Collars, Dips, Sprays, and Medication for Flea and Tick Prevention
Fleas and ticks are not only a nuisance, they can also transmit deadly diseases to you and your cat or dog. If left unchecked, you can have a serious problem within your household. There are many options available for cat and dog owners to keep pests at bay, and here we will discuss the most common ones used today. Please use them only as instructed and consult your veterinarian if your cat or dog experiences any adverse reactions after being given a flea and tick control product.
1. Topical Medications
Medications that you apply to your pet’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades or at the base of the neck, are called “spot-ons.” These popular products typically contain ingredients that repel and kill fleas and ticks as well as mosquitoes. Spot-on chemicals spread over the animal’s entire body, depositing into the sweat glands of the skin, where the active ingredient can be released over several weeks’ time. They are very convenient to use and will continue to work even if your cat or dog is bathed or goes swimming.
2. Oral Medications
If you don’t like the idea of using a topical medication on your cat or dog, there are a few different monthly oral medications available. Some products not only kill fleas and ticks, they also prevent heartworm disease in dogs and cats and even some internal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Side effects of oral flea and tick preventive medications are generally few, but can include vomiting and diarrhea. Some animals may develop a skin reaction that causes redness, itching, and/or hives to develop. Depression and lack of appetite have also been reported.
A relatively inexpensive method for controlling fleas and ticks on your cat or dog is to use a spray. Depending on the product you select, flea sprays can last for quite some time (up to several months), as long as the pet stays dry (i.e., the product is not washed off). Application of sprays is relatively easy, but be sure to avoid getting the product close to your pet’s eyes or mouth. Read all instructions carefully before applying anything to your pet.
Powders are dusted over the entire body (again avoiding the eyes and mouth) and rubbed into the fur and even between the toes. Side effects of powders may include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, depression, lack of appetite, and shaking.
Flea and tick shampoos will help wash away adult fleas and their eggs for a short period of time, but will not usually stop an infestation or keep the fleas from returning. The common ingredients in these products are usually pyrethrins, which kill adult fleas quickly on contact. When using a shampoo, allow it to stay in contact with the skin and coat for at least 10-15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Avoid getting this product in your pet’s eyes or mouth. Products containing pyrethrins are TOXIC to cats and SHOULD NOT be used on cats or in a household with cats. They can cause seizures, elevated temperature, coma and ultimately death.
A flea and tick dip is a concentrated liquid (usually containing a pyrethrin) that is diluted with water and applied to the animal with a sponge or poured over the body. The pet is not rinsed off after the dip is applied, and is allowed to air dry. These products should never be used on very young animals or on nursing or pregnant animals. Dips can be quite concentrated, so use caution when applying. Protect your own skin and eyes while you are applying the dip to your pet, and take care not to allow the product to get in your pet’s eyes or mouth. (see notes on pyrethrins and cats above)
Flea collars use a concentrated chemical to repel fleas (and ticks) from an animal. The chemical will disperse all over the animal’s body and can last for several months. The common ingredient in flea and tick collars is usually pyrethrin (see notes on pyrethrins and cats above), but some will also contain insect growth regulators to reduce flea populations. Flea and tick collars are relatively inexpensive and can provide some protection to your cat or dog, but they can also smell quite strong and can be irritating to your pet. At Rita Ranch Pet Hospital, we do not recommend the use of flea collars — the amount of chemical on the collar can be unsafe for humans, especially children. We also find that they tend to protect the area they are touching, but have difficulty protecting the pet’s entire body from external parasites.
If you are unsure of how to treat your pet or what flea & tick prevention medication is best for your pet, give Rita Ranch Pet Hospital a call at 520-624-6100 and speak with one of our veterinary technicians.