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Accidentally Gave A Cat Dog Flea Medicine

Updated on April 16, 2016
So you accidentally gave the cat the dogs flea medication or the flea medication that was meant for the dog.
So you accidentally gave the cat the dogs flea medication or the flea medication that was meant for the dog.

What Should I Do!

First of all , if you haven't already, please stop reading this article and go wash the application point on the cat with dawn liquid dish soap several times and start with cold water that you gradually make lukewarm. The reason behind the water is the same as it is for humans and that is that cat's pores will open more and absorb more poison if you use warm water right away rather than gradually. Go now! We will wait.....


Okay so you gave the cat your dogs flea medication on accident. Hopefully by now you have cleaned the cat well and used a towel to dry its fur. The cat is likely not okay. The dosage may be lethal as dog flea medication is extremely toxic to cats. If you have the means or the money take the cat to the vet NOW. The longer you wait the more damage that will occur and the higher your vet bill is going to run. If a cat is taken to the vet within an hour of exposure they can usually prevent some of the horrible things that are going to happen to other cats it's far too late for. This will save you some money as well. This vet visit, given its during normal hours and not an emergency trip, is going to cost you between 250-800 dollars depending on the care needed or how poorly the cat is doing. If you have pet insurance at PetSmart than the cost should be reduced to around 100 dollars for the visit.

I Can't Afford The Vet So Now What?

Okay so typically the dosage is not lethal to the cats but what it causes them to do is. You need to make sure you have WASHED IT ALL OFF. Then take the following steps to prepare for the worse over the next 12-24 hours.

  • Prepare a dark and quiet place for you cat to be alone. Do not make it a small area as I will explain later. Make sure the cat is alone and that it's not on concrete or hard surfaces. You do not want to put them in a kennel or a garage.
  • Hydrate your cat as much as possible. You only have 45 minutes to two hours before your cat starts showing symptoms and by hour three they will no longer want to eat or drink at all. Do not feed the cat but try to make sure it has plenty of water in its area.
  • Buy unflavored Pedialyte from CVS or Walgreen's or whatever store you choose. You are going to need it to keep the cat steady during this trying time.
  • Prepare damp rags and dry towels. There may be some bleeding from the mouth and it's unavoidable.

What Symptoms To Expect

I had an accidental exposure to my own cat a year ago. I lived in an area at the time that did not have an emergency vet so our only option was to wait it out. Now there are many sites that will tell you 'what to expect' but most of these people have never dealt with this situation at all. So here is the reality of what is going to likely happen to your cat over the next 12-24 hours.

  • Rapid blinking and drooling will begin and the cat will slowly become reclusive but will begin to seem "hyper and fine". This is bad sign because it means the toxin is overloading its nervous system.
  • As it progresses the cat will begin to hide from everyone and everything. It's sense of sight will diminish , it's ability to hear will be intensified, and its ability to balance will decline. At this point the hospital couldn't do much more than you anyhow, so don't feel bad about keeping the cat at home.
  • The worse stages will begin about 4-5 hours after exposure. During this time your cat will begin to have a nervous system and mental breakdown. It will began to convulse and lose function of its own muscles. It will appear as if the cat is dying and you will want to end its misery but don't, this is normal. At this point the body is trying to process the poison out of its blood stream. If the cat were going to die it's likely it would of had a stroke and perished by now. Most cats do not die from the toxins but die from their surroundings instead. Your cat is likely to have a stroke if you do not isolate it and this can lead to long term problems.
  • Hours 7-12 will seem like the worse. You will notice your cat is moving in circles across the floor. This is because it is actually starting to get a bit better. It is regaining some control of it's own muscles. This will evolve and soon your cat will be laying on its side and randomly get up and dive into the ground/walls. This is also normal and a good sign. It seems like they would break their own necks but they will not as long as you do not have them on concrete or other areas that are too tough for that sort of impact. Carpet is deal and they shouldn't damage the walls as they actually are trying to slow a bit despite what it looks like when they approach the wall. The reason the cat is running is because that is the first function it regains when its nervous system begins to reboot. Its ability to stand and walk will come at a later time.
  • After 12 hours the cat should start to show some sort of progress but this could take as long as 24 hours. You will notice all the signs I have listed above. The short term damage after this will be some blood in the feces of the cat and some throwing up from time to time. This is normal as it takes days for the poison to remove itself entirely.
  • Long term effects will vary. My cat lost a lot of hair on its tail and it hasn't grown back fully. It also drools a lot when I pet it though over time it's beginning to lessen.

How To Increase The Chances Of Survival

The following are steps you can take to help your cat pull through this alive.

  • Keep it in a dark and quiet place like we discussed earlier.
  • Make sure it's a cool place and try not to have a loud or noisy fan,TV, or other things near it.
  • Check in on your cat but do not touch it that often. Petting it is not comforting to it, it only reminds the cat that it has no control over anything and it probably doesn't know it's even you. This can lead to stroke.
  • During seizures try to sneak in with the cat. Wait until its convulsions have calmed some and use a dropper to drop very small amounts of water into its mouth. You want to keep its mouth moist but you don't want to give it enough to actually drink as this will likely cause it to choke to death. The idea is to keep it's mouth and lips moist.

Follow these steps and your cat should pull through this. We all make mistakes and certain brands of flea protection do not do a very good job of changing the packing enough between its cat product and its small to medium dog product. This only makes the situation worse and harder to avoid. Apparently they haven't thought that dog owners may own cats as well. Good Luck.

Should there be a law to protect animals against similar labeling on toxic products?

Show Flea Prevention Companies be Required to Package Cat and Dog Medicines In Significantly Different Packaging?

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