Fleas, Fleas, Fleas… If you’ve ever had a pet, you’ve probably had a run-in with fleas. There are so many excellent products on the market today to control, kill and/or prevent flea (and tick) infestations on your pet. What works on your pet depends upon what type of pet you have, the environment (inside vs outside as well as other animal exposure), where you live (city vs country as well as what part of the country you live in). I’ve found over the years that for cats you can usually use whatever form of flea control (topical, oral, collar) that suits you, but dogs are a whole different story! Is you dog long or short-haired, does it have an undercoat as well (Husky or Great Pyrenees), and how large is your dog and does it have skin issues that make a topical treatment not work very well due to poor absorption. There are many factors that influence what treatment will work the best for your particular pet and there’s no way that I can list all the different forms, so I will discuss those with which I am most familiar.
Topical Treatments for Fleas
Flea shampoos have been available for a long time. They work quite simply to kill the fleas on the animal but do not provide much long term control. Most shampoos contain pyrethrins such as Mycodex flea and tick shampoo
, but more natural ones such as Tropiclean brands contain essential oils to provide natural flea control;
these are very nice and safe for very young and small pets. Some people will even use Dawn dishwashing liquid, but it will often dry the skin out on some animals.
Flea powders were popular in the past before the topical and oral treatments were available and worked quite well for most (occasionally cats will react). It can often be used on the bedding and carpets as well as the pets. The most common powders use Carbaryl or a combination of pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide as their main ingredients. Make sure to read the labels thoroughly as some powders are only to be used on the environment and NOT on the animal. Some of these include Fleabusters and Tropiclean (again all natural).
There are also a variety of environmental sprays and bombs, but care must be taken when used around pets especially cats (and birds-especially with many of the bombs). Another house treatment that I have used in Twenty Mule Team Borax laundry detergent on carpets, leaving it on for about 15 minutes and then vacuuming. This works well and is more safe especially if you have young children in the household.
I will only mention flea dips briefly as I have had no personal success with any of these and have seen lots of reactions especially in cats. Paramite dip worked well but was taken off the market some years ago. Other dips such as Lyme dip are available, but I do not feel they are user-friendly (bad smells left behind on the pet!).
and Bravecto topical. The first three of these are over the counter which means you do not need a prescription to buy them, while the last three are prescription products, so contact your veterinarian if you want to purchase these. Most of these last for 1 month of protection except for Bravecto which is labeled for a 12-week duration. There are also a variety of generics available such as Pet Armor that has the same active ingredient as Frontline. As long as your pet’s skin is healthy, these topicals will work well. The only reactions that I have personally seen with these products are irritation at the application site (occasionally takes the hair off but it grows back). These products carry instructions against using on sick or debilitated animals and are to be placed on the neck where the pet cannot lick it off. The ones I have seen lick at it only slobber slightly and recover within a few minutes. I actually had one client put Advantage II into the cat’s mouth and report that it didn’t like the taste!!–no long-term problems were seen which amazed me! I have also had one client who had her own skin reaction that looked like chemical burns!
There are many different types of flea collars on the market and they have been available for years. Some last longer than others and some are only for dogs. My favorite products in this class are Seresto (safe for dogs and cats-see my review on it in an earlier post https://ourhealthyanimals.com/seresto-collars-is-your-pet-protected ) and Scalibor (dogs only). Preventic collars work well but are only labeled for ticks (although they may work against fleas). A Preventic Plus collar was available a few years ago which was labeled for both fleas and ticks, but was taken off the market–not sure why as I never had any bad reactions when I used them. The Preventic collar is still available but is only labelled for tick protection.
Injectable Flea Treatments
The only injectable product available now is Program, a subcutaneous injection labeled for cats and can be used in kittens as young as 6 weeks and lasts 6 months. It has lufenuron as it’s main active ingredient which is also in Sentinel and Sentinel Spectrum oral tablets (will be discussed below). All of these products are prescription.
There are now several different oral products available. Some work immediately, but have no specified long-term activity, namely Capstar (3 available sizes: cat, small dog and large dog) and its generic equivalents that contain nitenpyram. These are what I call a “pill bath”. They are nice for those animals that are difficult to bathe either because of size (150 pound Great Pyrenees is no fun to bathe!) or attitude (my thoughts are on cats as most are quite the challenge to bathe!). The following list will have the active ingredient in parentheses. They include Nexgard (afoxolaner), Simparica (sarolaner), Credelio (lotilaner) and Bravecto (fluralaner). These are only labeled for dogs and Simparica and Bravecto can only be used in dogs 6 months of age and older. Comfortis (spinosad) is labeled for cats and dogs. Sentinel (lufenuron plus interceptor for heartworm prevention) and Sentinel Spectrum (also has praziquantel for tapeworm treatment) are labelled for dogs and last for 1 month. These products are also only available with a prescription with the exception of Capstar.
As I have said above, you must determine which product works the best for your pet or pets or which you prefer to use if more than one works well. Pets with skin problems seem to do better with one of the oral chews. Some people like collars and some don’t, so use a product that you both like and works well with your pet. In my experience, almost any product will work on the average cat, but dogs can be quite a challenge to figure out what works (I prefer the pills to topical in my own dogs). I hope this information has been helpful and answered some questions you may have had. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me and I will get back to you. Or if you have questions on a product that wasn’t mentioned, let me know and I will get information for you.