Fleas and ticks can be more than just an annoyance—they can expose your pet, as well as your family, to several health problems. Flea bites are itchy and can cause an allergic reaction. Excessive scratching can lead to lead to skin infections and, in animals, fur loss. Severe flea infestation can cause anemia and other complications in your pet(s). Ticks can transmit several diseases and infections, including Lyme disease.

Types and Regulation of Flea & Tick Products

In the United States, flea and tick prevention products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These agencies work together to approve (FDA) or register (EPA) products used to control external parasites like fleas and ticks.

Flea and tick products must comply with all current safety standards established to protect the environment, the pet, and people who come in contact with the pet. Manufacturers must provide information about the product’s safety and effectiveness—including any known side effects—both before the drug or pesticide is allowed on the market and after the product becomes available.

Some flea and tick products must be obtained from your veterinarian, and others can be purchased over the counter (OTC). Product types include the following:

  • Collars
  • Dips
  • Pills that are administered orally
  • Powders
  • Shampoos
  • Spot-on treatments (liquids that are applied to the skin
  • Sprays

Flea and tick prevention product labels and inserts must contain clear information about the indications, directions for use, weight requirements, and any restrictions. For example, the product should be clearly labeled "for dogs only" or "for cats only."

Using Flea & Tick Prevention Products

Talk to your veterinarian before deciding on a flea and tick product. Read labels and package inserts carefully and follow all directions closely—each time you use the product. According to the FDA, it's best to treat your pet at the beginning of flea and tick season (which may be year round in some areas)—usually the warmer weather months.

Here are some additional tips for using these products safely:

  • Talk to your veterinarian before using flea and tick products if your pet is very old or very young, sick or medicated, pregnant or nursing, or previously experienced a sensitivity or allergic reaction to flea/tick prevention products. If flea and tick products are not recommended, use a flea comb to remove fleas, eggs, and ticks.
  • Monitor your pet for side effects. If your dog or cat experiences symptoms of poisoning—vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, lethargy, loss of appetite, etc.—call your veterinarian immediately.
  • If using a spot-on product (substance applied to the skin), keep treated pets away from each other until the product dries.
  • If your pet experiences a severe reaction, bathe your dog or cat immediately in mild soap, rinse thoroughly, and contact your vet.
  • Wear gloves or wash your hands with soap and water after handling flea and tick products.
  • Store flea and tick products as directed. Keep them away from food and out of the reach of children.

More about Spot-on Flea & Tick Products

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the EPA noticed an increase in incidents involving spot-on flea and tick products in 2009. Since then, changes to the way these products are regulated have been made. Because the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that many adverse reactions resulted from misuse of the product, most labeling changes focused on spot-on flea and tick prevention product labeling. The EPA also restricted the use of inactive ingredients—which may contribute to problems—in spot-on products.

It's important to protect your pet(s)—and your family—from health problems caused by fleas and ticks. Talk to your veterinarian about the best way to use flea and tick products safely.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 25 Jun 2014

Last Modified: 25 Jun 2014