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Flea & Tick Product Guide: Fight the Bite!

Whether you discover them hitchhiking on your pet or taking up residence in your carpet or favorite chair, nobody likes bloodsucking parasites!  Thankfully, there are many options available today for dog and cat owners to control fleas and ticks in a safe and effective manner both on your pet and around your house and yard.

The main classes of flea and tick products include pesticide-based 'spot-on' formulas, flea and tick powders, sprays and collars, or products that use natural plant extracts, aromatics or mineral powders to kill and/or repel parasites.

Spot-on products (such as Frontline, Zodiac or Fiproguard) are popular because they combine the benefits of monthly dosing, rapid eradication of fleas and ticks currently on your pet, and lasting control of parasites.  However, they do enter the bloodstream and carry certain health risks for pets and small children (see 'Thoughts on Safety' below).  In addition, they can be very toxic if a product for dogs is applied to a cat by mistake.  Powders, sprays and traditional flea and tick collars usually contain chemicals similar to spot-on products but tend to penetrate less into the skin (and are therefore either somewhat less effective or have a shorter duration of effectiveness).

Natural products using extracts of chrysanthemum (such as DeFlea, Flea Flicker Tick Kicker, or Neem Protect Shampoos/Sprays), neem, citronella or other aromatic oils have been used by humans for their inherent pest repelling qualities for thousands of years, and can offer a safer alterative for parasite control for many pets.  However, natural products need to be applied more frequently than spot-ons and not all cats tolerate aromatics well.  Again, certain pets can have allergic reactions, even to a product that comes from a natural source.

Lastly, mineral-based powders, such as boric acid (FleaGo Crystals) and diatomaceous earth (Lumino Powder) are naturally abrasive materials that literally slice open the outer waxy skeleton of fleas and ticks, causing them to dry out and die.  These products work really well for controlling fleas inside the home, as they can be safely applied to bedding, carpets and apholstered furniture.  Make sure to read labels carefully, as not all of these products are indicated for use on your pet.

Thoughts on Safety -
any flea and tick control product, including those that have ingredients classified as pesticides, has a chance of causing an allergic reaction in your pet.  It is a very small chance, but the risk exists, nonetheless.  It's a good practice to dose any flea and tick product at a time of day when you can observe your pet for at least 15 to 30 minutes after application and during available office hours for your veterinarian (in case a reaction occurs).  It is also important to keep flea and tick products out of the reach of children and to limit direct contact between young kids and pets for several days following application.

The Federal EPA's safety guidance on Spot-on flea and tick products is as follows:

People should carefully follow label directions and monitor their pets for any signs of an adverse reaction after application, particularly when using these products for the first time. Pet owners may also want to consult a veterinarian about the responsible and effective use of flea and tick products, including whether the use of these products is necessary. Owners should consult a veterinarian about the best way to protect their pets from fleas and ticks, especially before using any product on weak, aged, medicated, sick, pregnant or nursing pets, or on pets that have previously shown signs of sensitivity to pesticide products.