How to

How To Apply A Spot On Flea Treatment

Trent Webb

Now, this may sound like a self-descriptive process, but when was the last time you actually read the instructions? Read our guide on how to apply a spot-on flea treatment and find ways to make the spot on application slightly easier for both you and your pet!

Read the leaflet

Now we’ll concede these are never going to replace Pride and Prejudice on your reading list, but spot-on’s are medicines and so you really should read the little leaflet that comes with them. You’ll probably know every single thing it says, but just in case…

Get tactical

Think back to last month when you applied them. Did your pet spot the pipette being prepared and make themselves scarce? In which case open the box and get the pipette ready in a different room, so they’ve less time to spot what you’re up to. If you have multiple pets, did the others smell what you’d put on the first one and then run for it? If this happens, maybe plan to apply the spot on to different pets at different times during the day – to save the second or third in line getting stressed.

If you have a multi-pet household, did the others seem to smell the spot on once applied to first pet or when a pipette is opened?  Then maybe it would be worth trying a different brand with the same active ingredient. There are subtle differences in the fluid used to carry the active ingredients – and to a dog with a sensitive nose this can make a big difference.

Applying spot on flea treatment? You need hands

You’ll need about 2 more hands than you’ve actually got to apply spot ons with the same aplomb as your vet. So try to minimise the faffing around the process do as much prep as you can before you try and apply it. Get the pipette out if the packet and its packaging well beforehand. Have a check on how you’re going to open the pipette (or in the case of Advantage screw top tube). Is it a snap-top? Does it need to be waggled from side to side?

Opening the actual pipette so you can apply it normally requires both hands, and when you’re holding a struggling cat that’s two hands you just don’t have. So if it is a snap-top pipette, maybe bend the break-off bit a couple of times to weaken it. Loosen the screw top. Or do you have a stable flat surface in arms reach? If so, you can stand a fully opened pipette on its end so nothing leaks out and have ready to use instantly.

The 5 key steps to applying a spot on

Finding the skin

To be effective a spot on needs to reach the skin. On cats and dogs with thin coats this is easy, but on those with a thick undercoat or just wildly long fur finding the skin can be difficult. Have a practice on a non-spot on day to see if damp fingers will help keep the fur parted and so make application easier. This doesn’t mean soaking your pet’s neck, just getting enough moisture on your fingers to help the fur lay flat and leave a target gap. This effectiveness of this trick depends on the pet and their fur – but it can also prolong the process and which would be a bad thing.

The Frontline Plus people show how it easy it is - with a very well behaved dog!

Shoulder to shoulder

Spot ons are applied to the shoulder blade area so that your pet cannot lick it off, or wipe at it with a paw. Finding such a spot can be particularly tricky for a cat, as they can bend every which way when they want to. It is best to apply the spot on in two places if you can; this increases the skin surface area being treated, which in turn speeds up absorption. And for smaller dogs and cats there can sometimes simply be too much fluid to apply in a single spot.

Can’t touch this

Avoid touching the area you’ve just spotted on. You may be tempted to ‘rub it in’ as you would a cream or moisturiser – don’t! It will absorb just fine on its own and while not exactly toxic the fluid will make your hands smell. As with any treatment, once you’re done, wash your hands thoroughly.

If you have multiple pets, it is important to keep an eye out for group grooming. If you’ve got pets that groom each other, then discourage this just after you’ve applied a pipette.

Super dry

This is either the easiest or most difficult aspect of spot on application. For an indoors only cat, it is a piece of cake. For a dog that likes to walk for at least an hour, and it happens to be lashing down with rain, it is more difficult. Practically, the longer that they can stay dry for in the 24 hours after application, the more chance the ingredients have of being absorbed and therefore being effective. If they get a bit damp running into the garden for late-night pee, then don’t fret. But if you have to walk them in rain, then maybe try a coat that day to keep the worst of the weather off?

And obviously no swimming. If they are going to beach or have a hydrotherapy session booked, just wait until after to apply the spot on.

Make it monthly

No matter how much care you put into applying your pet’s spot on – if you don’t do it as often as recommended on the pack (usually monthly, but read the leaflet to be sure) it won’t be effective. So be diligent. Why not make the last Sunday of the month “Spot On Day” or put a reminder on your phone? Get this habit and your pet will be free of worms, fleas or whatever the spot on is treating – and so be much, much happier. Apart from on the day of application.

This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!