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Don't Make This Mistake With Flea Prevention Products

Bayer makes two different flea control products — Advantage and Advantix — that can easily be confused, leading to potentially lethal complications for your cat.

by Dr. Shea Cox
July 16, 2012
a dog scratching itself outside
nateejindakum / Stocksy

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When it comes to flea prevention products for your pets, there are lots of options on the market. But if you rely on the Advantage or Advantix line of products, listen up: Bayer makes two different flea control products that can easily be confused with one another, leading to potentially lethal complications for your cat. Advantage has formulations approved for both dogs and cats, while Advantix is intended for use in dogs only.

Advantix causes permethrin toxicity in cats, which is a common emergency, especially during the spring and summer months when fleas are at their peak of peskiness. Here's the different between these two products, plus what to do if you think your cat has ingested permethrin.

What's the difference between Advantage and Advantix?

Advantage is a topical solution that can be applied to either your dog or cat’s skin once per month for flea prevention, and it contains the active ingredient imidacloprid. Advantix is also a topical solution for the treatment and prevention of fleas, ticks, biting flies, mosquitoes, and lice on dogs only. The product’s active ingredients are imidacloprid and permethrin. It's the addition of permethrin to the recipe that makes the deadly difference for cats.

Dogs can metabolize permethrin effectively, resulting in a safe product for them. However, cats cannot metabolize this ingredient and will suffer from toxic effects if exposed. Cats may be exposed to Advantix in a variety of ways, including direct application, close contact with a dog who has been treated within 48 hours, or if they have groomed a dog's fur after an application.

What are the symptoms of permethrin toxicity in cats?

Following Advantix exposure or application, symptoms in cats will generally manifest within a few hours — but it can take up to three days. Symptoms include: tremors and twitching (sometimes just the ear tips), hyperexcitability, drooling, depression, loss of coordination, vomiting, seizures, loss of appetite and, potentially, death, if not treated. One of the major concerns is an extreme elevation in body temperature from the continuous muscle activity due to tremoring.

How is permethrin toxicity in cats treated?

Treatment consists of decontamination of the skin with a bath, tremor and/or seizure control, and supportive care. Medications are given as needed by an intravenous injection to control these clinical signs. General supportive care takes the form of intravenous fluids to keep the cat hydrated, as well as vital-sign monitoring and providing a safe environment so the cat does not harm themself during the period of incoordination and disorientation. Clinical signs of tremors generally last for 12 to 24 hours but may persist for up to 48 to 72 hours. Prognosis for recovery is excellent with early treatment.

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How to prevent permethrin toxicity in cats

If you share your home with both dogs and cats, don't use Advantix — mainly because accidents can occur. I often hear a distressed pet parent say that they “accidentally” applied the wrong one, so it's best to take that risk out of the equation, especially when there are so many other flea control options available.

If you do use canine Advantix in a home with cats, apply it to your dog while your cat does not have access to the area or to your dog. Allow the medicine to fully absorb into your dog’s skin — when you can no longer visibly see the oily medication on the fur — before allowing your cat back into the same room. (I have treated cats that were obsessive groomers and decided the fur between “their” dog’s shoulder blades needed to be cleaned.)

The bottom line: Always double-check labels and read all the fine print — you may even want someone to double check you before giving your dog medication.

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Dr. Shea Cox

Dr. Shea Cox is the founder of BluePearl Pet Hospice and is a global leader in animal hospice and palliative care. With a focus on technology, innovation and education, her efforts are changing the end-of-life landscape in veterinary medicine.