Fleas thrive indoors in the winter months by bedding down in your carpet or furniture, where a female will lay up to 50 eggs per day. They can infect our pets with tapeworms or dangerous blood-borne parasites. More commonly, they cause allergic skin reactions. Many pet owners think they can tell when their pet has fleas, but if you actually see one – there are likely many more and they have probably been in your home for awhile!
Indoor-only cats can also get fleas from exposure to dogs or because humans bring them inside on our shoes and pant legs. Once established in your home, it can be really difficult and expensive to eradicate a flea infestation.
But, fleas are preventable! The Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends that all pets be placed on year-round preventative medication, regardless of indoor status and region of the country.
How Does Flea Control Medication Work?
Most flea preventative products work as a flea neurotoxin, paralyzing the flea after it takes a blood meal from your pet. These medications are deadly for parasites, but are very safe for our pets and for us to be around. If you have concerns about a particular drug’s level of safety, visit the manufacturer’s website for detailed information and ask your veterinarian to review it for you.
Talk to your veterinarian regarding which medication, such as Frontline or PetArmor, is best for your pet. Have your veterinary clinic demonstrate the proper way to apply the medicine. For topical preparations, make sure you part the hair all the way to the skin before applying. Otherwise the liquid may only coat the fur and will never get a chance to work its magic on the skin. Some drugs will be made less effective if your bathe your pet right away or take him swimming.
Some of these products are available over-the-counter while others are prescription-only. Your veterinarian’s office is the safest place to purchase these flea control medications because they are less likely to be counterfeit or expired and repackaged. If you decide to purchase them online, make sure that the site is reputable, accredited, and legal. According to the FDA and the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, a pharmacy cannot dispense a prescription drug without a valid prescription from a licensed veterinarian. The FDA’s brochure titled Online Pet Pharmacies states that “neither the drug maker nor your veterinarian will stand behind the product’s guarantee if you purchase the product online.”
It is tempting to purchase low-cost over-the-counter products from the local pet supply store. Never assume that a product must be safe because it is on a shelf in a store. Get your veterinarian’s opinion of that particular product prior to purchasing and find out which of these he or she would avoid.
Flea Control and Adverse Effects
NEVER apply a dog product to a cat, and keep your dog away from your cat following product application. There are ingredients in some dog products, such as permethrins and pyrethrins, which can be toxic to cats. These chemicals can cause seizures or muscle twitching and are life-threatening.
Always follow the label instructions and your veterinarian’s advice regarding proper usage. Adverse effects to watch for include superficial skin irritation at the administration site, gastrointestinal upset, or hypersalivation (especially if the pet got any medication in her mouth). If you notice your pet acting strange following administration, call your veterinarian immediately.