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What is Imidacloprid Toxicity?

Imidacloprid has been approved by the EPA for use on dogs and will kill fleas already on your dog within 12 hours of application. It is applied topically and will spread through your dog’s hair follicles and onto their skin, protecting them from fleas for up to one month. 

Imidacloprid is generally safe to use on dogs over seven weeks of age and any size. Symptoms of toxicity are rarely seen, unless your dog licks the imidacloprid directly. Then excessive salivation can occur as well as gastrointestinal upset and muscle weakness. Toxicity is more prevalent in dogs that are old or sick. Smaller dogs also are at a higher risk of toxicity.

Imidacloprid is a chloronicotinyl nitroguanidine insecticide that is generally used for pest control on crops, vegetables and fruits, termite control and flea control. For dogs, imidacloprid is sold under the brand name of Advantage and is used as a topical flea control once monthly. Imidacloprid binds to the acetylcholine receptor on the postsynaptic part of the nerve cells of the flea; this will cause paralysis and death of the flea.


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Symptoms of Imidacloprid Toxicity in Dogs

Imidacloprid toxicity in dogs is rare, but can occur especially if your dog licks the imidacloprid. There have been cases where the topical application has caused illness as well. It is best to only apply imidacloprid to healthy dogs that are over seven weeks old. If you notice any of these symptoms after applying imidacloprid to your dog, contact your veterinarian immediately for assistance.

  • Hives 
  • Itching
  • Respiratory distress
  • Congestion
  • Shock
  • Excessive salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Incoordination
  • Muscle tremors
  • Ear twitching

Causes of Imidacloprid Toxicity in Dogs

Imidacloprid is an insecticide and therefore can cause toxicity in your dog. This is especially the case if your dog is sick or already debilitated from an illness. Small dogs can also be at risk of developing toxicity to imidacloprid. Dogs that have abnormally low body temperatures are also at risk of toxic poisoning. Dogs with sensitive skin are also prone to developing toxicity to imidacloprid. 

Although it is approved by the EPA for use on dogs, imidacloprid is a chloronicotinyl nitroguanidine insecticide that was first used in termite control and pest control on crops.

Diagnosis of Imidacloprid Toxicity in Dogs

When diagnosing imidacloprid toxicity, your veterinarian will first take a thorough medical history and ask you about the symptoms that you have seen. They will also want to know if any sprays or other topical flea treatments have recently been used on your dog. 

A full physical evaluation will be performed along with a complete blood count, urinalysis and biochemistry panel. This will help determine the exact cause of your dog’s ailment and if there has been internal damage done. 

Many times, your dog will experience skin irritation and/or excessive salivation or drooling. Your veterinarian will be searching for the cause and also how to quickly treat your dog to stop the toxic poisoning.

Treatment of Imidacloprid Toxicity in Dogs

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed imidacloprid toxicity in your dog, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options. Most of the time mild symptoms are self limiting or they will simply require a thorough bath, using a mild shampoo, to remove the toxins from your dog’s coat and skin. 

More severe symptoms that seem to affect your dog’s neurological system will most likely require hospitalization and supportive care. Supportive care will probably include intravenous fluids, nutritional therapy and treating the symptoms as they present. Your dog will also need to have their body temperature regulated while they are hospitalized. Your veterinarian will order your dog be thoroughly bathed to remove as much of the toxins from their coat and skin. This will keep your dog from absorbing more of the toxins.

Your veterinarian will continue to monitor your dog’s progress and perform testing to ensure that no long term damage has been done to your dog. Once your dog is on the road to recovery, your veterinarian will release them from the hospital and you will be able to continue their care at home.

Recovery of Imidacloprid Toxicity in Dogs

When continuing at home care during your dog’s recovery be sure to follow any instructions given by your veterinarian. Any medications prescribed need to be administered as directed. 

The proper application of imidacloprid is important to prevent your dog from having a reaction, closely follow the directions and if you are unsure about a product consult your veterinarian.

Imidacloprid Toxicity Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Scottish Terrier
11 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

scratching and chewing paws and legs

Is there a flea/tick repellent that will kill the pests but not my dog. Imidacloprid products are dangerous to my Scottish Terrier (they caused hot spots and liver damage).

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3319 Recommendations

Imidacloprid (Advantage) like other topical spot on treatments are safe for use in dogs although a small proportion of dogs may be sensitive to particular ingredients; if you are concerned about the mainstream canine spot on treatments, there are natural products containing pyrethrin extracts from the chrysanthemum plant which you may consider but are less effective and need to be sprayed on every few days or weeks to be effective (follow the instructions carefully). I would try using a different product like Frontline (fipronil) to see if there are any negative effects from use. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Since they each act differently and effectively against fleas, why isn't a product available with fipronil AND imidacloprid?

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Emmy & Hobbes
6 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

No symptoms as of yet

I am looking for only topical preventatives for my beagles. We are using K9 Advantix II which is a topical and contains IMIDACLOPRID 8.8% for flea, tick and mosquito control. I would also like to use Advantage Multi which is a topical and contains IMIDACLOPRID and MOXIDECTIN. Both products are made by Bayer.

Is it safe to use both topicals. Also, since K9 Advantix II kills mosquitos, does it already prevent heartworm as it is mosquitos which transmit?

Also, I had to put symptoms etc. in the boxes below but my dogs have none.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3319 Recommendations

The moxidectin may be used as a direct prevention for heartworm and is also a treatment for microfilariae in dogs; imidacloprid is a mosquito repellent which will also prevent heartworm. I understand that you would like to prevent fleas, ticks, heartworm and mosquitoes but I wouldn’t recommend using both products at the same time as they both use imidacloprid; using the Advantage Multi would be best due to its increased efficacy against heartworm due to the moxidectin, although the product doesn’t offer prevention against ticks. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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