Preventing Flea Infestation

Fleas are a serious problem this year. Our flea season started earlier than usual, and hit suddenly, taking pet owners off-guard. Flea infestation is a serious problem that can be easily prevented; the fewer flea-infested animals that need dips and treatment, the better. Consider the following information on popular methods of flea treatment.

Many owners prefer topical flea treatments, because they are readily available, fit into a wide range of price options, and prevent fleas, ticks, and more. It’s difficult to keep up with lots of popular brands releasing a new topical medication every few years; fleas develop immunity to insecticides, and the need for new formulas is constant. I am going to talk about Advantix and Frontline, because they are the brands that you see in most stores.

Advantix II is the most recent topical product from Bayer, a month of waterproof protection that repels and kills fleas, ticks, lice, mosquitos, and biting flies. It’s active ingredients are Imidacloprid and Permethrin. Because Permethrin is toxic to cats, it is extremely important to only use this product on dogs; Bayer’s most recent topical medication for cats is Advantage II. Advantage II is a mix of Imidacloprid and Pyriproxyfen, and is waterproof protection against all life stages of fleas.

Frontline and Frontline + (the newest version from Merial) are topical flea treatments whose active ingredients are Fipronil and S-methoprene. It is also a waterproof treatment that kills adult fleas and ticks, flea eggs and flea larvae. It does not provide protection from lice, mosquitos or flies, but is typically a bit less expensive than Advantix II or Advantage II. Both products are fast acting, with Frontline + killing adult fleas in 12 hours and Advantix II killing all life stages of fleas within 12 hours. From what I’ve read, the Advantix II is the superior topical flea treatment available, as it kills the widest variety of parasites and insects.

If you don’t like the idea of liquid flea medication, there are plenty of other options available, including flea collars and oral medication. In times gone by, flea collars were always the cheap (and usually ineffective) option, but technology has given flea collars a serious boost. The latest flea collar product is the Soresto collar by Bayer, an eight month dose of flea and tick medication designed to slowly release from the collar. Soresto collars are waterproof, washable, and don’t fade or lose potency with exposure to sunlight. They kill fleas within 24 hours of initial application, and ticks within 48 hours. Soresto collars are slim, adjustable, and built with a breakaway feature in the event of an emergency. The main reasons to use this kind of product are because it requires only one “application” for eight months, making it easy, and cost-effective. The down side is that, like any other medicine applied externally, you aren’t guaranteed full-body coverage. That being said, they’re extremely popular right now, and I hear great things about them, word-of-mouth.

The last type of medication that I want to talk about is oral medication, or pills. Some oral flea medications are for immediate response to an existing flea infestation, and not a preventative, so it’s important that you know which type to get. Some, like Comfortis, require a prescription from your veterinarian. The perks of oral medication are mess-free application, guaranteed full-body protection, and the fastest response time if your pet has a bad infestation. The down sides would crop up if your dog is tough to give pills to, or if you choose a pill that requires a prescription. Pills can often be just as costly, if not more so, than drops. As with topical medications, dosage is extremely important, so you should ask your vet if you have any doubts about how much medication your pet needs.

It’s important not to leave your pet’s body infested with fleas. Fleas and ticks prevent a huge risk to your animal’s health and comfort. Prolonged exposure to fleas can lead to anemia, risk of tapeworms, itching, biting and generally a terrible discomfort to your animals. In addition to this, fleas multiply faster than you would believe.

Fleas thrive in a warm, moist environment; they are parasites, and need a blood meal to be able to reproduce. An adult female flea can produce about 50 eggs in a day. Flea eggs can hatch in 2 days if the conditioners are optimal, or in 2 weeks if it’s colder and dryer. Flea eggs become larvae, a blind baby parasite that feeds on “flea dirt”, which is a pre-digested blood that adult fleas pass. It’s flea poop. It’s the tiny black specks that you can see on your dog. Flea larvae, like eggs, are white. They spend 5-20 days as larvae before spinning a cocoon, where they will stay until the develop into an adult flea. This stage could last an incredibly long time, again depending on temperature conditions. Cocoons are sticky, allowing the fleas to hide deep inside your carpets, and to be protected from insecticides. (This is why some summers are worse for fleas than others: too hot or cold will kill them, as well as dry conditions) They emerge when they detect a potential host, either through detecting vibrations (movement), high carbon dioxide levels (breathing) or detect body heat.

After emerging from the cocoon, the adult fleas will begin to feed from their host within a few hours, and can breed and lay eggs within a few days. Adult fleas can live anywhere between a few weeks and a few months, as long as they have a food source. They are flat-bodied with a brownish-black hard shell similar to a cockroach, making them difficult to crush.

When you detect fleas, eggs, or larvae, your first priority should be to protect your pet from further infestation. Remove your dog’s toys and bedding, and wash them with hot, soapy water. A flea bath or dip is a good first move; wash your pet using a medicated flea shampoo (we like and recommend BioGroom, and Synergy’s Groomers Blend Flea and Tick Shampoo) or original Dawn dishwashing liquid. Begin soaping your pet at the head and rear end, working your way towards the middle. This usually prevents fleas from escaping to other parts of the dog. If you’re using a medicated shampoo, make sure to read the label, as many companies suggest a waiting period between a flea bath or dip and the application of topical or oral flea medications.

Because fleas spread and reproduce very quickly, your whole house and property will need to be treated for fleas. Carpeting, upholstery, and leather are all good places for fleas to next. Treatments for these surfaces can be costly and time consuming; many home owners like to use foggers to treat their house room by room. We recommend Zodiac brand foggers and Carpet and Upholstery Spray. Foggers require special consideration, in that the areas being treated have to be left empty (no pets or people) for 3+ hours. Clothing and bedding need to be washed, either to kill existing fleas, or to wash out the chemicals that foggers leave behind.

On top of the horrible inconvenience of treating your home for fleas, adult fleas will jump out of carpets and bedding to bite humans. Nobody wants to deal with this problem! The best way to never have to deal with the horror of a house full of bugs is to choose the right preventative medication, and apply it on-schedule from spring through fall.

-Allison

SOURCES:

Understanding the Flea Life Cycle

http://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/evr_multi_understanding_the_flea_life_cycle?page=2

Article on Oral Flea Meds

http://www.petcarerx.com/article/oral-flea-control-flea-pills-for-dogs-and-cats/121

Frontline +

http://www.frontline.com/Pages/About.aspx

Comfortis

http://www.petcarerx.com/comfortis-flea-preventative/13044

Undestanding Flea Medications

http://www.drsfostersmith.com/pic/article.cfm?aid=521

Blog: Hartz, Adams, and Biospot

http://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2009/april/hartz-picked-wrong-fight-timebut-i-apologize-nonetheless-6760

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