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How Does a Flea Collar Work for Dogs?

| Updated September 26, 2017

Flea collars have been part of flea control since 1964. Although many ways now exist to control fleas, including shampoos, powders, topical drops and internal medications, they remain a part of flea control in millions of households every year. Flea collars are not as effective as many other forms of flea control, but can be beneficial to dogs who might have sensitivities to other control methods. In addition, flea collars are inexpensive and widely available, in stores, online and in veterinarians' offices.

How Flea Collars Protect Your Dog

Flea collars use a variety of designs to protect your pet. Some flea collars release a gas that discourages fleas from jumping onto your dog. Other collars slowly release an insecticide that spreads over your dog's body to kill adult and immature fleas. While chemicals used in flea collars often kill or repel fleas, others use chemicals that break the chain of the flea's life cycle. These products prevent the flea from maturing and laying eggs. Flea collars often use the chemicals Amitraz, the pyrethroid Deltamethrin, or the organophosphate tetrachlorvinphos to control fleas. Ultrasonic collars intended to control fleas may sound like a neat idea, but they are ineffective.

Flea Collar Protection: Not the Entire Dog

Although flea collars can be effective, they do not provide coverage for the entire body. In general, the effective area is located around the dog's neck. The dog's lower back and rear end may still be prone to flea infestation. Flea collars that also provide tick protection are quite effective, however, because ticks are most often found near the dog's head and neck.

Flea Collar Advantages

  • Most department and grocery stores will carry flea collars, as do co-ops, feed stores and pet stores. Many brands of flea collar are inexpensive, although collars that protect against additional insects will cost more than basic collars.
  • Flea collars can be used inside vacuum bags and cups to kill fleas inside the vacuum.

Flea Collar Disadvantages

  • Many pets are sensitive to chemicals released from flea collars.
  • Flea collars can become less effective if they get wet. The occasional raindrop is OK, but if your dog goes swimming or takes a bath, it's probably best to remove the collar and replace it when he's dry.
  • The chemicals used in flea collars may cause reactions in people or pets who come into contact with the animals wearing them. For this reason, they probably shouldn't be used in households with small children, who may put their hands or mouths on the collars, putting themselves at risk.
  • Inexpensive collars are not always as effective as more expensive collars.