Safe Use of Flea & Tick Products in Pets
[Editor’s Note: Protecting your pet from fleas and ticks is vital to their overall health and well-being. These tips for product usage and prevention of bites can help your pet live a long and happy life.]
Hundreds of pesticides, repellents, and growth inhibitors are available to protect your pet from flea and tick bites. Some of these products are available only from a veterinarian; others can be bought over the counter.
Flea and tick products range from pills given by mouth to collars, sprays, dips, shampoos, powders and “spot-ons,” liquid products squeezed onto the dog’s or cat’s skin usually between the shoulder blades or down the back. A few spot-on products are available for flea control in ferrets, and fly and tick control in horses.
Pet owners need to be cautious about using flea and tick products safely, says Ann Stohlman, V.M.D., a veterinarian in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine. “You need to take the time to carefully read the label, the package insert and any accompanying literature to make sure you’re using the product correctly.”
When to Treat
It’s best to treat your pet at the beginning of flea and tick season, says Stohlman. The length of flea season, which peaks during warm weather months, varies depending on where you live. “It can last four months in some places, but in other places, like Florida, fleas can live all year long,” says Stohlman. And fleas can live inside a warm house year-round no matter where you live.
Ticks are found in some places year-round. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in most parts of the United States, the greatest chance of infection by a tick bite is spring and summer.
Tips for Using Flea and Tick Products
- Read the label carefully before use. If you don’t understand the wording, ask your veterinarian or call the manufacturer. “Even if you’ve used the product many times before,” says Stohlman, “read the label because the directions or warnings may have changed.”
- Follow the directions exactly. If the product is for dogs, don’t use it on cats or other pets. If the label says use weekly, don’t use it daily. If the product is for the house or yard, don’t put it directly on your pet.
- Keep multiple pets separated after applying a product until it dries to prevent one animal from grooming another and ingesting a drug or pesticide.
- Talk to your veterinarian before using a product on weak, old, medicated, sick, pregnant or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to flea or tick products.
- Monitor your pet for side effects after applying the product, particularly when using the product on your pet for the first time.
- If your pet experiences a bad reaction from a spot-on product, immediately bathe the pet with mild soap, rinse with large amounts of water and call your veterinarian.
- Call your veterinarian if your pet shows symptoms of illness after using a product. Symptoms of poisoning include poor appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea or excessive salivation.
- Do not apply a product to kittens or puppies unless the label specifically allows this treatment. Use flea combs to pick up fleas, flea eggs, and ticks on puppies and kittens that are too young for flea and tick products.
- Wash your hands immediately with soap and water after applying a product, or use protective gloves while applying.
- Store products away from food and out of children’s reach.
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