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Should Your Dog Wear a Flea Collar? An Expert Weighs In

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Thinking of buying a flea collar for your dog? We spoke to Sean McCormack, the head vet at tails.com to get the lowdown on everything you need to know.

How does a flea collar work for dogs?

“Flea collars definitely divide opinion in the vet and pet world, because there are many on the market that really don’t work very well. They’re usually a plastic or fabric collar that is impregnated with an insecticide chemical to kill or repel adult fleas. Some also claim to control the larval or egg stages of the flea’s life cycle with a chemical called an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR),” says McCormack.

“The theory is that evaporation of the chemical around your pet’s head and neck prevents fleas hopping on for a tasty blood lunch, or with some, the chemical gets slowly absorbed by your pet’s skin and kills fleas when they bite anywhere on the body.”

Are flea collars effective?

“Well, here’s the thing. The most effective are prescription strength collars you can buy from your vet, such as Seresto which also repels ticks,” explains McCormack. “Many over the counter collars you can buy off the supermarket shelf for example simply do not work. Don’t waste your money. I’ve seen them fail a thousand times or more.”

“Depending on what type of collar you buy, you may still see adult fleas on your dog. If it’s a cheap gas-emitting collar then fleas will merely avoid the head and neck region and hot-tail it down to your pet’s back end to feast to their heart’s content. If you’ve suddenly had a flea infestation, it may take a long time for all of the fleas in the environment to hatch and eventually be killed by the collar alone. In the meantime, your pet can develop flea bite allergy symptoms, or at the very least remain quite itchy and irritated by flea bites.”

“So I’d say they’re not the most effective option for treating an infestation. As a preventative measure, some are just OK. One clever use of flea collars I’ve seen is to chop them up and put them into your vacuum cleaner canister or bag. That way all the adult fleas, larvae, and eggs in the environment will be killed when you clean, preventing them from re-infesting your home. Provided of course that they contain an IGR for killing all life stages and not just adult fleas.”

Are flea collars safe for dogs?

“Most are safe if used correctly. They’re sold according to size with an appropriate dosage of the active ingredient for your pet’s body weight. Be very careful not to overdose with a collar for a larger pet. You’re more likely to get side effects or skin irritation around the collar due to excessive levels of the chemical being absorbed by the skin.”

“As with all medications, individual animals may have a reaction to the chemical in your collar of choice, so monitor the neck area for the first few days to make sure it’s not causing irritation. And of course, make sure your dog can’t get the collar off and eat it (I’m looking at you Labradors!).”

“Finally, never put a dog flea collar on your cat. This can be lethal!” warns Sean.

Can flea collars be worn by all dogs?

“Unless your dog has an allergy or sensitivity to the ingredient contained in the collar, most dogs can wear them just fine.”

How long do flea collars last for dogs?

“Most collars on the market, especially over the counter ones are designed to be replaced every month or two,’ says McCormack. “Many of the vet prescription collars can last up to 8 months, eliminating the need for monthly spot-on treatments for example.”

What other flea treatments are available?

“There are now much safer, more effective, and more convenient ways to prevent or treat flea infestations than collars in both dogs and cats. Liquid spot-on treatments applied to the skin on the back of the neck absorb quickly and can last from four to eight weeks depending on the product.”

“There are also tablets and tasty treats that not only treat fleas but worms and other parasites too,” recommends McCormack. “But again beware wasting money on cheap over the counter products, many of which simply don’t work or fleas have become resistant to.”

Every pet is different, and their parasite control needs are too. So the best advice is to speak with your vet team about the best option for you and your pet.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Yours.

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