How Do Flea Collars Work? What Makes Flea Collars Tick

BY | September 19 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
How Do Flea Collars Work?
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Seresto 8 Month Flea and Tick Collar For Dogs

Flea & Tick
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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.

Of all the things pet parents need to concern themselves with, ticks and fleas on dogs might be one of the more important considerations. 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 Frontline Plus, 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?

How Flea & Tick Collars WorkWhat's more, some recent developments in collar designs have introduced long-lasting 8-month collars that treat as well as prevent infestations.

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 dogsโ€™ 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 emits 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 youโ€™re getting what you need. Collars that donโ€™t work to address existing pest problems will say things like โ€œrepels fleasโ€ or โ€œwards off pests.โ€ Collars that do double duty will absolutely say โ€œkillsโ€ somewhere on the box (Ex: โ€œKills fleas and their larvaeโ€).

Benefits of Flea & Tick Collars

  • Pest collars can be more effective at combating ticks than fleas because the collars rest around the dogโ€™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-on.

  • They tend to be less expensive than spot-on, though the super inexpensive collars youโ€™ll find at the grocery store donโ€™t tend to work very well. Itโ€™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 a real risk. Most of the active ingredients in flea and tick medications are neurotoxins. In small doses, theyโ€™re harmful primarily to insects. But if doses are too high from a prolonged double-treatment, your dog could suffer negative effects.

  2. If youโ€™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. Itโ€™s a synthetic Pyrethroid, which means itโ€™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. โ€œSafestโ€ 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 are still a mystery to most scientists! They can agree on one thing, though: itโ€™s an effective anti-parasitic drug. (Itโ€™s also sometimes used to treat manage.)

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 break down. Within 24 hours of application, insects will simply keel over and die on your dogโ€™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 theyโ€™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 theyโ€™re worn around the neck, theyโ€™re effective primarily in that area, leaving the hindquarters to fend for themselves. If ticks are the primary concern, a collar may be a fine option. If fleas and ticks are equally bothersome, most collars wonโ€™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.

How PetPlus Can Help

If you use flea and tick protection with your pet, PetPlus is the best way to minimize the cost of your pet's treatment. With savings, up to 65% off on brand name collars like Bayer's Seresto, as well as topical treatments like Frontline or Advantage II, PetPlus is great for any pet parent looking to care for their pet without spending a lot.

Are Flea Collars Safe?

Flea collars are one of the oldest and most basic forms of flea prevention on the market today. They are simple, safe, and have been a staple in keeping pets flea and tick-free for decades. While the variety of flea prevention products has grown to include oral tablets, shampoos, dips, spot-on treatments, and more, flea collars have stood the test of time.

Essentially, flea collars work by emitting a flea fighting drug into the sebaceous glands and hair follicles of your petโ€™s neck and upper back. This quickly moves fleas from the head and neck area of your dog, where they can be the most annoying for your pet, to the base of the tail where the pests quickly die and fall off. It is important to note that there are varying types of flea collars including gas emitting, ultrasonic, herbal, and more.

In most cases, flea collars work their magic for up to 90 days before they need to be replaced. Some newer designs, like Seresto, work for up to 8 months. Side effects of flea collars are minimal but often include scratching, redness, and possible hair loss for some dogs with skin sensitivities. These symptoms often are displayed within 12-48 hours of application.

Increase Your Flea-Fighting Power

Some flea collars are not as popular as standalone methods of flea and tick treatment because they focus the treatment around the head and neck. Some pet owners worry that fleas will bite their dog or cat before they reach the flea collar โ€œkill-zone.โ€ In recent studies, both oral treatments, like Sentinel Flavor Tabs, and spot-on treatments are proving more effective in overall flea prevention. However, a lot of pet owners have found adding a flea collar to their petโ€™s current prevention routine at the height of flea and tick season can increase results and effectiveness. Plus, newer flea collars that last longer, like the 8-month Seresto, are designed to more fully circulate the active ingredients over your pet's skin. If you live in a hot, humid, or densely wooded region, adding a flea collar could be especially beneficial in warding off infestations.

For basic prevention (especially in off-seasons), flea collars such as Seresto 8-month Cat Collar and other reputed products are a simple, safe, and hassle-free form of treatment. They are long-lasting, easy to use, and can be found at grocery stores, pet stores, or your veterinarian's office. Pick one up today!

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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