One of the most common questions veterinarians receive regarding the use of monthly flea/heartworm medications is whether topical or oral formulations should be used. And of course, like most medical decisions, the answer to this question will be based on the individual circumstances of the pet and the pet’s family.
In those families with infants or small children, many pet owners are often concerned about the exposure of these little ones to the pesticide residues from topical application of these products. And while this is certainly a legitimate concern, as long as animal guardians follow product label instructions and allow adequate period for the products to dry, I have not found this to be a concern or danger to those families with small children.
When there are multiple pets in the home, it is important to prevent pets from playing with or grooming each other until the topical products have dried. As long as these guidelines have been followed, I have not found the use of topical products problematic in most patients. Of course there is the rare topical reaction with hair loss and skin irritation that may occur in an occasional pet, and in those situations an oral product should be considered.
Finally, in those pets with digestive tract sensitivity or upset from oral medications, there are certainly many topical products now available for both flea and heartworm prevention. When giving oral flea/heartworm medications, it is always best that they be given with a meal, as this does significantly reduce the risk of gastrointestinal reactions in many animals.