Combating fleas requires a multi-step approach. It begins with prevention. There are many ways to prevent fleas on your dog, including monthly oral medication, topical applications, and flea collars, which can deliver protection for up to 8 months. Here’s what you should know about the efficacy of dog flea collars and information about their safety.
How effective are dog flea collars? Flea collars can be effective at preventing or even treating a flea infestation but it varies by active ingredient and shouldn’t be used alone. Some collars only repel fleas but others kill fleas. Some target eggs and larvae while others kill adults.
The Efficacy of Dog Flea Collars
Depending on the type of flea collar and its active ingredient, the flea collar may be designed to prevent a flea infestation or kill fleas already on your dog. As a general rule, flea collars are effective but they work best for preventing fleas — not getting rid of them.
When it comes to prevention, a flea collar can emit a toxic and powerful gas that deters fleas and ticks from hopping on your dog. These preventative collars are usually only effective at protecting the neck and head area. A collar that secretes a medication that’s absorbed into the dog’s subcutaneous fat is typically the most effective option but it only works against a flea once it bites your dog. Flea collars with chemicals that spread over the skin can effectively kill fleas that land on your dog and touch the chemical but they can’t kill fleas at all life cycles. These collars only work against fleas once they come into contact with the chemical which means some areas of your dog aren’t protected.
One study examined the efficacy of flea collars. Dogs were infested with ticks or fleas and treated with collars containing imidacloprid/flumethrin, the same active ingredients in the Bayer Seresto dog flea collar. Imidacloprid kills adult fleas and larvae while flumethrin kills and repels adult ticks, nymphs, and larvae.
The efficacy of the flea collar was examined 24-48 hours after treatment and 24 hours after reinfestation. The collar’s efficacy against ticks after 24 hours was about 95% but it exceeded 99% efficacy against tick larvae for 8 months. The collar killed between 99.8% and 100% of existing fleas after 2 days with sustained efficacy above 95% over a 35-week period. The study found the imidacloprid/flumethrin collar is immediately lethal to existing fleas and kills fleas within just 2 hours of infestation.
A flea collar leaves gaps in protection and shouldn’t be used alone to protect your dog against fleas and ticks. As a general rule, flea collars can be a good means of preventing an infestation but they aren’t enough to kill fleas, eggs, and larvae already living on your dog.
How Do Flea Collars Work?
How a flea collar works depends on its active ingredient and design. Flea and tick collars may work as a repellent and/or a treatment.
Most flea and tick collars today repel and kill fleas. This type of collar has medication that seeps out of the collar and into the fat of the dog’s skin or it has a chemical that spreads over your dog’s body using their natural skin oils. With the medication, the flea must bite the dog to be killed by the insecticide. With the chemical, the flea must touch the chemical on the skin. Some flea collars only repel fleas. This type of flea collar emits a gas with a strong odor that repels fleas and ticks.
Flea and tick collars use a variety of active ingredients:
- Propoxur. This chemical kills fleas on contact within 24 hours by causing the insects’ nervous system to break down. This chemical can be very toxic to humans. If you use a collar with Propoxur, use gloves to apply to your dog and wash your hands afterward. Do not let your children handle or pet the dog while wearing the collar.
- Amitraz. This ingredient used in Preventic flea and tick products is an anti-parasitic but it isn’t known how it works.
- Pyriproxifen. This ingredient sterilizes flea larvae and eggs to prevent them from maturing or reproducing.
- Deltamethrin. This ingredient found in Preventef-D and Adams Delta Force collars is one of the safest insecticides you can use. It’s a synthetic version of a natural pesticide called Pyrethrin that comes from chrysanthemum flowers.
- Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP). This ingredient is preventative and repels fleas and ticks. TCVP is a neurotoxin that can be harmful to pets and humans, especially with high exposure.
Safety Concerns With Flea Collars
Depending on the active ingredient in the flea collar you choose, there may be safety concerns to consider. A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report called “Poisons on Pets II: Toxic Chemicals in Flea and Tick Collars” determined that many over-the-counter insecticide pet products can have significant health consequences for people and pets.
Many flea collars contain organophosphate (OP) compounds that can be toxic. The report found evidence that chronic exposure can cause serious health problems. The NRDC also found that dangerous levels of pesticides can remain on a pet’s fur for weeks after using a flea collar. The residue from two ingredients — TCVP and Propoxur — were high enough to be a risk to people playing with their pets.
It’s a good idea to use the least toxic option possible and avoid Propoxur and TCVP flea collars, especially if you have children.
What Dog Flea Collars Are Effective?
Want to know what dog flea collars are effective and safe to use? Flea collars come in many varieties today, including chemical-infused collars and natural dog flea collars that use organic ingredients to repel fleas. Natural flea collars are a good choice if you are concerned about potential safety risks of using pesticides on your dog. This guide can help you choose the best dog flea collar for your pet but here’s a quick overview of two popular, safe, and effective products I recommend.
The Bayer Seresto dog flea collar is my top choice for safety, longevity, and efficiency. This flea collar does not contain chemicals that are associated with health risks and it lasts up to 8 months — a rarity among flea collars. It’s also effective against not only adult fleas but also eggs and larvae to completely break the lifecycle and protect your dog. It’s also grease-free and odorless but it is one of the more expensive options.
If you prefer a natural solution, the Arava flea and tick collar is a good choice. While costly, this collar uses essential oils like citronella and lemongrass to ward off fleas and ticks without the use of potentially dangerous chemicals.
Are dog flea collars safe?
Some flea collars are safer than others. Research the active ingredient in your pet’s flea collar and always use caution when handling the collar. Always wash your hands after touching a dog wearing a flea collar. Do not allow children to play with or touch your dog’s collar.
Can flea collars kill dogs?
Flea collars can contain ingredients that can be toxic to dogs. It is possible for some ingredients to cause a fatal reaction in a dog but this is very rare. A fatal reaction is most likely if you use multiple products on your pet such as a flea collar and a topical or oral medication or the dog swallows the collar.
Can flea and tick collars make dogs sick?
Yes, it is possible for a flea collar to make a dog sick, especially if the collar is chewed or eaten or you combine a flea collar with oral or topical flea treatments. Always use a flea collar according to manufacturer recommendations and avoid TCVP and Propoxur if you have concerns.