HELP!! My pets have fleas. What should I do??
Fleas are the most common external parasite of dogs and cats. Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats! The ideal flea control program utilizes products that target the various stages of the flea life cycle, not only the adult fleas on the pet. In order to help you select the most appropriate products to achieve a flea-free existence for an allergic pet, we will start by telling you about the life cycle of the flea.
THE LIFE CYCLE OF THE FLEA
Eggs: are laid in the hair coat and are designed to fall off your pet. They are resistant to insecticides but susceptible to various Insect Growth Regulators.
Larvae: develop in the pet's environment. They like areas with low light and high moisture. Larvae are susceptible to traditional insecticides and insect growth regulators. Larvae eventually spin cocoons and become pupa.
Pupae: are resistant to freezing, desiccation (drying), and insecticides. Pupae can lie dormant for up to 9 months; they are stimulated to hatch as young adults by vibration (walking on the carpet), warm temperatures and increased CO2 (carbon dioxide) from your pet's breath. Normally,
hatching occurs when a dog or cat is near and the new flea finds the pet within seconds.
Adults: only account for 3-5 % of the of the flea population. This is why treating the environment is so important. Completion of the life cycle from egg to adult often varies from 2-4 weeks. Adult fleas cannot survive or lay eggs without a blood meal, but once it is feeding on a dog or cat, the female can lay 40-50 eggs per day and up to 3,000 in their 3-week lifetime. Newly hatched fleas need to start feeding within 2 days. They start to lay eggs 2 days after their first blood meal. The optimum temperature range for flea survival is 70- 85F and the optimum humidity is 80%.
FLEA CONTROL RECOMMENDATIONS:
For the flea allergic patient 100% flea control, at all times, is required to remain itch-free. Even very minimal exposure may be sufficient to perpetuate itching in an allergic patient (1-2 bites per week is enough!).
THE MOST IMPORTANT RULES FOR FLEA CONTROL ARE:
1) ALL pets must be treated
2) Indoor and outdoor environments must be treated
By far the best option for environmental treatment and control is to enlist the services of an exterminator to treat both the indoor and outdoor environments. Household Foggers and “Flea Bombs” are not effective means of treating indoor or outdoor environments. Other guidelines
for pet and environmental treatment are listed and discussed below.
FLEA CONTROL PRODUCTS AND PROCEDURES:
Flea populations and treatment protocols can be monitored quite simply using a flea comb. Record the number of fleas caught each day to determine if the population is increasing or decreasing.
Treating the House: Vacuum all the floors thoroughly, especially in the corners, along with the wall edges, under the furniture and other low traffic areas of the house. Flea larvae survive best in low-light low-traffic areas. Be sure to vacuum the floors, carpets, and furniture frequently using a vacuum with good suction and discard the bag after each time, as flea eggs and pupae can survive and hatch in a vacuum bag. Discard or frequently wash your pet's bedding and the rugs that they lay on. Steam clean the carpets if possible, which will slow down flea development and allow flea larvae to dry up. Use VIRBAC KNOCKOUT E.S.® Area treatment to treat the carpet after everything has been cleaned. Read and follow label directions for use, DO NOT APPLY TO PET.
Treating the Yard: Use BAYER ADVANCED® Complete Insect Killer (the same active ingredient in Advantage® topical pet treatment) once a month in the shady areas of the yard. Apply in the evening and allow to dry overnight before allowing your pets back into the treated areas. May
need to be reapplied every 7-14 days. Read and follow label directions for use, DO NOT APPLY TO PET.
Treating the Pets: There are products that are designed to kill the adult fleas, sterilize the eggs that are laid, prevent the growth of the larvae or a combination of these. As your Veterinarian, we can help you chose the best products to fit your needs for flea treatment, control, and prevention.
Unfortunately, many of the topical product previously used for flea control is no longer effective for the full period they are labeled for – and are not able to cut the flea lifecycle. Products we are no longer recommending include: Advantage, Activyl, Frontline and any of their generic products available over the counter.
The preventatives for dogs that are most effective at this time are oral products – in the Isoxazaline drug class:
NEXGARD® (AFOXOLANER) from Merial: This flavored chew is safe for puppies as young as 8 weeks of age, and begins killing adult fleas within hours of administration, and is shown in studies to have killed all adult fleas on a pet within 24 hours. Because of this rapid effect on adult
fleas, Nexgard is able to cut the flea life cycle to prevent future generations of fleas in a pet's environment. Nexgard is also effective against 4 common tick species.
