How Do Topical Flea and Tick Preventives Work?


Topical flea and tick preventives come in liquid form. They are applied to dogs and cats, usually between the shoulder blades, by parting the hair and applying to the skin. It’s important that the product is applied directly to the skin and not just onto the animal’s hair.


Once applied, topical flea and tick preventives are absorbed through the skin and begin circulating into the bloodstream. This is how topical products treat fleas and ticks throughout the animal’s entire body, not just on the area of application, and how some products prevent ear mites. By being absorbed into to bloodstream, some products also treat and prevent internal parasites such as heartworm, roundworm, or hookworm.

One reason many people choose a topical preventive is convenience. They are quick and easy to apply, and most are effective for a full month. Parasite infestations can be very difficult to eliminate, but topical products make it easy to prevent them.

Do Topical Preventives Treat Parasites Other Than Fleas?

One topical flea preventive that treats a range of parasites is REVOLUTION® (selamectin). This product is unique in that it is a topical treatment that also prevents heartworm infection in both dogs and cats. Revolution works by inducing neuromuscular paralysis in parasites, resulting in their elimination. Sufficient tissue concentrations are achieved to kill heartworm larvae and prevent heartworm, while presence in the skin and sebaceous glands protects against fleas and mites. Revolution is also effective against roundworm and hookworm in cats.


Revolution for cats is effective against:

  • Adult flea
  • Flea eggs
  • Ear mites
  • Heartworm
  • Hookworm
  • Roundworm

Revolution for dogs is effective against:

  • Adult fleas
  • Flea eggs
  • Ear mites
  • Heartworm
  • American Dog Tick
  • Sarcoptes mites (mange).

Revolution is generally well-tolerated. In studies, <1% of cats and dogs experienced digestive upset. Approximately 1% of cats experienced temporary hair loss at the application site. Do not use in sick, weak or underweight animals.

Originally posted on August 9, 2007.


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