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