The Best Topical Flea & Tick Prevention for Dogs & Cats

Protect both of your pets with topical flea-fighters that also get rid of ticks.
goldyrocks/iStock/Getty Images

Fleas and ticks are parasitic bugs that easily can infest both your pet and your home. Fortunately, there are several kinds of topical flea preventatives that will repel and eliminate these disease-carrying pests from your kitty or pooch. The best of these products are safe to use on Fluffy or Fido, causing no harmful side effects, and are highly effective against the parasites, killing both the pests and their eggs.

The Most Effective Topical Medications

While there are many topical flea and tick medications on the market, the most effective ones are only available with a prescription from your vet, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. These treatments, including selamectin and fipronil, kill both adult fleas and ticks, according to Selamectin kills the flea eggs as well. You apply one dose of such a medication once each month on the back of your pet's neck, between Fido's or Fluffy's shoulder blades. These medications work quickly to eliminate pests, usually within 24 hours of application, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

Safety First for Pets and People

While there are several over-the-counter topical products available, which kill both fleas and ticks, these products may contain ingredients, which are potentially poisonous to your pet. The insecticides these spot-on products contain organophosphates and pyrethroids, both of which can harm your cat or dog, warns the Humane Society of the United States. These chemicals are potentially dangerous to the people who come into contact with them while handling a treated pet. Even natural products can be harmful to both cats and dogs because ingredients such as geranium, lavender and eucalyptus oils may cause allergic reactions in your pet, advises WebMD. Pennyroyal oil can be fatal if applied to your pet's skin.

Age Matters When it Comes to Pest Control

While some of the best prescription flea and tick products are effective at keeping these pests away, they aren't recommended for all pets. Young kittens and puppies can have serious or fatal reactions to these medications. This is why manufacturers of these products list the appropriate ages for their use on the packages. Many spot-on treatments are only safe for use in kittens or pups who are at least 8 weeks old. For this reason, most topical products are unsafe for nursing younglings and some of these products may be inappropriate for nursing or pregnant mother kitties and pooches as well. The best pest control methods for these animals may include regular bathing and manual removal of fleas and ticks.

Using Products Wisely

Even the best and safest topical flea- and tick-control products can be dangerous or ineffective when used incorrectly. Never use products formulated for dogs on cats and vice versa because they each have different formulations, some of which can be dangerous to an animal of a different species. Always purchase products formulated for the weight and size of your pet to ensure that they work as intended. An incorrect dosage might not only be ineffective but it could hurt your pet as well. If you are unsure of which product to use on your particular pet, consult with your vet, who can recommend one appropriate for Fido or Fluffy.