How to Control and Prevent Fleas
Spring's arrival ushers in the return of blue skies, sunny days, blooming flowers, and...flea infestations! Even if you don't see live fleas, your pet could still be getting bit and your home could still become infested. For every flea you actually see on your pet, there could be hundreds more that you do not see. Read on for flea facts and tips on how to prevent, remove and treat fleas.
Spring's arrival ushers in the return of blue skies, sunny days, blooming flowers, and...flea infestations! Even if you don't see live fleas, your pet could still be getting bit and your home could still become infested. For every flea you actually see on your pet, there could be hundreds more that you do not see; after all, a female flea can lay 50 eggs per day.
Fleas love the warm temperatures and humidity of spring and summer but are also perfectly happy living in our homes when it is cold outside. The best way to prevent a flea problem is to apply a topical monthly agent to the back of the pet's neck (oral products are also available).
Do I really need to apply flea control every month?
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) publishes guidelines to aid veterinarians in the prevention of internal and external parasites. The council's current flea control recommendation is to administer flea preventatives all year long. This will not only keep your pet comfortable and prevent secondary bacterial infections due to itching, but will also help prevent parasites caused by fleas, such as tapeworms and cat scratch disease (an infection that causes swelling of the lymph nodes after an animal scratch).
Don't forget about pets with allergies! Many pets will be allergic to flea bites in addition to their air-borne or food allergies. These pets may not ever appear to have fleas, but could have bald spots, scabs or skin infections. The only way to keep these dogs and cats comfortable is to apply the preventative every month (and some vets will recommend re-dosing every three weeks instead of every four).
That makes sense for dogs, but what if my cat never goes outside?
Indoor-only cats get fleas, too. The humans living with the cat are often the culprits, because they bring fleas and eggs into the house on our shoes and pant legs. There is also high potential for flea infestation if the cat lives with a dog or another cat that goes outside occasionally.
What should I use to treat and prevent fleas?
Veterinary-approved products (considered to be safe and effective) for dogs and cats include Advantage or Advantage Multi, Frontline or Frontline Plus, Program, ProMeris, Revolution, and Vectra. Additional options for dogs only include Comfortis, Iverhart Plus, Proticall and Sentinel.
Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation and avoid over-the-counter products. Many of them are toxic to cats. Flea collars should also be avoided because they are not effective. They typically cause the fleas to jump further away from the collar (to the animal's rear end) but don't eliminate them.
Are flea preventatives safe?
Today's (vet-approved) flea products are significantly safer than the chemicals used 20 years ago. The current products act on the central nervous system of the flea and have little, if any, effect on humans. The majority of these products are safe to use as early as eight weeks of age.
There are many anecdotal reports of "natural alternatives" to the standard flea control medications, including brewer's yeast and essential oils. Unfortunately, essential oils are toxic to cats and should never be used on them or around them. Brewer's yeast is nontoxic but isn't effective.
If you have trouble eliminating fleas from your pet or your home, you may need to treat the environment. Fleabusters is a sodium polyborate powder that can be used to treat the home and is generally considered safe. Launder the pet's bedding and vacuum all carpet and upholstery in the house frequently, because fleas cannot survive the mechanical trauma of a vacuum cleaner.
Fleas are an unavoidable part of being a pet-owner. The best way to minimize your risk is to apply a safe, veterinary-approved product and apply it every month. If you are having problems eradicating fleas from your pet and your home, consult your veterinarian for more information.
For more on controlling fleas, see petside's origional video: Fighting the War on Fleas