Do Flea Collars Work?

Flea collars were among the first products designed to get rid of fleas.  It’s nearly fifty years since the flea collar hit the market, so is it a tried and tested reliable flea control method or has it simply gone past its sell-by date?

This post is about:

  • How flea collars are designed to work
  • Problems with flea collars 

The Development of Flea Collars 

Flea collars were invented by an entomologist, Robert Goulding Jnr, who worked at Oregon State University.  Mr Goulding noticed during his research that cattle rubbed themselves up against posts.  This observation led him to develop a bag impregnated with pesticides that could be put on the post, giving the animals a dose of pesticides when they rubbed against it.  He later worked on time-release pesticides on a resin base, which led to the flea collar.  Flea collars were first sold in 1964.

The Theory Behind the Flea Collar

Flea collars work by releasing a pesticide to kill the fleas.  In some cases this is a toxic (to fleas) gas and in others the chemical is absorbed into the pet’s subcutaneous fat. [break]

Generally, flea collars are said to be effective for up to 12 months, slowly releasing the pesticide throughout that time.  There are different types of flea collars for cats and dogs as well as for different sized animals.  Flea collars are not recommended for young kittens. [break]

Read more about safely getting rid of fleas from young kittens

Flea Collar Problems

In my view, flea collars are not an effective method of flea control and there are many people who would go so far as to say that they are actually dangerous.

  • Flea collars don’t work as a complete flea control regime because they only work to kill adult fleas in the neck and head area.  That’s two problems right there.  Firstly, adult fleas on your pet are only a small proportion of the fleas in your environment and secondly, the fleas can still live on your pet away from the head and neck; the tail area is an ideal place.
  • Many cat and dog owners report that the chemicals in flea collars irritate their pet’s skin.  In some cases owners report that their pet has lost fur beneath the collar.
  • Flea collars need to be worn all the time to provide any protection against fleas.  This is particularly an issue if you have a cat that roams outdoors since the collars have no elasticity in them and there are plenty of reports of cats being strangled by getting caught by their collars.
  • The pesticide used in many flea collars is tetrachorovinphos, usually sold under the trade name of Rabon, is an organophosphate and there are many pet owners who feel that it has caused illness and death in their animals.  The HartzVictims are one group that campaign for the removal of tretrachorovinphos from Hartz products.  I have no personal experience with Hartz products, but find some of the anecdotal evidence from pet owners alarming;  I shan’t be using it (this pesticide is used in some sprays as well as in flea collars).

Leaving aside the question of whether flea collars can make your pets ill or kill them, flea collars are ineffective.  In their day, when there was no alternative, they may have helped repel some fleas (and may well still do so).  However, the fact that they usually only kill adult fleas (some flea collars do contain IGRs – insect growth regulators) on part of your pet’s body, makes them an outdated method of flea control.  Modern methods of getting rid of fleas have moved way beyond flea collars so in my view, wave good bye to them.

If you are trying to get rid of fleas effectively, you need to follow a consistent regime of treating your pet with a good quality flea treatment and, equally importantly, treat your home.  I say it a lot, but you won’t get eradicate a flea problem by just treating your animal, you must regularly vacuum your home.

Read more about getting rid of fleas from your home

On the subject of vacuum cleaning, here’s an unusual use for a flea collar.  Ideally, you should dispose of your vacuum cleaner bags outside your home every time you hoover.  If you are likely to forget, put a flea collar into the vacuum cleaner bag to kill off any fleas that may emerge from hoovered up eggs or larvae.


  • Flea collars are one of the first flea treatment products
  • Flea collars have only limited effectiveness because they kill only adult fleas around the neck and head area
  • Some people feel that the chemicals used in flea collars are dangerous to pets
  • Flea collars will not get rid of a flea infestation
  • Use a modern flea treatment product for your pet, regularly vacuum your home and you will get rid of fleas

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