Do Flea Collars Work as Good as Flea Medicine?

A flea collar can help quell the itch, but it's no panacea.
A flea collar can help quell the itch, but it's no panacea. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Flea collars were invented in 1964 as a means of ridding animals of the harmful parasites. They’ve withstood the test of time: Many brands and varieties are still available on the pet care market 50 years after their introduction. Flea collars have distinct advantages and disadvantages as a medium for flea control and prevention.


Most flea collars release insecticides formulated to repel and kill adult fleas. They do this in one of two ways. One type of flea collar releases a gas toxic to fleas in the vicinity of the collar itself, while the second type releases chemicals toxic to fleas into your pet’s skin -- killing fleas as they feed. Bayer Animal Health’s Seresto flea collar is an example of a subcutaneous release flea collar. The collar slowly spreads its active ingredients, flumethrin and imidacloprid, throughout your pet’s skin surface and hair follicles. Herbal flea collars that contain natural flea repellent essential oils, such as eucalyptus and pennyroyal, are available for pet owners who prefer homeopathic approaches to flea and tick control.


Flea collars are readily available in many pet stores and supermarkets, saving you a trip to the vet’s office; many brands and varieties are economically priced as well. Effective longevity, sometimes up to 12 months, is another selling point flea collars advertise. According to a 2013 study from the National Center for Biotechnology, proper use of the Seresto flea collar reduced flea counts by at least 95 percent in dogs and cats over a seven- to eight-month period.


The chemicals and pesticides in flea collars can irritate pets' skin. The National Center for Biotechnology’s study concluded that even the newly developed Seresto collar presented telltale side effects: alopecia and dermatitis in both dogs and cats, especially around the collar. Additionally, gaseous flea collars kill only fleas near the collar site. This is unfortunate, as fleas tend to congregate on an animal’s hind legs and rear.


Fit is crucial. A flea collar must be suit your buddy closely. Measure the collar to be snug, but not tight, and cut off any extra collar length. Many flea collars contain pesticides harmful or even deadly to your pet if ingested. Take extra precautions to ensure your buddy will not chew on or otherwise ingest his flea collar. Choking is another concern with flea collars. Too loose and the collar can get caught on objects or your pet can catch it in her lower jaw. Because your pet will need to wear the collar constantly for effectiveness, make sure it has a quick-release feature to prevent strangulation.

Alternative Flea Treatment and Prevention

Flea collars make up a small percentage of the larger flea control and prevention market. Topicals, dips, powders and oral medications are all available to manage flea infestation. Consult your veterinarian about the best, most effective flea treatment for your pet’s individual needs.

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