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Ticks and Fleas on Cats Q&A

WebMD veterinary expert answers common questions pet owners have about fleas and ticks on their cats.
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Q: Can I stop using preventatives in winter months, when all the fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are dead?

A: No. I believe in most parts of the United States it should be year round. There are a few, limited exceptions, so there’s no broad, sweeping statement you can make. Let’s face it. I’m not putting a dog or cat on flea or tick treatment in Cheyenne, Wyo. It makes no sense. But in Atlanta, absolutely. You have to look at individual climatic conditions for individual areas and make that decision.

 

Q: An environmental group has sued several pet stores and manufacturers claiming that flea collars have high concentrations of chemicals in them that are dangerous to pets and people. Are these over-the-counter flea collars safe?

A: I’m not a toxicologist and I try to steer clear of all that. But I will say that I believe the best way to manage fleas and ticks is go to your veterinarian and find out what products he recommends for your area. The issue we have with many of the over-the-counter products is that many are what we call pyrethroids, or synthetic pyrethrins. We know that is a class of insecticides that fleas are commonly resistant to, so one of the reasons over-the-counter formulations don’t work very well is that fleas are resistant to them. What that leads to is people tend to over apply them because they didn’t work that well and then you tend to have problems

 

Q: There are also reports that the EPA is looking into an increase in adverse reactions from topically applied flea control products, the ones we usually put on our cats between their shoulder blades. So are these unsafe?

A: I generally believe, based on my experience and our field studies, that the products we get from our veterinarians are generally very safe and generally do a very, very good job. But you’ve got to understand that millions of doses are used each year. With that many doses, things happen. Do rare idiosyncratic reactions occur? Absolutely. We know they do. But generally with a veterinary recommended or prescribed flea or tick product, if they are used according to label directions, they are extremely safe in my experience. I’m a veterinarian and a dog and cat lover and I would not hesitate to put them on my pets.

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