Flea and tick preventatives are everywhere.  At your vet, in the grocery store, on TV.  They come as pills, collars, shampoos and topical spot-on products. It’s easy to come down with a case choice paralysis when deciding what parasite prevention your pet needs.  Which product is best for your pet is dependent on a host of factors like whether you have a dog or cat, any medical conditions they may have, and where you live.  Your vet can discuss which specific product is best for your situation.  In the meantime, here are four important facts to know about these products.

1. Spot-On Flea and Tick Preventatives Are Not Medication


Topical flea and tick products are considered pesticides, not medications.  Pesticides are regulated by the EPA and medications are regulated by the FDA.  This means that these products have to meet different standards to be approved for use.  One big difference is that FDA labeled products are continually being monitored even after they are approved for use, so any issues that crop up once they’re in general use can readily be addressed.  Once an EPA approved product goes to market, there is no longer any surveillance of its safety or efficacy.

A few years ago there was a large increase in the number of adverse effects associated with many of these products.  The EPA has since re-evaluated their standards for registering products which is a step in the right direction, but there are still some products out there that are of questionable safety and may not work very well.  It is always best to check with your vet about which products are safest and most effective.


2. Some Preventatives May Be Safe for Dogs but Not for Cats


Cats are not small dogs.  Their metabolisms are different and they lack some of the enzymes that dogs have for breaking down certain ingredients.  Some of the flea and tick spot-on products are very safe for dogs, but can cause seizures in cats.  It is essential that you always double-check the product label to make sure you are using the right product for your pet.  If you use a spot-on product on your dog and you also have a cat, you should keep them separate until the product is dried, usually over-night.


3. Even Indoor Pets Need It


Your cat is indoor only.  Your dog only goes in your yard and you live in a gated community.  Your house is spotless.  Your pet can’t get fleas.  Right?

Wrong! Fleas are everywhere and all it takes is one to start an infestation since a single flea can lay up to 2000 eggs in a lifetime.

Fleas can hitch a ride into your home on your pant leg, sock or shoe without you ever knowing.  Also, fleas can jump.  In fact, they can jump almost 1000 feet.  Plenty far to jump right through your open door or window.

No pet is completely safe from fleas so make sure to keep them all protected.

4.“Natural” Alternatives Can Actually be Toxic to Pets


Many people are afraid of the chemicals in flea and tick preventatives although most are very safe.  Because of this, some people turn to “natural” alternatives.  Questionable efficacy aside, these may actually be toxic to pets.  The most common natural remedies that people use that are actually harmful are garlic and tea tree oil.  Garlic can result in a condition called hemolytic anemia where the red blood cells pop open and are destroyed.  Tea tree oil is a more mild toxin which in small amounts may be tolerated but in large enough doses it can cause symptoms ranging from nausea and diarrhea to weakness and difficulty walking.

Flea and tick preventatives are important to the health of your pet.

There are a lot of misconceptions and the safety and necessity of these products. Talk to your vet today about what’s best for your pet.

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