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 (months, even!) because they lay eggs. Fleas are creepy, wingless freaks that eat, lay eggs, and die on your pet and around your home. 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.
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. Pet insurance often offers preventative care to keep fleas away. 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. (Pro tip: They need to be fitted properly – nice and snug with little excess – so that your pet cannot bite or chew the collar and ingest the harmful insecticides.) 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. High-frequency collars (otherwise known as electronic collars) release high-pitched, ultrasonic sound waves that are only detectable to fleas. (The sound frequency is supposed to scare the fleas away.) Gas-based collars release a pesticide that primarily affects fleas close to the collar while absorption-based collars release a chemical that is absorbed into your pet’s skin, killing fleas when they bite.
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 (some brands claim that they’re effective for up to 12 months), 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, which I outlined above.
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). Fleas close to the collar will usually be killed and prevented from reproducing, but flea collars don’t offer complete protection, especially when fleas move away from the collar and away from the poisonous chemicals that are emitted. What’s more, most vets agree that the collars often don’t work because fleas have built up immunity to the collars’ main insecticide – permethrin. Permethrin collars are also harmful to cats.
When it comes to treating and killing fleas in your home, the smartest thing to do is talk to your vet. Next to you, she knows your pet the best and what will work well for him. She will probably recommend a spot-on treatment or pill like Advantage, Frontline, or Capstar. 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 check out PetSmart’s top-rated cat and dog flea collars as well as Amazon’s cat and dog collars. (Seresto, Easy Defense, Sentry seem to top all four lists.) The collars are rated, reviewed, and one click away from being delivered to your home.
However you decide to kill those pesky parasites, 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.
Image: Meg Sanchez