Flea and Tick: Why Different Products for Different Pets?

Topical flea and tick treatments are a very popular and effective way to help fight against those nasty pests. But what’s the difference between flea and tick topical products for dogs and products for cats?

Perhaps you’ve wondered if you can buy a flea and tick treatment for cats and, since your small dog is the same size, you can use the same treatment on both. Or maybe you can split a tube made for medium dogs and only apply half doses to your cat to save some money.

There’s a very common misconception about flea and tick treatments and preventatives for dogs and cats that I’d like to briefly discuss. Many pet owners ask if they can put dog products on cats or cat products on dogs.

The short answer: NO. You should never apply a product intended for dogs onto cats, and vice versa.

Dogs and cats have different physiologies, and their different skin types change how a flea and tick product works on their body.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests all flea and tick topical treatments and preventatives for safety and efficacy, and the products sold in the store are specifically formulated for your pet’s species and weight. I’m going to use PetArmor Plus for Dogs and PetArmor Plus for Cats as an example to show you what I mean, but these guidelines apply to any brand of product you choose to use.


At a glance it’s easy to determine which product should be used for which species, but it also lists on the front and back of the package the species, weight and age your pet should be to use the product. In this example, PetArmor Plus for Dogs should be used only on dogs and puppies 4 to 22 lbs. and over eight weeks of age. PetArmor Plus for Cats is for use only on cats and kittens over 1.5 lbs. and over eight weeks of age.


Each application contains different amounts of solution and active ingredients based on the weight and species of the animal you wish to treat.


One tube of PetArmor Plus for Dogs (4 to 22 lbs.) carries 0.023 fl oz of treatment and has 9.8 percent Fipronil and 8.8 percent (S)-methoprene. In contrast, PetArmor Plus for Cats has 0.017 fl oz of treatment and carries 9.8 percent Fipronil and 11.8 percent (S)-methoprene. If you gave either of these to the species it’s not intended for, they would not only get the incorrect amount of solution, but an incorrect amount of active ingredients needed for the treatment to be effective.

Using different active ingredients and at different concentrations than what is intended can be extremely dangerous for your pet. If you accidentally apply a topical treatment to the wrong species, bathe your pet with a degreasing dish soap like Dawn and watch your pet for any signs of a reaction. If a reaction occurs, contact your vet immediately.

Along with never using dog products and cats and cat products on dogs, here are some additional tips to follow when using a flea and tick topical:

  • Weigh your pet before purchasing a flea and tick product. Don’t guess! This is important so they receive the right amount of treatment.
  • Do not use multiple treatments. An example of this includes bathing your pet with a flea and tick shampoo and then applying a topical after the bath. Many products are formulated to work alone, and using more treatment than what is intended could result in an overdose. Be sure to read and follow all package instructions before applying.
  • Separate pets after application to avoid them from accidentally licking the product off each other. Once the application area is dry (about 24 hours), they are safe to be together again.
  • Do not self-dose. Attempting to do so, either by using more than one tube during treatment or diluting a solution with water to make it weaker, makes treatment unpredictable and can also be dangerous. It’s just not worth the risk to do this with your pets.

Manufacturers have taken the guesswork out of how much flea and tick treatment and preventative to give to our pets. That’s why it’s important to look at the label and read and follow all instructions before purchase and use of the flea and tick product.

Flea and tick products are a great way to protect our pets from biting critters, but we must also protect them from misapplication.

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