When I started my career as a veterinarian, the options for flea and tick control were limited, smelly and messy. Thirty years later, the options for pet owners to prevent ectoparasite infestations are infinitely better and way more numerous.
Better flea and tick control has resulted in healthier pets. No longer do I see dogs and cats crawling with fleas from head to tail. This decreases the occurrence of flea allergic dermatitis and superficial skin infections. While we still see allergies in pets, they are much more comfortable, thanks to these new products.
The big revolution in flea and tick prevention started when top spot products were introduced. These are the little tubes of liquid that come in multipacks for monthly application to the nape of your pet’s neck. The product then distributes throughout the haircoat and kills fleas and ticks when they come in contact with the medicine on your pet’s hair.
Oral products can be active against only fleas or prevent multiple species of ticks as well. Most oral products come as tasty chew treats and are administered monthly; although longer lasting products are also available. Unlike the early flea collars, today’s models last for months at a time. Depending on which collar your veterinarian prescribes, some modern flea collars prevent one species of tick, while others are effective against multiple species of ticks AND fleas as well.
When selecting from this array of products, consider the following criteria:
1. Talk with your veterinarian about the types of parasites in your area. Selecting a product with a profile that fits your area’s parasite population is critical.
2. Top spot products often repel as well as kill fleas and ticks. If you live in a geographic locale with high numbers of fleas and ticks, you might want this added protection.
3. Certain collars and oral preventatives last for months at a time. If you are busy and forgetful, one of these products might be a good choice.
4. Not all top spot preparations and collars are waterproof. If your dog is a swimmer, choose a waterproof product or consider an oral flea and tick preventative.
5. If you have a puppy or kitten, make sure the product you select is safe for the newest family member. Some products are not labeled for pets less than 6-12 weeks of age.
6. Use dog products for dogs and cat products for cats. Never switch, or you may need a trip to the animal ER.
Ann E. Hohenhaus, DVM, is board certified in oncology and small animal internal medicine