July 25, 2016

Using Flea Medications Safely: Top 5 Tips for Pet Parents

APCC: Fleas

Fleas can be a nuisance all year round, but they become most active during the warm summer months. And although there are a number of medications you can use to take the “bite” out of flea season, it’s important to note that not all flea treatments are created equal—in fact, some can do much more harm than good! Thankfully, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has come up with a handy guide to help you use flea medications correctly and keep your pets safe all year long.

  1. Always read all of the labeled information before applying medications to your pet.
    Ask yourself these questions:
    • Is my pet the right age for this product? Many flea medications are not labeled for use in puppies or kittens less than six months of age.
    • Do I have the right medication for my species of pet? We can see potentially fatal reactions with some dog flea medications when they are applied to cats.
    • Am I going to apply this in the right way? Should this be applied to the skin or given by mouth?
    • Is there a health reason that my pet should not have this medication? Always consult with your veterinarian if your pet has any existing health conditions or if they are nursing or pregnant to ensure that the flea medications will be safe.
    • If you have both a cat and a dog, talk to your vet to make sure that the flea medications that you are using for your dog are safe to use around your cat.
  2. Never use multiple flea medications on your pet, unless directed to do so by your veterinarian.
    • Fleas can be a very frustrating problem, and some medications may not produce immediate effects.
    • While some flea medications work in different ways and can be used together, many are in the same class of medications, which can lead to a buildup of toxic levels.
  3. Make sure that your veterinarian is your primary source for information about flea medications, not the Internet.
    • There are many Internet rumors about how to control fleas, and some of them are not safe.
    • Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) and garlic (Allium sativum) are commonly recommended to treat or prevent fleas, but can cause serious and potentially life threatening signs in pets, depending on how they are used.
    • If you want to use alternative flea control or prevention, make sure that you speak with your vet first to see what they recommend and how to use it most effectively.
  4. Always make sure that you double check everything before you apply flea medications to your pet.
    • Many homes have multiple pets and you may be getting out several different flea medications when it is time to treat all of the pets in the home.
    • Take a moment before applying each one of the medications to ensure that you have the right one for the right pet.
  5. What should I do if I have concerns or if something happens?
    • Accidents can and do happen, even when you are careful!
    • If you accidentally get a topical medications in the pet’s eye, first rinse the eye with a sterile eye irrigation solution or room temperature milk. Next, contact your veterinarian or the APCC for additional steps to take and signs to monitor.
    • If your pet happens to lick the topical flea medication, give them a small amount of their food to help relieve the bad taste. Next, contact your veterinarian or the APCC for additional steps to take and signs to monitor for.
    • If you apply a dog flea medication to a cat and the cat starts to have uncontrollable shaking, convulsions, or seizures, take them immediately to a veterinary hospital. This can take up to 48 hours to occur. If you realize that you have put a dog flea medication on your cat and they aren’t showing any signs yet, contact a local veterinary or the APCC immediately.

The APCC is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency—24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call your veterinarian or the APCC at (888) 426-4435 immediately.