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Local family’s cat nearly dies from reaction to flea and tick ointment

PITTSBURGH — A family’s cat nearly died after the use of a flea and tick ointment.

About four hours after the ointment was put on, Patrick Holmes and Susan Bartlett noticed their cat’s face was twitching. By the next morning, the cat, named Little Bit, was trembling and wouldn’t eat.

Little Bit was taken to Altmyer Veterinary Hospital in Kittanning, where Dr. Sandra Rodkey said she almost had a seizure.

“When you see something like that, and the history of the owner having applied a topical flea product, you do worry about a pyrethrin or permethrin toxicity. After I did my exam, I pretty much concluded that that was going on,” Rodkey said.

Rodkey and her team were able to get Little Bit’s spasms under control with a bath and muscle relaxers. She spent the night at the vets and was much better by the next day.

“I thank God every day that we had a vet close by that cares and loves our animals as much as we do,” Holmes said.

Holmes and Bartlett used Hartz UltraGuard Plus Flea and Tick Drops for Cats on Little Bit.

Rodkey warns that over-the-counter flea and tick medication isn’t regulated as much as the kind they sell in her office.

“Your veterinarian will get them directly from the company, whereas, if they’re coming from someplace else, you’re not sure how they were shipped, what temperatures they were kept in,” Rodkey said.

Rodkey said the wrong temperature can alter the chemical makeup of an ointment.

Bartlett reached out to the company.

“She tried to reach out to Hartz. She tried to reach out to Walmart to say, ‘Look, you gotta be more careful with this stuff,’” Holmes said.

But Bartlett said she didn’t get a follow-up phone call back like she was told she would. That’s when she reached out to Channel 11.

Walmart said it would share the information with Hartz because “they take all customer concerns very seriously and are investigating it.”

The next day, Bartlett got a call back from Hartz.

Prior to calling Bartlett, Walmart said in an email that the “symptoms described, while rare, can be consistent with inadvertent ingestion by a cat of a topical flea and tick product, often through self-grooming.”

Rodkey doesn’t want people to stop giving their pets flea and tick medicine, but she wants to make sure they’re using the right products.

“The benefits of a flea and tick product outweigh the risk because of the diseases that are out there,” Rodkey said.

As important reminders, Rodkey said do not apply dog flea and tick products on a cat -- as they handle it very differently -- and don’t mix flea and tick products. Pick one: a flea collar or a topical ointment.