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Cautions to Consider with Your Pet’s Preventatives

pet health, preventatives, preventatives for pets, pet preventatives, cautions, tips, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

 If you witnessed or strongly suspect your pet ingested the wrong preventatives or overdosed on their own preventatives, these scenarios are considered “ORANGE” – or urgent cases – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for help determining if your pet consumed a toxic amount and for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital ahead of your arrival.


With spring, warmer weather, and sunshine around the corner, everyone is getting excited for more outdoor activities – including our pets! However, with spring and summer also comes insects like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. So, preventative treatments become even more important during these warmer months. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we all start protecting our pets from pests and the diseases they can carry.  

pet health, preventatives, preventatives for pets, pet preventatives, cautions, tips, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

“Species” Matters

When it comes to preventatives, always use feline-specific preventatives on your cats. Remember – cats ARE NOT just small dogs. In fact, pyrethrins (or permethrins) – one of the most common medications used in dog preventative medications –  are very toxic to cats! They can cause severe and even fatal reactions. 

 Signs of exposure include: 

  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Incoordination/Disorientation
  • Twitching
  • Shaking
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature 

 Not only can cats be exposed to this toxin by accidental or purposeful application of a canine preventative, but they can also be exposed by licking or rubbing against a dog who was treated with it. Make sure to keep cats and dogs separated during application, as indicated on warning labels. Also, keep in mind that pyrethrins can also be found in flea/tick shampoos and collars. 

If you notice any of these signs or think your cat may have been exposed, seek immediate veterinary care. Toxicity is treatable if noticed early! 

pet health, preventatives, preventatives for pets, pet preventatives, cautions, tips, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Size Matters 

Some medications can be safely split, but most flea, tick, or heartworm preventatives cannot. The medication is not uniformly distributed throughout the chew or liquid, so splitting it between pets increases the risk of toxicity. These medications are generally very safe, but if you notice signs of an overdose, seek immediate veterinary care. 

 Overdosing Signs: 

  • Vomiting 
  • Drooling
  • Loss of coordination
  • Collapse
  • Tremors
  • Weakness 

 Signs of Less Serious Reactions: 

  • Itching or scratching at the application site 
  • Minor redness 
  • Minor hair loss 

If you notice these less serious reactions, make note of what medication was used, when it was used, and then speak to your family veterinarian about alternatives. You can wash the area carefully using gloves and gentle soap (such as Dawn dish soap). As a reminder, pets should not be given over-the-counter medications without the advice of your family veterinarian.  

If you think your pet is having any sort of reaction to their preventatives, please seek veterinary attention. Dogs with white feet, such as Collies, may have an inherited genetic variation that makes them more sensitive to certain insecticides. Veterinary-approved preventatives are generally considered safe, even for dogs with this genetic variation, at approved doses for the pet’s size. There are tests available to check for the presence of that gene, and your family veterinarian can help with those as well!  

pet health, preventatives, preventatives for pets, pet preventatives, cautions, tips, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s preventatives, your family veterinarian will be happy to help guide you. With so many options for preventative medications, you and your family veterinarian can find the best options to keep your pets happy and pest-free! 

More Reading:  

Written by Jessica Brown, DVM.

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