Living With Tick and Flea Collars

Dog Tick

Dog Tick
Photo: Tom Murray

Insects and ticks are both arthropods, but they are distantly related. We expect their physiology to have substantial differences and this applies to their nervous system. Repellents for ticks and insects affect the nervous systems, increase mobility and inhibit settling and feeding behaviors. Differences in nervous system physiology makes some repellents such as DEET more effective for insects and others such as pyrethroid insecticides more effective for ticks. Both DEET and pyrethroids are relatively safe for humans because of differences in our nervous system physiology. Many tick repellent products for human use contain pyrethroids that cause ticks to drop to the ground rather than cling and settle.

Just as the nervous system physiology of ticks and insects differs, so does the sensitivity to repellents differ among humans and our companion animals such as cats and dogs. Cats are typically the most sensitive to chemicals because they have a detoxification system that is less robust. Products intended for use on dogs (or people) can be harmful to cats. Many pyrethroid insecticides and repellents cannot be used on cats, because metabolism is inadequate. In a recent post, I discussed a flea and tick collar for cats that contains the pyrthroid, flumethrin. Flumethrin has a repellent effect on ticks that is similar to other pyrethroids, yet it can be safely used on cats. Unlike some other pyrethroids, flumethrin can be eliminated intact or as a non-toxic metabolite that does not require conjugation for elimination which in cats, the conjugation system is weak. Flumethrin can be quickly metabolized by cats to non-toxic metabolites that are rapidly cleared from the system. It gives good tick repellency and control yet is safe for the cat.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Health, Pest Management. Bookmark the permalink.

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