Can I over-medicate my itchy kitty?
September 21, 2012 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Quick question about big kitties and flea topical drops...

So, Luke, has somehow gotten fleas. We got an off-brand of topical medication at PetSmart (because we really didn't have the spare cash for the absurdly expensive name brands) and applied an ampule last Saturday. We also thoroughly swept and sprayed/dusted the carpets, rugs, upholstery, etc.

A week later, we're still seeing roughly the same amount of fleas, droppings and eggs on (and off) Luke. Everyone I've spoken with has said that the fleas should've started dying within a day of treatment.

Here's the question...The box for the treatment says "For cats and kittens 5 lbs. and up". Luke is a 16 lb cat, and it seems to us that a medication that can adequately and safely treat a 5-lb cat would be as effective on a 16-lb cat. We're wondering if it would be ok to give him another treatment, even though it hasn't been 30 days? I know the instructions say not to, but I'm wondering if a big cat like Luke might be a special case?

My gut says 'no', but I'd like to get some wiser opinions.
posted by Thorzdad to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Many topical medications for cats come in a "one size only" dosing situation, so I'm not surprised to hear that this over the counter brand does as well. You should check with your vet before giving him another dose -- overdose of flea and tick preventative can be a big deal.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:27 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

The name-brand stuff comes in different dosages for different-sized cats. I only use the name stuff on my cats because I found it works better and a friend of mine had a kitten die after using the off brand drops on her. There may be cheaper options for the name brand drops. Check warehouse stores, Amazon, pet shelters and humane societies. Shop around and you may be able to find flea drops that don't break the bank.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:37 AM on September 21, 2012

We had a long talk with the expert at PetCo on this recently. We have two males at least 16 pounds, and a 6 month old kitten.

He told us the new Advantage is in different sizes because the medicine is in a carrier fluid and there is no way you can just use, say 1/2 of it and be sure you're getting enough or worse, too much, onto a kitten. They have kitten, medium, and large sized formulas.

We have never had any luck with anything except Advantage. Apparently fleas in our area are resistant to Frontline now.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:39 AM on September 21, 2012

Definitely speak to your vet. But in the meantime, vacuum. Everything. Every crack, crevice and cranny. Fleas don't lay their eggs on Luke, they lay them just about everywhere else. Sweeping just pushes the flea eggs into the cracks. Vacuum, and then get rid of the bag immediately.

You want to vacuum like, every day for a few weeks. Furniture, windowsills. The entire house. Even if there is a room where Luke isn't allowed, vacuum. The fleas have found it. Wash the sofa covers, your bedding, any pillow cases.

I really hate fleas, so the next thing I would do, is I would fog bomb the house. Which is disgusting and many people are averse to that amount of chemicals. But me? I'm averse to getting a parasite. And people get these parasites by ingesting the flea.

Certain parts of the flea life cycle are pretty impervious to chemical treatment. So you will likely have to repeat. Don't think a treatment failed because you see more fleas later. Nope, they're just resilient bugs.

It may also be wise to choose a treatment for the outside perimeter of your home, on the off chance that fleas are breeding in your grass and finding a way into the house. Yes, it happens, but is not the most likely source of continued sightings.

Do not use dog treatment on cats. They are different chemicals for a reason, and the chemicals used in the dog stuff can really harm cats. I know this sounds obvious, but I have seen people really injure their cats by thinking that a double flea whammy would be great.
posted by bilabial at 11:40 AM on September 21, 2012

When my indoor only cat somehow became infested with fleas, it took multiple rounds of treatment of the expensive stuff, plus intensely cleaning our entire apartment more than once and throwing away a lot of pillows and cushions and bedding completely (and giving my poor angel two separate baths), before they went away. I know that's not what you want to hear. But fleas can be stubborn.
posted by something something at 11:41 AM on September 21, 2012

No experience with unbranded treatments, but I used Frontline for a while and had similar problems. I then switched to Advantage, which works fine.

