There have never been better flea control products available to pet owners than there are now. Provided that products are used as labeled and applied properly and to all pets in the household, most pet owners should be able to prevent and/or get rid of any fleas if any appear on their pet(s).
The pitfalls of flea control – why flea good flea products seem to fail:
Entire contents of a tube of a flea product do not make it onto the pet’s skin. This can happen if the pet moves before the product can be completely applied, if hair gets in the way (hair not parted), if a tube meant for one pet is split for use on two pets (that does not not work!).
Product is washed off by bathing. Some flea products can be inadvertently removed by bathing, especially with medicated shampoos. Recommend no medicated bathing within 2 days of flea products applied to the skin
All pets in the house are not being treated. This can happen because not all dogs and cats will show discomfort when they have fleas. Especially pets allergic to flea bites will scratch incessantly because they are having an allergic reaction to flea bites; the non-allergic pets are not as distressed by the presence of fleas so they appear to be OK. The logical deduction is that only the scratching pet is having problem with fleas, because nobody else is scratching, so only that pet gets the flea product. If there are pets not being treated, fleas on the untreated pet(s) will breed, eggs will fall into the environment and the flea life cycle will continue in the home.
Unlimited exposure to newly hatched fleas. Shaded areas with soft soil, sandy soil, or shady mulched flower beds are great places for flea eggs to hatch into larvae, pupae, and then into adult fleas. If other untreated animals shed flea eggs into these areas, they will hatch. Even if your pet is properly treated with a flea product, the flea will die after it bites your pet. However, your pet still got bitten by the flea and that is important for your pet if she/he is allergic to flea saliva. Your pet will continue to itch.
Treatment is stopped too soon. Flea products kill fleas on the pet, but they obviously can’t kill immature developing fleas in the environment until those fleas hatch and jump onto the pet. Your pet must continue to receive the flea treatment at the proper frequency until enough time has passed that all fleas in the environment have hatched, bitten, then died.
Remember, fleas prefer dogs and cats. There can be many fleas on your pets and you may never get bitten, because your pets are attracting the hatched fleas away from you. Just because you aren’t being bitten does not mean fleas are not present in the home or on your pets.
Flea products are insecticides. Although most are among the safest possible for use for mammals, they can have side effects. Read the information that should accompany fleal products and understand potential side effects in case your pet is one of the few that has a side effect. Also, do NOT use a product that is not approved for cats on a cat.
Ask your veterinarian for advice on which products seem to work the best and seem to be the safest.
Many flea products also contain ingredients that can be helpful against ticks. Ticks are important parasites too. Unless you live in a part of the country where ticks are rare (if such a place exists), any dog or cat that spends any time outdoors should receive a product that protects against ticks (generally that is a combined flea/tick product).
Many people ask why they should use a flea product on their cats when their cats stay indoors only and they do not have a dog. It is possible that in this situation, you might not need a flea product. However, if any cat shows unexplained itchiness, hair pulling, over-grooming, I recommend all cats receive 2-3 applications of a good flea product, just to be safe, before spending time looking for other causes of the problem.
The list of available flea products is long and seems to grow every year – these product names are used in the USA. Some products can be used on both dogs and cats. Some products are for use in dogs only. Read the label or ask your veterinarian for assistance whether safe to use for cats. Some products like Trifexis can help with some intestinal parasites.
Topical Flea Products:
- Advantage – fleas only
- Advantix – fleas and ticks, dogs only
- Frontline Plus – fleas and ticks
- Vectra for Cats and Kittens – fleas and ticks
- Vectra 3D – fleas and ticks, dogs only
- Oral Products:
- Capstar – fleas only
- Comfortis – dogs only, fleas only
- Trifexis – dogs only, fleas only
Dr. Flea: yes there really is someone who deserves that title. His name is Dr. Michael Dryden at the University of Kansas. His website can provide a lot of detailed information on flea control: http://www.drmichaeldryden.com/