A Flea-ting Moment!
Flea Treatment and Prevention for Dogs and Cats
The creeping, crawling, gnashing, nasty nibblers are on the march! They’re everywhere - in your carpet, between your floorboards even in your garden and the bloodthirsty blighters are seeking out your pets too.
Yes, the Ferocious Aussie Flea is back - and with a vengeance. Stop your pet suffering from these parasites and hop into serious flea control.
Fleas are miserable little parasites. They suck blood, make animals (especially puppies) anaemic, spread tapeworm and cause serious skin irritations. Some unlucky pets are also allergic to fleas.
Controlling fleas on your pet
Thankfully, ridding your pet of fleas is a lot easier than it used to be and there is now a large range of products available which are effective and safe, with new products coming out regularly.
Remember to read the label before using any product, especially for cats - any product containing permethrin is toxic to cats and should never be used.
‘Spot on’ or ‘top spot’ preparations
Many pet owners use ‘spot on the back of the neck’ preparations to control fleas.
These products come in small vials that you squeeze onto your pet’s neck, or sometimes onto its back, once a month. The convenient means of applying these flea preparations has proved a winner and they are effective and popular.
- Activyl is a monthly spot-on for dogs and cats that works through bioactivation, meaning its active ingredient (indoxacarb) ‘switches on’ once it is inside the flea. The flea is then unable to feed, becomes paralysed and dies. It also kills flea eggs and larvae in the environment.
- Advantage is good at eliminating adult fleas in dogs and cats (as well as rabbits and ferrets). Another benefit is that micro-crystals of the preparation drop from the animal's coat into the areas that the pet visits, such as its bed and its resting spots in the garden. These micro-crystals are like 'mine fields' that bomb the developing flea larvae.
- Advantix combines the active ingredient of Advantage (imidacloprid) to control fleas along with permethrin to repel and kill ticks, including the paralysis tick. However, it can only be used on dogs as permethrin is toxic to cats.
- Advocate is another multi-purpose product for dogs and cats (and ferrets) that combines the active ingredient of Advantage with moxidectin so it kills fleas, controls several types of intestinal worms, prevents heartworm and kills mites and lice.
- Frontline Plus can be used on dogs and cats. It contains two active ingredients, one to kill the adult fleas on your pet and the other to stop fertile eggs being laid and prevent larval and pupal development. This ensures fleas are controlled at every stage of their life cycle, preventing re-infestation. An additional benefit of using Frontline Plus on dogs is that it also gives ticks the flick for two weeks. Using Frontline Spray will protect your dog or cat from ticks.
- Revolution (selamectin) has a multiple action similar to Advocate. While it controls adult fleas in puppies and kittens and in dogs and cats, it also prevents flea eggs from hatching, and kills flea larvae in the environment. Furthermore, it controls heartworm in dogs and cats, ear mites in dogs and cats, sarcoptic mange in dogs and, in cats, controls roundworm and hookworm.
Tablets and chews
Tablets are often chewable and flavoured to make them more appealing to your pet, or can be administered with the use of a tablet syringe or ‘pet piller’ (available from your vet). These are a convenient form of flea control for pets that have sensitive skin or enjoy swimming frequently.
- NexGard is a meat-flavoured chewable tablet for dogs that controls fleas and ticks for a full month. Unlike some oral products, NexGard can be given to your dog with or without food. NexGard Spectra additionally protects your dog from heartworm and intestinal worms (roundworm, hookworm and whipworm).
- Bravecto is an oral chew for dogs that provides 3 months of flea and 4 months of paralysis tick protection in a single dose. It can control fleas within 8 hours of administration and effective control of tick infestations within 24 hours.
- Comfortis is a chewable beef-flavoured tablet that kills fleas and prevents flea infestations on cats and dogs for a month. It is suitable for use in puppies and kittens from 14 weeks of age.
