Safe, Effective Flea Control

May 17, 2012

Flea preventatives have come a long way in safety and efficacy from the flea dips and collars of the past. Many of the newer products available are:

  • Easier to use
  • Safer
  • Kill fleas in all their life stages

Thus, shortening infestation times. With all the new products available, one might wonder which products are the safest and most effective for their cat.

The most important thing to realize is that cats can be sensitive to any medication. Most of the older products and some of the products that are still currently available contain insecticides called permethrins or pyrethroids. When used in proper concentrations, many toxicologists believe these formulations to be safe. However, in smaller or sick or debilitated cats, the recommended concentration (as labeled on the package) may still produce an adverse reaction. The real concern is when higher concentrations of insecticide, like the amount found in dog products of the same formulation, are administered to cats. The severity of toxicity is specific to each cat, meaning that some cats are extremely sensitive to even small doses, while others may show no signs of toxicity at all. Symptoms of pyrethrin/pyrethroid toxicity include muscle tremors or twitching, excessive salivation, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, and seizures. The onset of clinical signs may occur within a few hours or may take as long as a day. Treatment involves supportive care and hospitalization.

** Use only products labeled for use in cats! Formulations labeled for dogs often contain levels of medication that are toxic for cats.  **

Luckily, many newer products available both by prescription and over-the-counter are formulated without these insecticide products. These medications contain compounds that target only the nervous system of fleas and are safe for cats. If side effects do occur, they are typically limited to:

  • Hair loss at the site of application
  • Salivation if the product is ingested
  • Lethargy

Available and Safe Flea Control Products:

  • Revolution
  • Vectra             
  • Advantage
  • Frontline Plus

Flea Control Products that ARE NOT Recommended:
If you use these products, please use them with caution and only use those approved for cats!                           

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos, dips, collars, and foggers: (Hartz, Sergeants, Bio-Spot, Kirkland Brand): Contain permethrin insecticides that can be toxic to cats.
  • Natural flea remedies: Essential oils (Tea Tree, Cedar, Eucalyptus, Citronella, Peppermint, Neem, Limonenes): Cats do not metabolize essential oils effectively, so the application of oils through collars or spot-on products may cause toxicity. All essential oils are potentially toxic in cats. Symptoms of toxicity include lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, and dizziness.