COMFORTIS® (SPINOSAD) from Elanco: This is an oral tablet for dogs only as young as 14 weeks of age. It is a once a month oral dosing that begins killing adult fleas within 30 minutes of ingestion. By killing fleas before they can lay eggs this is an easy and effective option for flea
control, especially if baths or swimming are a concern for washing off any topical products. Comfortis is not currently labeled to be effective against ticks.
TRIFEXIS® (SPINOSAD + Milbemycin oxime) from Elanco: The same fast-acting adulticide found in COMFORTIS®, with the additional benefits of heart-worm prevention and intestinal parasite prevention found in INTERCEPTOR®.
SIMPARICA® (SAROLANER) from Zoetis: This flavored chew is effective against both fleas and ticks for 35 days, so you have a little wiggle room if remembering to give prevention on time is an issue for your household. This product is labeled to give to puppies 6 months of age and older. Simparica starts to kill adult fleas within hours of administration and was shown to reduce flea populations by 95.6% within 14 days of administration, and 100% by the end of the 90-day study.
BRAVECTO® for dogs (FLURALANER) from Merck: One chewable tablet provides flea and tick prevention for up to 12 weeks, meaning fewer chances to forget to give prevention. Bravecto begins working within hours of oral administration, so is able to cut the flea lifecycle, though it is not effective against the American dog tick beyond 8 weeks after administration. This product is labeled for puppies 6 months of age and older, and those weighing 4.4lbs and greater.
SENTINEL® (LUFENURON + Milbemycin oxime) from Novartis: This is available as a once a month pill to be given with a full meal. This is a prescription drug. Adult fleas that feed on animals treated with Sentinel produce sterile eggs. The product does not kill adult fleas. It is a very easy way to break the life cycle, but pets remain fully susceptible to the hatching of any fleas from pupa already present in the environment. Therefore, 4 -7 months may pass before the flea-free state is reached. An adulticide should be used during the first few weeks of starting SENTINEL®. SENTINEL® also contains INTERCEPTOR® for heartworm prevention.
Topical products for Cats:
REVOLUTION® (SELAMECTIN) from Pfizer: Revolution is a topical medication that is absorbed into the cat's system. It is safe for cats 8 weeks of age and older. It kills adult fleas and keeps eggs from hatching. It also prevents heart-worms, ear mites and two intestinal parasites
(roundworms and hookworms). This is a very good product for cats! CHERISTAN® (SPINETORAM) from Elanco: This topical, once monthly preventative was found to be effective for the full 30 days it is labeled for in recent flea trials. It is safe to give to kittens 8 weeks of age and older, and 1.8lbs or greater. Cheristan killed 98-100% of adult fleas on cats within 12 hours, in recent studies.
BRAVECTO Feline® (FLURALANER) from Merck: One topical application provides flea and tick prevention for up to 12 weeks, meaning fewer chances to forget to give prevention. Bravecto feline begins working within hours of topical administration, so is able to cut the flea life cycle, though it is not effective against the American dog tick beyond 8 weeks after administration. This product is labeled for kittens 6 months of age and older, and those weighing 2.6lbs and greater.
WHAT TO DO
How do I treat a flea problem?
DOGS and CATS: Treat ALL PETS!!
1. Give 1 Capstar tablet orally every 2 days for 12 days (6 doses).
2. Use an oral flea control product (see above) once a month, or every 3 months in the case of Bravecto in dogs for the entire flea season (all year in Portland).
3. Use Revolution, or Cheristan once a month, or Bravecto feline every 3 months for the rest of the cat's life (Revolution works as heart-worm prevention in cats in addition to flea control).
4. Treat the house with VIRBAC KNOCKOUT E.S.® spray after thoroughly vacuuming and cleaning the house or enlist the help of an exterminator to treat the interior of the home.
5. Treat the yard with BAYER ADVANCED® Complete Insect Killer yard spray every 7-14 days. Treat the low-light moist areas of the yard.
6. Use a flea comb every 2 days to see if this is working.
How do I prevent or control a flea problem?
DOGS: Treat ALL PETS!!
1. Use an oral flea control product once a month or every 3 months in the case of Bravecto in dogs for the entire flea season (all year in Portland).
2. Spray the yard once a month with BAYER ADVANCED® Complete Insect Killer yard spray.
3. Even if other pets are not showing signs of flea allergy – it is critical for flea-allergic dogs that
all pets be treated.
CATS: Treat ALL PETS!!
1. Use Revolution, or Cheristan once a month, or Bravecto every 3 months in cats for the rest of the cat's life (Revolution works as heart-worm prevention in cats in addition to flea control).
2. For outdoor cats, treat the yard once a month with BAYER ADVANCED® Complete Insect Killer yard spray.