So your pet has been diagnosed with fleas. What are your options for treatment?
There are many different kinds of flea treaments available to treat your pets and basically they fall into 2 major categories oral and topical. The choice as to which one to use is whatever you find easiest and safest for you family and lifestyle as well as what works best for your pet.
There are 2 major oral treatment/preventatives for fleas. CAPSTAR (nitenpyram) is a pill that is marketed by Novartis Animal Health. This is a prescription medication that can be given to your dogs and cats (as well as rabbits) as young as 4 weeks of age. It offers extremely rapid and complete killing of adult fleas. It is a safe medication but has a short lifespan and can be be used as often as once a day. This is primarily a first line defense to be used to get rid of the adult fleas, while a more long term growth regulator is being used and taking effect. It is often what veterinarians use when an animal is admitted to hospital to prevent infection of the premises.
Lufeneron is the active flea prevention found in Program and Sentinel, marketed by Novartis. These are once a month treatments that can be used again as young as 4 weeks of age. These are growth regulators and prevent the synthesis of a substance called Chitin. Have you ever tried to squish a flea? They are normally very difficult to kill this way due to the hard shell that covers their body. This shell is made of…..you guessed it, Chitin. In order for the larva of the flea to hatch out of the egg it needs to develop a chitinous tooth. By preventing the synthesis of this material the eggs are unable to hatch, thus preventing the build up of fleas in your house. As mammals do not synthesize or have the need for Chitin themselves this is a very safe method of flea control. The difference between Sentinel and Program is as follows. Program is used for flea control alone. Sentinel is a combination of Program and Interceptor and thus controls not only fleas but also intestinal parasites (roundworm, hookworm and whipworm) as well as prevents Heartworm. People will often choose this one as it controls 5 types of parasites. These are very good flea control methods for those dogs who are constantly in the water as there is nothing for them to wash off. They are very effective and pet owners will often have their pets on these medications year round.
There are a couple of topical flea preventatives that we recommend. Advantage (active ingredient Imidoclopromide) made by Bayer and Revolution (active ingredient Selemectin), made by Pfizer Animal Health.
Advantage ( also Advantage Multi ) is a once a month dab on liquid that is placed on the skin down the Animal’s back. Imidoclopromide, the active ingredient is very effective at killing adult fleas. 100% efficacy can be maintained for at least 2 weeks. It has it’s effect on the nerve receptors of the adult flea. As it is a dab on it can be washed off easily so it is not as an ideal treatment for those swimmers or animals that need frequent bathing. Although the label advises once a month treatment it has been shown that after about 3 weeks the efficacy is down to about 85% and that leaves a window for infection of fleas. Thus it may need to be applied more frequently. The other concern is that it needs 12 hours to dry thoroughly so it is best not to pat the animal after application; a concern if small children are in the house.
Revolution is a combination flea, and heartworm preventative and also helps control sarcoptic mange, ear mites and ticks. It is also a dab on applied in much the same way as the Advantage. In order to be effective it must be absorbed into the body where the adult flea ingests it with a blood meal and it immediately prevents the females from producing eggs and the adult fleas will slowly die. It will also work on intestinal parasites the same way.
It is important to discuss all options with your veterinarian in order to come up with a plan that works best for you. If you find there is a burden in your home you will need to treat that as well as the pet. A thorough vacuuming needs to be done and throwing out the bag or cleaning the central vacuum container is very important. All bedding must be washed and put through a hot dryer. There are many sprays available but you want to make sure they contain an encapsulated residual to allow killing of the flea as it emerges from the pupa.
Another thing to remember is none of these preventatives work unless the animal is bitten by the flea. If you pet is sensitive to the flea bite they may still have a reaction. Also you may still find fleas on your pet even if they are on one of these products. Just remember they will working to prevent further build up.
You will likely encounter over the counter flea control products when you visit your local pet store. These products are likely considerably less expensive than the prescription ones. Although they may be effective, these products do not have the residual activity the prescription ones do. Also important to note that some of these over the counter products contain insecticides such as permethrin which can be toxic even deadly to cats.
Please do your research thoroughly and consult your veterinarian to establish the best flea control regime for your pet.
We have provided the links for the above products on our links page of the website so you can obtain more information.