How to apply spot-on medication to your dog or cat
A lot of medicines for preventing external and internal parasites such as ticks, fleas and worms in cats and dogs are spot-on preparations. Read our article on how to use them safely and effectively!
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What are spot-ons?
‘Spot-on’ is just a term for a certain form of medication, same as ’tablet’ or ‘injectable’. It refers strictly to the physical formulation of the preparate and nothing else.
Therefore, a ’spot-on’ is a liquid in a sealed pipette that is to be applied to the surface of the skin. The volume of the liquid is usually small, often under 1 ml, and on application it creates a spot, hence its name.
Spot-ons are very useful for delivering products that have to work at the skin level, that’s why a lot of antiparasitics for dogs and cats are in this form. Other products you can find in spot-on form are supplements for the skin, like Dermoscent's Essential 6, for example.
How does a spot-on work?
The spot-on liquid is a combination of whatever active substance(s) the manufacturer intended for it and an oily carrier that gets absorbed through the skin into the fat layer underneath, taking the active substance with it.
Both skin and fat tissues have a lot of fine blood vessels, so some of the active substance is absorbed in blood. When external parasites like fleas, ticks, mites or lice consume the pet’s blood or skin debris, or are simply coming in contact with the skin for long periods of time, the active substance built up in those tissues kills them.
Blood circulates the active substance through the entire body, including the gut, hence the existence of spot-ons that also prevent intestinal worms. The active substance diffuses in the gut lumen where adult worms live and kills them there.
How to apply a spot-on correctly?
Whether you got it from your vet or bought it in the shop, the spot-on usually comes with a leaflet. Start by checking that, it contains important information about the correct dosage, how often to repeat the treatment, and what possible side effects to look out for.
The dose depends on the age, weight and species of your pet. Most brand names have different versions of the same product, usually divided into weight and species categories. Giving the correct dose will ensure that the treatment is effective and that your pet is fully protected.
Causing a pet serious harm with spot-on overdosing is a rare occurrence because most of them have a wide safety margin, but it is recommended, both for your pet’s safety and for environmental reasons, to use the correct dose.
Always use cat-specific products for cats. Dog-specific products applied to cats can cause serious toxicity to them. If you accidentally applied a dog spot-on to a cat, take them to your vet immediately.
Spot-ons should be applied at the back of your pet’s neck. That’s a good place where they can’t reach to lick the product off.
Remove your pet’s collar temporarily to avoid it getting stained and in the way.
Ask someone to lightly restrain the pet in place while offering a treat.
Open the pipette, part the fur at the back of the neck to expose the skin and apply.
Move along the parted hairline to get the liquid on the skin, not the haircoat.
For large amounts on big dogs, apply to a few different areas to prevent the liquid running off the hairs.
Empty the entire pipette, unless your vet, or the instruction leaflet, have advised a different dose.
Finish by washing your hands.
Avoid touching the application spot until the treatment has dried, and for 48 hours after application. Do not bathe your pet or allow them to swim for at least 48 hours.
We recommend that you use spot-ons dispensed by your vet. Over the counter, prescription-free products are usually based on older active substances against which parasites already built resistance against, therefore they are not very effective, even though they are cheaper than prescription products.
Because of the online nature of our service that does not allow a hands-on exam of your pet, our vets cannot prescribe or recommend any regulated, prescription-only medication. But they are happy to help you with other questions about your pet’s health and safety! Use the button to the right of the article to book a call whenever convenient for you.