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Safety Tips for Using Flea and Tick Products on Pets

Flea and tick prevention is an important part of taking good care of your cat or dog. That’s because pets can get a variety of diseases from fleas and ticks. And flea and tick bites can make your pet (and you!) very uncomfortable. But flea and tick preventives contain substances that can be harmful if not handled properly, so it’s important to know how to use these products safely.

When to Use Flea and Tick Control Products

When should you treat your cat or dog with flea or tick products? It depends on where you live. Fleas are worst during warm weather months, but they can live inside all year long. Spring and summer can also be the worst time for ticks. In some areas of the U.S., they survive year-round. If you see signs of fleas or ticks on your pet, be sure to treat them right away. Otherwise, start treating at the beginning of flea or tick season.

Types of Flea and Tick Prevention

Many products are available for flea control in cats and dogs. Some products also prevent ticks or other pests. The most popular products for their effectiveness and ease of use are the topical or ''spot-on'' treatments (applied between the shoulder blades) and oral medications. Flea and tick preventives also come in the form of dips, shampoos, collars, and foggers or sprays.

Flea and Tick Prevention: Medication Safety Guidelines

1. Check with your vet before using flea and tick products, even if you purchase them over the counter. This is especially important for elderly or sick pets, puppies or kittens, pets who are on other medications, or pets who are pregnant or nursing. For these and pets that have had reactions to tick and flea products, your vet may suggest using a flea comb instead to pick up fleas, eggs, and ticks. Deposit them in hot, soapy water.

2. Read and carefully follow instructions when using flea and tick products. Do not use dog products on cats or cat products on dogs. Cats are very sensitive to insecticides – a few drops of a spot-on treatment designed for dogs can be fatal to a cat. Only apply the amount needed for the size of your cat or dog. Never double up on products – applying powders in addition to spot-on products, for example.

3. Wear gloves or wash your hands with soap and water after applying a flea and tick preventive. Be sure to follow the instructions for proper storage and disposal of packaging.

4. When applying spray or spot-on flea and tick preventives, keep pets separate while the product dries. This will keep them from grooming each other and swallowing the chemicals.

5. After applying a product, watch your cat or dog for signs of a reaction, especially if it’s the first time you’re using it. Call your vet if your pet has symptoms such as:

  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive salivation
  • Depression

If you cat or dog has a bad reaction to flea and tick products such as spot-ons, sprays, or powders, immediately bathe your pet thoroughly with soap and water and follow any instructions from the package insert. Call your vet and report problems to the National Pesticide Information Center at 1-800-858-7378.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

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