My vet denies that Frontline resistance is A Thing (!), but did suggest that Advantage might be working because it (unlike Frontline, in the UK at least) comes in small and large cat sizes. My cat is 14lb and I use the large cat size.
posted by altolinguistic at 11:45 AM on September 21, 2012

There are probably a few things going on here other than just dosage size. One is that some of the older treatments (like Advantage, Frontline) don't work as well anymore because the fleas and ticks have become resistant. The other is that while the monthly products will prevent fleas and ticks, I'm not sure that they are meant to kill them on the spot. I'd ask the vet for a Capstar, which will kill the ones on your pet *right now*.
posted by radioamy at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2012

Be very careful with dosages with any flea product but cheap ones are notorious for the problems they cause, please ring your vet and speak to them before any additional doses of any flea product. If your vet tries to talk you into Frontline or Advantage it's not just because they want to make money but because they have seen the problems that can so easily happen with the cheaper drops. If you ask they may well sell you individual pipettes so you don't have to buy a whole packet of 3 and can save money that way.

I know personally of one dog that had fits because of cheap supermarket type flea drops and when doing a quick search just now to find some more detailed info to give you came across this site.

If you are worried about fleas being resistant to the more expensive flea drops then stick with Advantage, though resistance has only been found in parts of the US it is mostly to Frontline.
posted by wwax at 12:34 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know the instructions say not to, but I'm wondering if a big cat like Luke might be a special case?

My gut says 'no', but I'd like to get some wiser opinions.

Why not ask your vet? Many Pyrethroids are toxic to cats, and though etofenprox and pyriproxyfen are not as toxic, I wouldn't mess with double dosing, especially after just one week.

I have yet to meet someone who has been satisfied with the off-brand stuff for their cats. However, even with Advantage there are still groggy fleas showing up in the week or so afterward. 1) any fleas hiding along your baseboards, in your carpets and furniture must come in contact with your cat to be poisoned. 2) both Etofenprox and Imidacloprid (Advantage) are nerve toxins, and take time to work. They begin killing fleas right away, but every flea has to meet your cat first.Pyriproxyfen retards flea eggs and flea larvae. 3) Sick fleas can still lay eggs, so you'll continue to see them for awhile.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:39 PM on September 21, 2012

After a horrible recent experience with fleas, I'm giving my (huge) cat a dose of Frontline Plus per month, and would not mess with the cheap stuff (I tried some brand of that first. It did nothing).

I agree with the vacuuming advice, and want to add that our fleas went away only after we finally got an exterminator in. The exterminator found most of the eggs UNDER my son's mattress, which lies directly on the floor, and in a few other places you would never think to vacuum. He said they hide, and they're really good at it.
posted by DMelanogaster at 12:47 PM on September 21, 2012

Another tip: when you vacuum, drop a few moth balls in the bag or canister first.
posted by jquinby at 12:55 PM on September 21, 2012

...oh, and throw out the bag (or empty the canister) as soon as you're done.
posted by jquinby at 12:56 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to use another dose of topical drops for fear of overmedicating, 8 have had great results by using the Adams brand of flea spray. It comes in a bright blue bottle and I've found it at WalMart and pet stores. Can be used on your kitty as well as sprayed on your carpet (then vaccum after it dries a bit).
posted by MultiFaceted at 1:05 PM on September 21, 2012

From looking at the reviews of that stuff it sounds like it's crap. It may not be the dosage but the medication itself that's leading to the sub-par results.

I have had to de-flea kittens who were too young for any topical flea medication. I had success with dosing them with Capstar followed by submerging them up to their head a bath in dish detergent and a thorough flea-combing while they're in the bath to weed out whatever was left (intermittently dipping the flea comb in very concentrated dish detergent solution). Capstar only kills the live fleas and only works for 24 hours, which is why it's important to follow up with the bath to kill any eggs.

The kittens were completely feral and resistant to being handled, so I imagine the tactics I used on them might help with bathing your giant cat. I wore leather work gloves I didn't mind getting wet and deactivated them. You just have to make sure to support their head in the bath so it doesn't fall underwater.

