Each year in springtime, one of the most constant and consistent nuisance to pets and their owners rears its ugly head- fleas. Fleas can cause a host of problems and headaches for both you and your pet, and it can be confusing trying to choose the best dog flea treatment. In recent years pet owners have seen an exponential rise in their local flea populations, but with a multi-layered approach to flea control, you and your pet can enjoy life flea-free.
Before the invention of topical medications, pet owners were forced to control fleas through insecticidal flea dips and sprays. Aside from being smelly and even downright dangerous to the health of pets and the people applying these medicines, they only helped to take care of fleas after they became a problem, and did nothing to help prevent fleas from taking residence on your pet in the first place.
Thankfully, topical medications that have been released in the last decade have revolutionized the way we can treat fleas. Topical medications such as Frontline, Advantage and Promeris all act in similar ways, preventing and repelling fleas, and killing fleas that do land on your pet. The key to making these products work to the best of their abilities is in the application. Because topical flea medications work in conjunction with the natural oils in your pet’s skin, wait two days after bathing to apply the medications, and do not allow swimming or bathing for 4 days after application. In the summer, or in the face of severe flea infestations, Frontline or Advantage can be safely applied at three-week intervals to ensure effectiveness. In addition, these products can be rotated so that fleas in the environment do not become resistant to one particular product.
Although topical, one-spot type medications like Frontline and Advantage are a great improvement over the flea dips and sprays of yesteryear, they still require the use of liquids that can be spilled, or rub off on furniture and children. Recently, a new medication was introduced that both kills and prevents fleas on dogs for a full month, with a simple chewable tablet. This medication, called Comfortis, is a prescription medication available from your vet, and the active ingredient has the added benefit of being environmentally friendly. Comfortis can also be used in conjunction with topical medications to provide an added layer of prevention for pets with high-risk of flea infestations, such as those who go swimming frequently, or are exposed at doggy-day-care, etc.
Along with topical products that kill adult fleas on your pet, another valuable product in preventing fleas are medications that contain and insect growth regulator. These medications halt the life cycle of fleas, by preventing live fleas from laying viable eggs, effectively cutting off the life cycle of the flea. These medications, such as Sentinel, are not a good choice for instantly controlling a flea infestation, but are excellent for ensuring long-term flea control.
I Found a Flea on My Dog, What Should I Do?
When you find fleas on your pet, it can be a terrible discovery- and you want to get rid of them as soon as possible. Capstar is a pill that begins to work on your pet within 30 minutes after administration, and kills 98% of adult fleas within 4 hours. Although the effects of Capstar last only 24 hours, it can safely be given as often as once daily for extreme situations. Capstar is especially helpful for pets that frequent areas with fleas, such as Doggy Day Care or the beach, for helping to get immediate flea infestations under control, and for pets with flea allergies. Capstar is extremely safe, and can be given in conjunction with other types of flea control.
One of the most overlooked parts of controlling fleas is to control the environment. When fleas are discovered on your pet, treating your pet is very important- but if you don’t treat the environment your pet lives in, the fleas will continue to thrive and flourish in your home and yard, constantly re-infesting your pet.
Vacuuming your home is one of the most important ways to control and help eradicate fleas. Make sure you regularly vacuum carpets, floors, and especially areas around where your pet sleeps. If fleas are found on your pet, you must vacuum and wash all areas your pets sleep, such as pet beds, dog beds, sofas, etc.
There are many commercial preparations for treating your home and yard for fleas. Many of these are insecticicidal based products that can be hazardous to you and your pets health. Using them judiciously can be an effective way of eradicating fleas in the environment, but ensure that you follow label directions to make their usage as safe as possible.
In many areas of the country, fleas are becoming a year-round problem. Choosing an appropriate medication, or combination of medications to provide the best coverage for your pet can be tricky. Your veterinarian can help you to select the right dog flea treatments to keep your pet, your home, and your family flea-free.