Fleas, fleas, fleas, it seems like this year is a bad year for them, of course I'm sure I say that every summer, along with "I can't wait for fall." But really, they do seem worse this year for some reason, even the most pampered, indoor only pets are having problems. The one thing most of these pets and their owners have in common though, is a poor track record with monthly flea prevention. So now what, the fleas are here and the medications don't seem to be working. In this post I will attempt to outline a successful strategy for getting rid of the fleas and for keeping them out.
To begin with no flea medication is really good at preventing fleas, much less repelling them. The drugs, whether applied topically or taken orally, get into the blood stream where they kill fleas once they ingest blood. Some manufacturers have included repellants like Permethrin that are supposed to repel fleas but they aren’t very good at accomplishing this. So, in order to spare your pet flea bites, we really should target the environment, killing them before they have a chance to bite. Secondly, by the time you see fleas, chances are pretty good you’re infested, at least to a degree. Adult fleas, the ones we see jumping on and off of our pets, are the last life-cycle stage, mature adults. But, the real problem is the 95% who are still eggs, larvae and pupae that haven’t yet begun biting. This is why getting rid of a flea problem seems hopeless. After 2 months of consecutive treatment with flea meds new waves of fleas are still hatching and it seems like nothing is working, the entire lifecycle of the flea can be completed in only 16 days. It is for these two reasons we must use flea prevention year-round to truly prevent fleas.
If your house is currently under siege, spare your pet and hire an exterminator, set off flea “bombs” purchased at the hardware store, spray the yard, vacuum underneath furniture, sweep daily and wash anything and everything that your pet sleeps on. Killing or removing the immature fleas will go a long way toward getting rid of the problem. Your pet can then provide an extra “clean-up” measure by attracting and killing stray fleas that still find their way into your home. This, after all is the original intended use for monthly flea preventatives, to kill fleas that your pet picks up outside, at the park, a neighbors house, etc… before they can lay eggs and set up shop.
“Is it really necessary to use flea meds year round?” This is something I hear all of the time, and my answer I must admit varies. Sometimes I have to agree, in the dead of winter your chances of seeing a flea is pretty much zero and therefore, no, take a few months off as long as you start back up again in the spring. But, if your dog goes outside for any length of time, is ever in contact with other dogs, has had a flea problem in the past or is prone to flea allergy dermatitis, you really should use it on ALL of your pets year-round. And I do mean ALL of your pets, for instance, if the cat never goes outside but the dog does and the dog carries a flea in and before biting it jumps off of the dog and onto the untreated cat…..BOOM, an infestation! The fleas, at least some of them, will stay on the cat, lay eggs, the eggs fall into the carpet and so on and so forth until you’ve “mysteriously contracted fleas.” I know, I know, seems far fetched but it happens to the best of them. So, forgo the flea prevention at your own risk, there are plenty of other ways to spend your money….flea bombs, exterminators, allergy shots, hydrocortisone, expensive medicated shampoos.
If your pet is having a rough time with fleas this summer begin applying flea prevention diligently from here on out, have an exterminator out, and sweep and vacuum like crazy. And if your pet is miserable and terribly itchy please let us prescribe some medications that will give him some relief. We will get through this, have patience, winter will be here soon.
-Dr. Adam McGarity
July 13, 2015