Teeny-tiny yet hugely annoying, fleas are the bane of many a pet owner's existence. Dogs and cats aren't particularly fond of them, either. Even a single flea bite can cause a powerful itch and even an allergic reaction. A little flea preventive goes a long way in keeping every member of the family happy.
Preventing More Than Fleas
It used to be if Puss and Barkley were going to spend any time outside, you'd make a trip to the store to get them flea collars to repel the little buggers. However, science has given the once-popular aromatic collars some competition. Topical flea treatments are liquid medicine administered monthly to the skin between a pet's shoulders. They contain a pesticide that kills adult fleas. Various types and brands exist on the consumer market; some kill more than adult fleas. Products may contain insect growth regulator to prevent flea eggs from hatching and larvae from developing. Other treatments contain ingredients to ward off ticks, mosquitoes, heartworms, roundworms and lice.
How They Work
When it's medicine day, you don't have to fight Puss to get a pill down her throat; all you do is apply the liquid directly to her skin. Depending on the size of the animal, the dose may go in a single dollop between the shoulder blades, such as for cats and small dogs, or in several dollops along the upper spine. The way the insecticide is distributed depends on the product. Some spread via the hair and the skin's natural body oils. Other are absorbed into the bloodstream through her skin, and fleas will ingest the pesticide when they bite your pet. The chemicals in the bloodstream may prevent parasites. It takes about a day for most products to work; they're designed so that each dose is effective for a month.
After a rise in the number of adverse events reported by consumers of flea and tick products, the U.S. EPA reviewed the products' safety in 2009. The agency found that, when used correctly, topical flea and tick products were generally safe for cats and dogs, and that severe and fatal consequences of using the products was extremely low considering the number of doses administered annually. As well, the EPA learned that when serious events happened, the product was usually misused. The incident rate for flea and tick products was about 16 incidents per 100,000 applications; major or fatal incidents were about one per 200,000 applications.
Follow the Directions
A topical flea treatment may cause itching or minor irritation at the application site, meaning Puss may fidget a bit. Barkley may experience a tingling sensation, but usually it's a mild, temporary discomfort. The key to ensuring Puss and Barkley tolerate their flea treatment is to use it exactly as the instructions direct. Know your pet's weight before you choose a product -- don't guess. Do not use a dog preventive on a cat, or vice versa. If your pup or cat is sick, pregnant, nursing, under 14 weeks old or elderly, get your vet's approval before you squeeze the vial's contents on her back. Using the wrong product or giving the wrong dose can cause a variety of reactions, ranging from redness and gastrointestinal problems to nervous system effects such as seizures and trembling.
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