Collaring the Flea and Tick Problem
Welcome to “Debarking Pet Myths,” a monthly series dedicated to addressing common myths, misconceptions and even old wives’ tales about dogs and cats.
Flea collars have been around for decades and were considered an excellent solution to a troublesome problem when they were introduced in 1964. But for a variety of reasons —incomplete protection from fleas, skin irritation known as “flea collar dermatitis” and the introduction of more effective topical spot-on products and oral medications — the plastic necklaces infused with insecticide fell from favor. Still, some pet owners wonder if there’s any truth behind this month’s myth:
Flea collars are enough to combat flea and ticks
Whether a flea and tick collar is enough to protect your pet depends on your answers to several questions:
- Does your pet have an existing flea or tick problem?
- Is your pet a dog or a cat?
- How old is your pet?
- How much time does your pet spend outside?
- Does your pet swim or get bathed at least once every two weeks?
- Does your pet have any underlying health issues such as flea allergy, another skin condition, liver or kidney disease, or digestive system disorder?
- Do you live in an area of the country where fleas and/or ticks are potentially a year-round problem?
- How easy is it for you to give your pet medication? Will your pet allow you to apply a solution to his skin?
- Does your pet also receive a heartworm and internal parasite preventative medication?
- Is your pet accustomed to wearing a collar?
There are circumstances in which a flea collar may be all that’s needed to protect your four-legged family member from these tiny bloodsuckers. But a flea and tick collar may not be the best choice for your pet if you live in an area where flea and tick populations can be overwhelming or if your pet has sensitive skin, is bathed weekly, won’t tolerate wearing a collar or has an existing flea infestation.
Not your father’s flea collars
Advances in plastics and pesticides mean today’s flea and tick collars, such as Seresto® collar and Scalibor® protector band, are substantially more effective than their predecessors. Older flea and tick collars may not have released enough insecticide to kill pests or protect the pet’s entire body. However, today’s collars continuously release active ingredients that spread over the pet using the natural oils of the skin to provide ongoing protection. Collars are labeled to kill fleas, ticks or both parasites, and depending on the specific product, may also help control other external parasites. Studies on both dogs and cats demonstrate these collars protect pets as effectively and more consistently than spot-on treatments.
Plethora of flea and tick control products available
During the last 10 years, the number of flea and tick control products for dogs and cats has multiplied — almost like fleas. There are also a wide variety of forms, including oral medications, topical spot-on solutions and injectable medicines, in addition to collars. That makes choosing the right product for your pet a daunting task. Your veterinarian, who should know your pet’s health history, has a wealth of information about flea and tick products, as well as your area’s risk for flea- and tick-transmitted diseases, and can help you identify which products may be right for your furry family member.
It’s important to recognize that there’s no single product on the market that’s best for all pets. A flea and tick control product that works well for one dog may not be tolerated by another dog in the same home and may even result in life-threatening illness if applied to a cat. Finally, a product only works if it is used — preferably according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and before fleas seriously infest your pet and home.