Updated March 6, 2019: Although the average flea only lives twenty-one days, it can make your pet’s life (and your life) a living hell for a long time. Even if your pet has never contracted fleas, it’s likely that he will at some point during his lifetime regardless of how clean he or your home is kept.
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Fleas can be treated by cleaning your home and yard thoroughly and using preventative medication, topicals, powders, or sprays on your pet and around your house. Here's a guide to treating fleas. But what about flea collars? Do they actually prevent fleas? And is it safe for your dog to wear one 24/7?
How do flea collars work?
Flea collars are plastic collars that pets wear around their necks. The collars kill fleas by slowly releasing pesticides and chemicals that are poisonous to them. There are three types of collars: high frequency, gas-based, and absorption-based.
Are flea collars safe?
Not really. Not only do the chemicals smell unpleasant, they’re toxic and can cause sickness or fatality if ingested. (And since most people are in constant contact with their pets, those poisonous products can make their way around your home and furniture.) If your pet is very young, very old, pregnant, or nursing, she should not wear a flea collar due to the toxic chemicals. But since each product is different, it’s important to read your collar’s packaging information or talk to your vet to find what’s best for your pet.
Are flea collars controversial?
Yes. Some pet parents like them because they’re cheaper than some of the other flea control methods that are available. They also have a longer shelf life, so pet parents feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck. That being said, flea collars are often criticized because they tend to have more disadvantages than advantages.
Are flea collars effective?
Yes and no. They can be effective if they are applied correctly. If the collar is constantly being taken off or if it gets wet because it’s not waterproof, the effectiveness will fade. It’s smart to check your collar’s packaging information for specific instructions.
Flea collars don’t offer complete protection, especially when fleas move away from the collar. What’s more, most vets agree that the collars often don’t work because some fleas have built up immunity to the collar's chemicals.
When it comes to treating and killing fleas in your home, the smartest thing to do is talk to your vet. He or she will probably recommend a spot-on treatment or pill. However, if you do wish to try flea collars – even if it’s just for added protection on top of her prescribed treatment — you should shop around for the right one. Sites like Chewy.com offer flea collars, along with other flea and tick medications, from multiple providers.
Make sure you talk to your vet and keep an eye on your pet during the process. If the treatment doesn’t seem to be working or if he seems lethargic or sick from the chemicals, call your vet immediately to get your pet the help he needs. A happy, healthy, flea-free pet is a happy, healthy, flea-free home.
You may want to consider pet insurance, to cover your pet's medical expenses if they contract fleas (some policies even cover preventative methods, like flea collars. Compare pet insurance prices here.
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Image: Meg Sanchez