Signs of a Pet’s Allergic Reaction to Flea Medication

Many pets are allergic to over-the-counter flea drops, so it’s important to know the signs of an allergic reaction or intolerance to flea and tick medications.

It can take anywhere from a 24 hours to 72 hours for all symptoms to manifest. Mild symptoms tend to appear within a few hours and then resolve within 72 hours. More severe reactions can last for a longer period of time.

Symptoms of an adverse reaction to flea drops include:

  • Salivating
  • Panting
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Ear twitching
  • Leg flicking
  • Hives
  • Swelling, often involving the face or paws
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Difficulty walking

Some pets may experience a very mild reaction with leg flicking and a slight lethargy. Other pets may experience a more severe reaction. Whatever the case, immediate veterinary treatment is required. Your vet will administer an antihistimine medication to reverse the allergic reaction, in addition to providing IV fluids and other supportive measures and medications to help treat the pet’s symptoms.

If your pet is experiencing mild symptoms like leg flicking or mild lethargy, it’s typically best to wash off the flea medication using a dish soap (always use dish soap, as this cuts through the oils and completely removes the medication.) Rinse the pet thoroughly.

If you’re attempting to wash a cat, it’s best to wear gloves and several layers of long sleeves to protect your hands and arms. It will not be a pleasant experience, but it’s vital to remove the medication to stop your pet’s condition from worsening.

If your pet is symptomatic — vomiting, seizuring, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, swelling, hives or any other serious symptoms — do not attempt to wash off the medication. Bring your pet to the veterinary clinic immediately (call while you’re en route to notify the staff so they can prepare for your pet’s arrival). The pet will need to be stabilized before the medication is washed off.

Notably, salivation can be a result of a cat licking fur that had the medication on it. If this is the case, salivation will occur for a few minutes and it should quickly resolve. Offering milk or tuna water can help clear the taste from the pet’s mouth.

Also, it’s important to prevent cats from grooming other cats who have been medicated.

Other Tips for Administering Flea Medications to a Cat or Dog

Always keep the package and store receipt for your flea medications. Firstly, if your pet experiences an allergic reaction and requires treatment, the veterinarian will need to know how much medication the pet received and he or she will need to know the precise medication type.

In addition, the manufacturer of the flea drops will typically reimburse you for some or all of the costs incurred by treating the pet’s reaction. But you will need to have your receipt and the medication package.

Also, administer flea medications first thing in the morning on a weekday, when you’re going to be around to observe the animal for the entire day. You want to administer the flea drops at a time when the veterinary clinic is open; that way, if a reaction occurs, you can take your pet in for immediate treatment. This will help you to avoid costly ER bills.

Pet owners should also be sure to follow the directions for applying the medication. Dogs will receive a stripe of medication down their spine, whereas for cats, the medication must be applied to the base of the skull, where they can’t lick it while grooming.

For more pet care tips, visit the PetLvr archives.

Photo Source: ZyFranklin on

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

2 Responses

    | Reply

    I did not know the signs of an Allergic Reaction to Flea Medication. This is a great list to look at to make sure your pet doesn’t have any problem. I would have not thought of using dish soap to wash the medication away.

    Thanks for the wonderful list and I will pass this along.

  2. ruby
    | Reply

    hives and some coughing, will benidryl take care of these symptoms?

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