Flea & Tick Collars

- There are better alternatives now! -

Summary: When first invented flea & tick collars were a big advance in protecting pets from fleas and ticks. Even today similar slow-release insecticides are used for fly pest control in livestock. However, there are now safer and more effective alternatives.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Flea collars developed in 1964

Flea & tick collars were introduced in 1964 as an effective and relatively safe way to protect dogs and cats from fleas and ticks. Collars are made from a special plastic that slowly releases insecticide that kills adult fleas and ticks for weeks or even months. After the specified interval the collars should be replaced to renew the protection.

Prior to the widespread use of flea & tick collars, infestations were a constant irritant and health concern for pet owners. Over the years there have been many different pesticides incorporated into the plastic collars. Similar slow-release technology is also widely used in cattle tags for fly control.

cat flea

adult flea

Flea & tick collars work (for ticks)

When they were introduced flea collars were seen as an excellent solution to a severe problem. They significantly reduced bites on animals that were otherwise under constant attack. However, they had a couple of problems.

Some animals develop an irritation in the collar area called flea collar dermatitis and the collars are really only effective on the front half of the body, closest to where the collars are worn. Because of this, flea and tick collars are generally more effective protection against tick bites because ticks often try to attach around the head and neck. In fact, if you use a flea control medication that does not control ticks, such as Advantage (tm) or Program (tm), you should definitely use a flea and tick collar if your pet spends much time outdoors.

Better control methods

Much better and safer methods are now available for flea and tick control. The best methods control adult fleas and ticks with a topically-applied medication combined with treatment of the pet's environment with an insect growth regulator called methoprene. Methoprene prevents larval fleas from developing into adults (see Flea and Tick Control in Homes and on Pets for details).

Electronic/ultrasonic flea collars?

See our comments about electronic pest control devices in general as the same comments apply here as well (see Do Electronic Pest Repellers Work?). The short answer is: none of the devices that use ultrasonic sound have worked in controlled trials.

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