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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Does Your Pet's Topical Flea/Tick Medication Hurt?

I'm a member of several dog training and dog health lists. A couple of months ago,  on one of my lists, someone had posted that she had never seen animals have any trouble with flea and tick medications except for a cat who would get mad after an application.  She said the cat would walk around sulking for an hour.

I wondered to myself if what looks like "mad" could have actually been pain or discomfort. Then I thought back to the times when I used to use topical medications (about 2 years ago). Two of my four dogs would give me a hard time.  Lupe would always roll over on her back, making it difficult for me to put the medication between her shoulder blades.  Matt-Matt would almost snap at me.  At the time, I assumed that my dogs were just nervous about me doing a weird thing to them. But now I'm wondering if the medication was painful or uncomfortable.

Maybe the liquid medication wasn't painful. Maybe just having liquid squirted on their backs felt weird. I don't know.  Matt-Matt is no longer with me. But last night, I tried a non scientific test on Lupe.  I squeezed a water soaked cotton ball onto her back.  She didn't' flinch nor roll on her back. As soon as I was done, she looked for a treat (we've been working on a lot of counter conditioning).

Of course, this non scientific experiment with an extremely small sample size doesn't prove anything. And I'm not suggesting that pet guardians stop their pets' flea and tick medications. But if you have been wondering about the medications, they might be a subject to discuss with your vet.

And as with most medications, we need to weigh the benefits versus the risks. If a pet has a severe flea allergy, the relief that the topicals can provide might be worth an hour of discomfort.

But some dogs experience more than short-term discomfort.  Some have mild to severe reactions. Some might experience long term complications that may or may not appear to be directly related to the medication. Discuss with your vet what medications might be the safest and most effective for your pet. Also discuss some non chemical flea control options:

Another precaution that we can discuss with our vets:
Split up toxins.  i.e. don't give flea, tick, and heartworm  medication the same day. If a pet has a reaction, we won't know which medication caused the problem. Consider if an all-in-one medication is really something that you want to use.

Information on one brand

And don't overdo toxins. If you are using a topical flea and tick medication, don't use a flea and tick shampoo, nor a flea and tick powder, nor a flea and tick collar.

Has your pet had a reaction to a topical medication?
Tell us about it in the comments section below

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