May 15, 2009 "Ask Seth"

While shopping, I came across flea medicines that are also on-spot protection. Is it as effective as what I've been using from my vet?


Dear Seth,

While shopping at my local grocery store, I came across flea medicines that are also on-spot flea and tick protection. This is a different brand and much cheaper than what I’ve been using from my vet. Is it as effective? Are there any side effect I should know about?

Joan, Pittsburgh, PA


This is a very good and timely question. Recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report that these pet products, commonly found in stores as over the counter products (OTC), injured 44,000 pets last year alone. The products they listed included sprays, collars, shampoos, and anything topical including the on-spot treatments for ticks and fleas. The majority of the incidents that the EPA reported involved the spot-on treatments that are sold in drugstores and supermarkets. Reactions ranged from rashes, skin irritation, seizures, and even death.

Side effects of over the counter medications are very well known to veterinarians because they are acute and usually require veterinarian treatments. Your veterinarian is familiar with the products that he or she recommends and knows the possible interactions and side effects of those products. The over the counter medications are not regulated by any agency and don’t have to register with the EPA for side effect documentation. They found that seven OTC products were responsible for 80% of the incidents.

Consult with your vet before buying such a treatment. They may recommend something safer. The EPA concluded with the following recommendations if you do use one of the products:

- Carefully read and follow the product label

- Use flea and tick control products only on the animal specified   for example: dog products on dogs only

- Only apply the amount indicated for the size of the animal being   treated

- Pay attention to the age restrictions

- Monitor your pet for side effects

- If your pet has an adverse reaction call your vet immediately


Seth Mayersohn, CVT


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