What You Need Know About Flea and Tick Medication

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Fleas and ticks are waking up from their winter sleep and looking for their next meal. Before you apply a topical solution to your pet, read up on how flea and tick medication works.

Where there is one flea, there are sure to be hundreds – even thousands – more of them. Because fleas can reproduce so quickly it’s important that you nip even the smallest flea problem in the bud. One of the easiest ways to prevent flea problems is by using topical flea and tick medications. Before you start that prescription, you need to know what goes into making them… and what goes into making them work.

How do Flea and Tick Medications Work?

Flea and tick medications come in several forms but topical applications are the most common. These medications can be administered once a month in the form of a liquid that is squeezed onto your pet’s skin at the back of his neck. Most flea and tick medications use various types of chemicals to paralyze or kill fleas in various stages of life. Flea and tick medications frequently use chemicals like permethrins, amitraz, and fipronil to kill fleas before they lay eggs. Some medications also include ingredients that help to keep eggs from hatching and larvae from developing.

Related: Know Your Enemy: Most Common Types of Dog Fleas

What Chemicals are Used in Flea Medications?

Different flea and tick medications use different chemicals and active ingredients. Most medications, however, use some kind of pyrethroid-based chemical. You also need to keep an eye out for carbamates and organophosphate insecticides (OPs). According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, both of these substances can cause harm to the human nervous system, especially in children who are still developing. Unfortunately, data regarding the effects on pets is still fairly limited but there are cases where pets have been injured or killed by exposure to these chemicals. Some chemicals used in flea and tick medications are only toxic for dogs and others for cats, so be sure to only use a product that is designed for the type of pet you have.

Pros and Cons for Flea and Tick Medications

While flea and tick medications can be helpful in preventing flea infestations, there are some potential side effects and other negatives to consider. For one thing, these medications can be dangerous if your pet ingests them – keep an eye out for side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, or loss of appetite. If you notice skin irritation after applying the product, stop use immediately and contact your veterinarian. The potential for side effects and allergic reactions is one of the risks you take with topical medications so be sure to read and follow the warning label for any product you choose to use.

Related: 6 Natural Flea Remedies For Dogs

Though flea and tick medications do come with some risks and potential drawbacks, there are also some important benefits to consider. They generally only need to be applied once every four weeks and they are very easy to apply as well. Flea and tick medications can target fleas in all life stages, helping to completely wipe out an infestation when combined with other treatments to remove fleas from your carpets, furniture, and other areas. Some medications do come with bathing restrictions, though most will last for the full 30 days just fine. Another benefit is that many flea and tick medications also help to repel other pests like mosquitoes and various parasites.

Before you use any kind of medication on your dog, you need to make sure that it is compatible with your dog – different dogs have varying tolerances to certain medications. Do not give in to the temptation to save money by using a low-quality product; it could end up costing you more to deal with the side effects and it could cause your pet a great deal of pain. If you do choose to use medications, choose carefully and do your research.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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