They’re creepy, they’re crawly…and they can carry diseases. Fleas and ticks are not just a nuisance but pose animal and human health risks.
They suck your pet’s blood, they suck human blood, and can transmit diseases. Some of the diseases that fleas and ticks can transmit from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases) include plague, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, bartonellosis, and others. That’s why it’s critical to protect your cats from these pesky parasites and keep the creepy crawlies out of your home.
Fortunately, there are many effective flea and tick preventives on the market to help control the pests and prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases. Knowing what kind of product to use, and how to use it, is critical to the health and safety of your cat. Many are spot-on (topical) products that are applied directly to your cat’s skin, but there are some that are given orally (by mouth). Although medicines and pesticides must meet U.S. government-required safety standards before they can be sold, it is still critical that cat owners carefully consider their flea and tick preventive options (and closely read the label) before they treat their cats with one of these products.
Consult us about your options and what’s best for your cat. Some questions you can ask include:
- What parasites does this product protect against?
- How often should I use/apply the product?
- How long will it take for the product to work?
- If I see a flea or tick, does that mean it’s not working?
- What should I do if my cat has a reaction to the product?
- Is there a need for more than one product?
- How would I apply or use multiple products on my cat?
Parasite protection is not “one-size-fits-all.” Certain factors affect the type and dose of the product that can be used, including the age, species, breed, lifestyle and health status of your cat, as well as any medications your cat is receiving. Caution is advised when considering flea/tick treatment of very young and very old cats. Use a flea comb on puppies and kittens that are too young for flea/tick products. Some products should not be used on very old pets. Some breeds are sensitive to certain ingredients that can make them extremely ill. Flea and tick preventives and some medications can interfere with each other, resulting in unwanted side effects, toxicities, or even ineffective doses; it’s important that your veterinarian is aware of all of your cat’s medications when considering the optimal flea and tick preventive for your cat.
To keep your cats safe, we recommend the following:
- Discuss the use of preventive products, including over-the-counter products, with us to determine the safest and most effective choice for each cat.
- Always talk to your veterinarian before applying any spot-on products, especially if your cat is very young, old, pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
- Only purchase EPA-registered pesticides or FDA-approved medicines.
- Read the entire label before you use/apply the product.
- Always follow label directions! Apply or give the product as and when directed. Never apply more or less than the recommended dose.
- Cats are not small dogs. Products labeled for use only for dogs should only be used for dogs, and never for cats. Never.
- Make sure that the weight range listed on the label is correct for your cat because weight matters. Giving a dose designed for a larger animal could harm your cat.
One cat may react differently to a product than another cat. When using these products, monitor your cat for any signs of an adverse reaction, including anxiousness, excessive itching or scratching, skin redness or swelling, vomiting, or any abnormal behavior. If you see any of these signs, contact your veterinarian. And most importantly, report these incidents to your veterinarian and the manufacturer of the product so adverse event reports can be filed.
Be aware that certain flea and tick preventives are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while others are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It can seem confusing at first to figure out which agency regulates the product you’re using, but it’s actually pretty straightforward: if the product is regulated by the EPA, there’s an EPA number clearly listed on the package. If it’s regulated by the FDA, there should be a NADA or ANADA number clearly listed on the package. Check the label for either an EPA or an FDA approval statement and number. If you see neither, check with your veterinarian before purchasing and especially before using the product.
- To report problems with EPA-approved pesticides, contact the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378.
- To report problems with FDA-approved drugs go to How to Report An Adverse Drug Experience or call 1-888-FDA-VETS. Additional reporting information is available on the FDA’s Report a Problem page.
For more information:
(AVMA) External Parasites brochure
(AVMA) Animal Tracks Podcast: Ticks and our pets
(AVMA) Animal Tracks Podcast: My dog (or cat) has fleas?
Article from AVMA