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How Do Flea Collars Work?

What Makes Flea Collars Tick

By Lauren Leonardi . January 01, 2011 | See Comments

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How Do Flea Collars Work?

Flea and Tick Collars are, obviously, for dogs at risk of getting fleas and ticks, but have you ever asked yourself "how do flea collars work?" Learn how flea collars work and everything else you need to know here.

Most flea and tick collars are an option for dogs and cats who are not suffering from an existing infestation of pests. That is, they may be effective at preventing, but not curing, an infestation. With the advent of topical spot on treatments like Advantage II or Advantage II for dogs, and oral flea medication like Comfortis, flea collars have fallen slightly out of favor, but they do come in handy now and again. However, the question still remains -- how do flea collars work?

What's more,some recent developments in collar designs have introduced long-lasting 8-month collars that treat as well as prevent infestations.

How Flea & Tick Collars Work

There are two basic functions of flea and tick collars.

  • Repelling: One type emits a gas that repels pests.

  • Treating: The other type has medication that seeps into the fat layer on dogs’ skin or active ingredients that spread using the dog's natural skin oils. When the first type is used, a pest must bite the dog for the insecticide to kill them. The second type of treatment collars emit active ingredients that kill fleas and ticks on contact, before they bite.


Some collars serve just one of the above purposes. Others act as both a repellent and a treatment. Read the box carefully to be sure you’re getting what you need. Collars that don’t work to address existing pest problems will say things like “repels fleas” or “wards off pests.” Collars that do double duty will absolutely say “kills” somewhere on the box (Ex: “Kills fleas and their larvae”).

Benefits of Flea & Tick Collars

  • Pest collars can be more effective at combating ticks than fleas, because the collars rest around the dog’s neck. This means the insecticide is most effective in the neck and face area, which also happens to be where ticks gravitate. If ticks are more of a concern for you than fleas, collars might be a great option.

  • Some collars last up to 8 months, as opposed to 30 day spot-ons.

  • They tend to be less expensive than spot-ons, though the super inexpensive collars you’ll find at the grocery store don’t tend to work very well. It’s recommended that you ask your veterinarian for their preferred brands.

Two of the Best Ways to Use Flea & Tick Collars

  1. When pest concerns are higher than usual - like, for example, a special romp through tall marsh grasses where ticks are known to thrive - have your dog wear the collar just for that afternoon. Then remove it, and save it in an airtight container (a baggie will work) for use next time. If your dog takes a flea and tick oral tablet, or if you apply a monthly spot on treatment, remember to remove the collar when the day is done. You don't want to over medicate your dog who isn't at real risk. Most of the active ingredients in flea and tick medications are neurotoxins. In small doses, they’re harmful primarily to insects. But if doses are too high from a prolonged double-treatment, your dog could suffer negative effects.

  2. If you’re recovering from a home infestation, place a flea and tick collar inside your vacuum bag. This way, when you vacuum up any lingering bugs or eggs, the collar inside the bag will kill them dead!

Common Ingredients in Flea & Tick Collars

Deltamethrin (delta-METH-rin), found commonly in Adams Delta Force and Preventef-D flea and tick collars, is classified as one of the more safe insecticides out there. It’s a synthetic Pyrethroid, which means it’s a synthetic derivative of a naturally occurring pesticide called Pyrethrin, which was found in the extract of chrysanthemum flowers more than one hundred years ago. “Safest” refers to humans and domestic mammals - not fish!

Amitraz (AH-mih-traz) is an active ingredient found commonly in Preventic products. The specifics of how Amitraz works is still a mystery to most scientists! They can agree on one thing, though: it’s an effective anti-parasitic drug. (It’s also sometimes used to treat mange.)

Pyriproxifen (pie-rih-PROX-uh-fen) targets flea eggs and larvae. It essentially sterilizes pests, rendering them unable to mature, and thusly, unable to reproduce.

Propoxur (pro-POX-ur) quickly causes the nervous system of fleas and ticks to breakdown. Within 24 hours of application, insects will simply keel over and die on your dog’s body. Propoxur can be highly toxic to humans, so take care when clipping the collar on your dog, and be sure to wash your hands afterward. Do not allow children near the dog while they’re wearing Propoxur based collars.

Common Ingredients to Avoid in Flea & Tick Collars

Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) is thought to be a neurotoxin that may be harmful to humans as well as domestic pets. It is effective as a pest killer, but its safety has come into recent question, with some scientists arguing that it is a human carcinogen.

Downsides to Flea & Tick Collars

Because they’re worn around the neck, they’re effective primarily in that area, leaving the hindquarters to fend for itself. If ticks are the primary concern, a collar may be a fine option. If fleas and ticks are equally bothersome, most collars won’t likely suffice as a lone treatment.

If your dog has regular contact with children or other dogs, the medication in the collar could be detrimental. Children may touch the collar, then put their fingers in their eyes or mouth. Other dogs, in play, may mouth one another. For these reasons, collars have the potential to be less safe and less preferred than topical spot on treatments.

Flea and Tick Spot-On and Oral Options

K9 Advantix
Advantage II for Cats
Frontline Plus
Comfortis

More Flea and Tick Control Advice

How to Get Rid of a Tick
Tapeworms in Dogs: How Fleas Can Be to Blame
Will I Overmedicate My Pet if I Mix Flea Meds?
My Dog Has Fleas, What Should I Do?
Tick And Flea Medicine For Dogs And Cats: A Comparison Chart

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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