Ask A Vet: Should You Splurge on Flea & Tick Medication?


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: I've heard some of the flea and tick prevention medications can be dangerous and even harmful. What is the best and safest way to treat my animals?
A: Preventing flea and tick infestations are worth the effort.  Besides the discomfort of the bites, fleas and ticks bring with them a host of diseases.  Over the years I have treated several adult cats and many kittens and puppies with life threatening anemia associated with severe flea infestations.  Adult fleas only live for a couple of weeks but in that time they lay a ton of eggs in your house that continue to hatch and infect your pet in perpetuity.  (There are ways to rid an infected house of flea eggs but they fall just short of having to burn it down.)  
Believe it or not, flea and tick prevention has come a long way.  Back when I graduated vet school, back when penicillin was effective, it was a race to kill the flea before killing the animal being treated. These days, most modern flea preventives areavermectin-based, making them safer for mammals.  There is a new oral flea preventive that is extremely safe and effective.  Preventing tick infestation is more difficult and correspondingly, the most effective product is also more toxic.
Remember that all medications, even the “all natural” ones come with some risk of reaction. Reduce the risk by taking a moment to determine whether you need just a flea or a flea and tick preventive.  And be sure to talk to your vet about the type of preventive best suited for your pet.

While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Friday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat.  If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.

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