For maximum flea-killage, before you do all that sprinkle Borax on carpets, cloth surfaces, favorite cat places, and in corners. Let it sit while you're bathing and combing kitty. Then when you're done keep him sequestered from the Borax areas and vacuum everything up. (note: have not tried Borax method myself, just heard it works)
posted by Anonymous at 1:23 PM on September 21, 2012

Typically, the between-the-shoulder drops don't kill adult fleas, so you're going to have to wait 4-6 weeks to see results. I would not re-dose without talking to a vet, the insecticides they use do tend to be toxic to cats in sufficient doses.
posted by zug at 1:30 PM on September 21, 2012

Diatomaceous Earth: the bug killer you can eat.
posted by gray17 at 1:45 PM on September 21, 2012

We tried Frontline on our two cats (15 and 17 pounds) and saw no reduction in fleas whatsoever. So after the month had passed since the last Frontline, we tried Advantage for large cats (I believe it's 9 pounds and larger). And in two days, we saw a DRASTIC reduction in the number of fleas.

I love how some vets say that there's no such thing as Frontline-resistant fleas. Every person I've known who's tried Frontline, both on dogs and on cats, have reported that here in Florida, it doesn't do a thing to fleas.

It took a good 6 months to get rid of all of the fleas (monthly Advantage, combined with religious cleaning/vacuuming). Those eggs can stay well hidden, and it can take that long for them to make it through their little life cycles. Yes, it was pricey, but it's worth it for the cats to not be in scratching, chewing, meowing discomfort.
posted by themissy at 7:04 AM on September 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all!
At the risk of threadsitting, I'll add what we've done so far this weekend.

• Went to our vet, and they carry the Comfortis pill. However, it appears that it's simply the dog pill that has been approved for cat use. The pill for a 16lb animal was enormous! We've pilled Luke before and it's a life-threatening ordeal, even doing the wrap-kitty-in-a-heavy-towel move. We'd probably have to break the pill into 8 pieces or so, just to get it to cat-size. The idea of pilling him 8 times in-a-row is...scary. No one around here seems to carry Capstar, so I can't speak to whether it would be an easier job. What size is the Capstar pill for a 16lb animal?

Luke doesn't care for snacks, so Pill-Pockets don't work. Neither does grinding-up pills ans sprinkling it on a favorite food. He knows when you've done something to his food. Still, if we get desperate...

• That Adams pet spray mentioned up-thread...We got some and tried it according to directions. I was hesitant to use it as I wasn't sure what would happen once Luke licked himself...which cats do, and it's something not addressed in the instructions. Well, what happens is the cat reacts violently and starts producing enormous amounts of saliva, attempting to get the taste out of his mouth. He was flinging thick, foamy strings of spit all over the place. We ended up locking him in a bathroom with some fresh water and waited it out. We then, rubbed him down hit a towel, in an attempt to both work the Adams spray into him and remove any overage. I'm doubting we'll try that stuff again.

• All day Saturday was another thorough cleaning and sweeping of every nook and cranny of the whole house. After cleaning, we treated every treatable surface with a spray. Every room that has a door is now off-limits to Luke.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:50 AM on September 23, 2012

Response by poster: Update: We've been doing regular, thorough vacuumings of, well, everything. We've kept Luke shut-out from every room with a door on it, much to his displeasure.

One huge change: Once we were within the 4-week window for doing another flea treament, we ditched that cheap (crap) brand of topical treatment and paid the bucks for Advantage (luckily, it was on sale that week). Holy cow, what a difference! The drop-off in fleas on Luke, and droppings/eggs everywhere else was stunning. We continue with regular vacuuming and cleaning of surfaces he gets on, but things are practically spotless after only a week or so following the first Advantage treatment. Luke, himself, is acting like a new kitty, too.

Obviously, we'll continue the Advantage treatments on the recommended schedule, and the vacuuming as well.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:21 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

As an FYI, you can use an oral syringe to give cats pills fairly painlessly. We had to pill our cat every day for 2 months and this was the easiest method.

You just crush the pill and mix with water, suck it into the syringe, and squirt the liquid into the back of the cat's throat.
posted by zug at 10:35 AM on October 16, 2012

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