Parasite products are not created equal, but if you don’t know to ask the right questions, you might assume you are getting something that you are not. Very often in my hospital, clients come in with over-the-counter flea products that they are not happy with and even some of the ones I sell can be a poor fit if the expectations are mismatched. It is important that pet owners know the ways that these products work and how they can be different. Here are some questions you should ask before you spend your money.
- What does the product’s label actually say it does?
Some products are just for fleas. Some are just for ticks and some have other coverage like worms or mites. Make sure that you are not expecting the product to do something for which it was not intended or tested. Read the fine print. It will say something like “Kills fleas. Kills flea eggs and larvae.” In fact, the labels can be even more specific than that. They often tell which species of tick the product has been tested to kill. Decide which parasites your dog most needs protection from, based on your lifestyle and environment, etc and pick a product that suits you.
- What form is it?
Some of these products are pills or tabs that pets eat. Some are applied topically as a “spot on” or a spray. Some even come in the form of a collar. Your own personal needs will dictate which is best for you and your pet. For example, if you have small children, you might not like the idea of them being able to grab a physical collar or sleep with a pet that has a pesticide residue on its skin. In this case, an oral product might fit your needs best. If your dog is a picky eater, you might find that oral products are hard to give, in which case, a topical product or collar might be a better choice.
- How long does it last?
It is very important that you know how long the product will be effective. This information should be posted on the label as well. Be sure that you find an interval that makes re-dosing easiest for you. I like to give the monthly products since I already have my calendar marked for my dog’s heartworm prevention and I take care of them both on the same day of the month, but some people like a longer duration. There are products to fit different needs.
- What is the active ingredient?
This is an important question because some of the older products have become ineffective over time as fleas and ticks can develop resistance to them. Make sure that you educate yourself about what the potential exposures and risks might be. The EPA provides a resource for pet owners regarding parasite protection at https://www.epa.gov/pets.
- Is it recommended by a vet I trust?
Sometimes the personal touch is the best. Ask your veterinary staff about what they have seen and what complaints and feedback they have gotten about products.
No matter which type of product you choose, make sure you choose something because no one wants their dog (or their home) to have fleas and ticks!
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