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What is Tick Medicine Poisoning?

If your dog enjoys spending time outdoors, you may have considered purchasing pyrethrin/pyrethroid insecticides (more commonly known as “tick medication”) to prevent any parasites from spreading diseases to your pet. These medications arrive in the hands of a pet owner in a variety of forms - from topical ointments, medical shampoos, home and garden insecticide spray and also medication-containing collars. Tick medicine is easily available for purchase in supermarkets and pet stores, and also may be obtained from your pet’s veterinarian. While these medications are, for the most part, generally considered safe to use on your dog, there are some risks involved. It is extremely important that all pet owners recognize the warning signs of tick medication poisoning and understand the necessary treatments if your dog is poisoned.

Pyrethrin/Pyrethroid insecticides (commonly known as “tick medications”) are widely considered safe to use by pet owners, but contain some risks if improperly used. These medications can cause skin irritations, vomiting, along with life-threatening symptoms such as seizures. It is important to recognize the signs of tick medication poisoning if you choose to use these medicines on your pet.

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Symptoms of Tick Medicine Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms of tick medication poisoning can vary in severity. The immediate symptoms (typically occurring soon after ingestion) often include the following:

  • Drooling
  • Gagging
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Tremors/shivering
  • Agitation
  • Hyperexcitability
  • Signs of skin irritation
  • Increased vocalization

In some cases, more severe symptoms are exhibited. If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately.

  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Movement problems, such as difficulty walking or standing

Causes of Tick Medicine Poisoning in Dogs

Poisoning can occur in your dog within a variety of ways. While it is possible for the dog to ingest the ointment (either by directly swallowing the medication after it is applied or biting into a medication-containing collar), the chances of poisoning occurring from this is rare.

Additionally, dogs can also ingest the medication via lawn fertilizers and sprays used inside the home, though these are also considered traditionally safe methods for utilizing tick medication. The most common way that dogs are poisoned from tick medication is often owner error. If the pet owner does not carefully follow the instructions or accidentally prescribes too large of an amount of the medication to their dog, poisoning can occur. Elderly, sick, and pregnant dogs are especially at risk for tick medicine poisoning. Puppies should also be carefully monitored with these medications.

Diagnosis of Tick Medicine Poisoning in Dogs

Diagnosis is often made based upon the symptoms. It is important to rule out other toxins, a physical examination is often required, and an owner may be asked detailed questions about what possible toxins the pet may have had access to. A diagnosis is often made if a dog has known exposure to tick medication and symptoms are consistent with poisoning from these medications. In severe cases, blood work and x-rays may also be necessary.

Treatment of Tick Medicine Poisoning in Dogs

As with most cases, treatment varies depending on the severity of symptoms shown. Immediate treatment often involves removing the medication from the skin. This can be done by washing the dog with liquid dish soap. Hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases to monitor the dog’s health and prevent long-term damage. Medications and intravenous fluids may also be prescribed to stabilize the pet’s health.

Recovery of Tick Medicine Poisoning in Dogs

There are very strong chances of recovery if prompt treatment is given and the pet does not suffer any major side-effects from the poisoning. Your dog will likely need to be monitored over the next couple days to ensure that there has not been any serious damage. Drooling often continues for a few days following treatment; this is a normal side effect, and owners should not be alarmed. It is, however, advisable to discontinue use of the medications if your dog continues to suffer negative health effects.

Pet owners should instead work with their veterinarian to find a safer tick prevention treatment and continue to carefully follow directions in administering these treatments to their dog. Products should also be stored in a safe place and out of reach of the animal, when not in use.