How to Choose the Best Flea and Tick Preventative for Your Lifestyle

PetMD Editorial
Updated: October 13, 2020
Published: January 24, 2016
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Which Dog Flea and Tick Control Is the Best for Your Lifestyle?

Many of us recognize the importance of protecting our dogs and cats against fleas and ticks, but how do we know how to best choose a preventative? Read on as Jessica Vogelsang, DVM tells us about some of the most popular forms of flea and tick preventatives, how they work and what lifestyles they best accommodate.

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1. Flea (and Tick) Collars

Flea collars are placed around the neck of a pet and left in place for long term flea and tick control. Flea and tick collars are neurotoxic to insects. Some work by emitting a gas that repels fleas and parasites in the neck region, while others emit ingredients that are absorbed and spread through the skin, similar to how spot-ons (or topical preventatives) work.

Flea collars are great for pets that have been resistant in the past to spot-ons or oral preventatives. They also come in a few different kinds of colors in case you want your pet to be fashionable with their flea and tick preventatives. 

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2. Spot-Ons

Spot-ons (or topical preventatives) are insecticides that come in a small tube of liquid. The product is applied directly to the skin, usually over the shoulder blades or down the back. Spot-ons contain ingredients that are neurotoxins specific to adult parasites. Some products also contain ingredients to prevent larvae from developing. The oily liquid in which the medication is dissolved helps spread the product over the surface of the skin to the sebaceous glands.

Spot-ons are very convenient to use and is a great option if your pet prefers not to wear a collar. Spot-ons will continue to work even if your cat or dog is bathed or goes swimming. The ingredient is also released over several weeks’ time, so read the instructions and use as directed. 

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3. Oral Flea and Tick Preventatives

Oral flea and tick medications usually come in the form of pills, tablets or chewables. These medications are then absorbed and secreted into the sebaceous glands and deliver the neurotoxic ingredients to the parasites.

Oral medications are great alternative for pets owners that don’t want to use collars or spot-ons. Most products are flavored, so there is often little issue with animals refusing the medication. However, you can always hide the medication in another food product, too. Oral medications are also preferred by some pet owners because they do not need to be isolated from other pets or children after administration.

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Consult Your Veterinarian

Your vet is an excellent resource of information for the current flea and tick preventatives on the market. They can also help make product recommendations based on your pet’s health history and lifestyle. Even more important, they can instruct you on the proper way to administer the medication. Remember, some medications are specifically formulated for dogs or cats and are not meant to be used interchangeably. 

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