Fleas are small insects that live off of the blood they receive from biting your pets. Only about 10% of adult fleas live on your animals, the other 90% can be found in the environment (often inside your home). Flea pupae can lie dormant for upwards of 6 months, waiting to hatch into adult fleas. It is because of this that flea infestations can be so difficult to eradicate. Fleas on your pet can cause a flea allergy dermatitis resulting in severe itching, grooming, and secondary bacterial infections. Fleas can also cause a tapeworm infestation through the ingestion of tapeworm-infected fleas during grooming, as well as anemia in young and debilitated animals. Symptoms of fleas include seeing flea dirt (flea manure), flea bites on your own skin, excessive grooming or hair loss, and itching (especially around the tail base).
A preventative flea product should be used on all dogs and cats from at least April-November. Even indoor cats are capable of contracting fleas as the adults and eggs can be brought into the home on other animals and people. There are several flea preventative alternatives available here at River Road Veterinary Clinic. The most commonly used medication is Frontline Plus. This is a topical once monthly product that is safe for cats and dogs. It is transported through the lipid layer in the skin and kills all life stages of fleas. Revolution is another topical once monthly product that is safe for cats and dogs. It is applied between the shoulder blades and enters the bloodstream through the skin and kills all life stages of fleas. Activyl TickPlus is another topical medication that is applied monthly and spreads through the lipid layer in the skin killing all life stages of fleas, and can be used only on dogs. Trifexis is an oral tablet that is safe for dogs only. It is given once a month and enters the bloodstream killing adult fleas and preventing infestation. Comfortis is another oral alternative that is available for both dogs and cats. It enters the bloodstream and effectively kills all adult fleas on your pet for 30 days.
*DO NOT USE BIOSPOT, SEARGENTS, OR HARTZ PRODUCTS! These spot-on and shampoo/powder products do not work, and have been known to cause severe local reactions, tremors, seizures, and even death. These reactions can be especially severe in cats. Several approved products are prescription only, and others are available over the counter, but it is always best to buy your flea products through a licensed veterinarian. Frontline offers free customer support that can include a money-back guarantee and payment to cover the cost of treating your home for fleas if their product is ineffective. If you are not 100% satisfied with Revolution it is money-back guaranteed. These guarantees are only applicable if you have purchased your product through a licensed veterinarian.
If there are fleas on your pet, there are fleas in your pet’s environment. This most often means that there are fleas in your home. All pets in the home must be treated with a flea product for at least three consecutive months. Sometimes treating your pet for fleas is not enough to completely eradicate them, and it is necessary to treat your home as well. There are several products that can help you with this sometimes daunting task as well as some tips and tricks. Knockout foggers are safe to use in households with both cats and dogs. The Knockout fogger treats your home for all life stages of fleas. It requires 2 hours of evacuation from the house and 30 minutes of ventilation. The Knockout area spray is also safe to use in dog and cat households. The Knockout area spray will kill adult fleas as well as larval fleas in the environment. The area spray can be used to kill fleas in hard-to-reach areas. All pets should be removed from the home prior to spraying until the area is dry.
In addition to using a household flea product to treat your home it is helpful to thoroughly vacuum your entire home (including wood floors) as the vibration from the vacuum can stimulate dormant eggs to hatch. All bedding and upholstery should also be washed in hot water. Area sprays should be used in dark places where fleas are likely to hide such as under cushions, furniture, beds, in wood piles and between cracks in wooden floors and baseboards. Multiple treatments may be necessary depending upon the severity of the infestation.
If you still can’t get rid of the fleas on your pet, please contact your veterinarian. Many animals suffer from flea allergy dermatitis, which can cause intense itching from even one flea bite due to an allergy to flea saliva. Often times in these cases special shampoos, steroids or antibiotics are necessary to give your pet relief. Several of the approved products can also be used together, which can be extremely helpful in conquering the difficult battle with fleas. Always consult your veterinarian before combining multiple flea products.