Topical flea products (known as "spot on") have made treating fleas (and worms) so much easier. They come in liquid form and are applied to the back of the skin on your cat's neck (between the shoulder blades). Topical flea products are usually applied once a month. The most common topical flea products used on cats include Frontline, Revolution, Program and Advantage. While these are all safe to use when instructions are carefully followed (and I use them on my own cats), in rare cases, cats can have a reaction.
Common symptoms may include:
Foaming at the mouth - This usually occurs when your cat has licked some of the product.
Hair and skin loss - Some particularly sensitive cats can receive chemical burns from topical flea products. Mild cases result in hair loss, more severe cases will also cause a loss of skin.
Contact dermatitis is a localised reaction to the product, symptoms can include tingling, itching and scratching, redness, rash and in more severe cases blistering and ulceration.
Some cats can be poisoned when they are either treated with a dog flea product deliberately or when they inadvertently come into contact with flea products for dogs. This usually occurs in households with dogs and cats who sleep together, share bedding etc. Always be very, very careful when you are treating a dog for fleas if you have a cat in the house. Common symptoms include drooling, ear twitching, ataxia (wobbly gait), muscle tremors, seizures. This is a medical emergency and must be treated by a veterinarian immediately.
Even products for cats can cause toxicity, watch for signs such as drooling, ataxia, tremors, and seizures.
What should you do if your cat suffers a reaction to flea products?
- If your cat suffers a chemical burn to a flea product, rinse the area with lukewarm water for 20 minutes.
- If he has licked some of the product off, rinse his mouth in with water.
- Get him to a veterinarian. Bring along the packaging so your veterinarian knows the active ingredient.
What can you do to prevent a reaction?
Always apply the product as directed.
Never use a flea product for dogs on your cat.
Always buy flea products from your veterinarian, be wary of over the counter flea products.
Don't use multiple flea products at the same time (for example topical flea products in conjunction with a flea collar).
Do not use flea products on kittens under the age of 8 weeks (12 weeks with some brands). Read the instructions to make sure your kitten is old enough to receive treatment.
Always check with your veterinarian before applying flea products to kittens OR their mother.
Seek veterinary advice before applying a flea product to an elderly, pregnant or sick cat.
If you have a dog and a cat, check to see which products are safest to use to help avoid toxicity.