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a dog and a cat about to have spot on medications applied to them by their owner

How to apply spot on medication to your dog or cat

Some medicines for preventing ticks, fleas and worms are applied topically to the skin. These are sometimes called "spot on" preparations. Here you will find tips and advice from our vet on how to apply them safely and effectively.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet


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There are many spot ons that treat fleas and worms in dogs. Each product varies in which parasites they target. For example, Advocate spot on for dogs has a wide range of action treating for fleas, mites and some internal worms. Frontline spot on for dogs has a more limited action and only treats for some external parasites such as fleas, ticks and biting lice. Speak to your vet about ensuring your pet is being covered for the correct parasites in their parasite control regime.

Spot on medications are placed directly onto the skin at the back of your pet’s neck. The reason for applying it to the back of the neck is to prevent them licking it.

Start by reading the instruction leaflet in the packet. This contains important information about the spot on medication, including the correct dosage for your pet, how often to repeat the treatment, and possible side effects to look out for.

The dose will depend on the age, weight and species of your pet. Giving the correct dose will ensure that the treatment is effective and that your pet is fully protected. It is very important to always use cat specific products for cats. Dog specific products must not be applied to cats as they can cause serious toxicity.

  1. If necessary, remove your pet’s collar temporarily, before applying the product

  2. Ask a family member or friend to offer your dog a treat, or place a treat on the floor to distract them, whilst you apply the drops

  3. Part the fur at the back of the neck and apply the drops directly onto the skin. If you have a large dog that requires a big pipette it may be easier to apply the spot on to a few different areas along the neck to prevent the liquid running down the skin

  4. Empty the entire pipette, unless your vet, or the instruction leaflet, have advised a different dose

Avoid touching the application spot until the treatment has dried and for 48 hours after application. Finish by washing your hands. Wait for at least 24 hours before bathing your pet or allowing them to swim.

Please note, if you suspect you may have applied a dog pipette to a cat you must see your physical vet as an emergency.

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