- Comfortis Plus is a chewable, meat-flavoured tablet for dogs and puppies that treats, prevents and controls fleas and prevents heartworm disease, as well as treating adult roundworm, hookworm and whipworm infections.
- Simparica is a chewable tablet that controls fleas, ticks, mange and mites for a full month. It provides protection for a few extra days, so your dog is still covered if you've forgotten to buy another dose.
- Sentinel Spectrum is a tablet for dogs that controls fleas, heartworm and intestinal worms including tapeworm. Its flea control effect relies on preventing flea eggs from hatching but it will not kill adult fleas directly, so another product may be needed to control them until Sentinel has zapped the eggs in the environment.
- Capstar kills fleas very quickly on dogs and cats but has no residual action. It works well in conjunction with a long-acting product such as Sentinel.
- Frontline Spray is very effective against fleas and ticks and can be used on both dogs and cats. One spray should eliminate fleas for two to three months and give good tick control for three weeks. You need to apply it properly by thoroughly rubbing it into the animal's coat with a gloved hand. This does take a bit of work but it's worth the effort.
- Ilium Frontera Spray treats and prevents fleas and controls ticks and lice on dogs and cats. Your pet’s coat must be thoroughly wet with the spray so it penetrates down to the skin in order for it to work. It prevents fleas for up to twelve weeks on dogs and up to eight weeks on cats, as well as paralysis ticks for up to three weeks.
- Seresto collars provide up to 8 months of continuous protection from fleas on cats and dogs, as well as 4 months of protection from ticks (including paralysis ticks) on dogs. The collars are adjustable, water-resistant and odourless and be used on puppies from 7 weeks of age and kittens from 10 weeks of age.
- The Kiltix collar provides up to 5 months of protection from fleas, brown dog ticks and bush ticks on dogs. It also provides up to 6 weeks of protection from paralysis ticks. This collar should not be used for puppies less than 3 months of age.
Rinses and shampoos
- Permoxin is a popular insecticidal rinse that can be used weekly on dogs or that you can make into a spray for daily use. It will also control ticks when used weekly, but is not suitable for cats.
- Flea shampoos also deserve a mention. However, they will clean your dog and cat and will kill fleas present at the time, but will not have any residual action. Therefore, shampoos will not usually affect fleas once the pet's coat is dry. There are many shampoos on the market including Fido’s Fre-Itch Rinse and Fido’s Flea Shampoo.
Controlling fleas in the environment
With severe flea infestations, controlling the flea eggs and larvae that are in the house and garden is also important.
A single flea will lay hundreds of eggs. The eggs drop from the animal's coat and are thereby spread around the environment the animal lives in. They hatch into larvae which progress through a pupal stage to adult fleas.
The eggs and the larvae are quite sticky and will adhere to carpet and the pet's bedding. They will also lodge in cracks and crevices around the pet's environment.
The first step to controlling fleas in the environment is to do a thorough spring clean up. This involves removing as much dirt and debris from the pet's environment as possible. Vacuum the house, paying attention to areas near the skirting boards and under furniture as this is where the eggs are known to accumulate. Naturally, concentrate on any area in which your pet sleeps.
Dispose of the dirt from the vacuum cleaner into a rubbish bag, add some insecticide spray or flea powder and then place it in the garbage bin.
The next step is to kill the glacial mounds of flea eggs and larvae that abound in the environment.
Thankfully, if the products mentioned earlier are used, even if flea eggs do hatch the adult fleas will be killed quickly once they get on the animal's coat and usually before they can lay eggs.
If you are having a major problem with fleas, you may want to use a product containing an insect growth regulator such as methoprene, which deactivates the flea eggs that are in the environment and prevent them from hatching. A variety of products are available containing this compound and most also contain a version of pyrethrins that will also kill adult fleas (and other insect pests), such as Fido’s Fleatrol Plus IGR Quick Dry Spray or Fido’s Flea Bomb.
Good flea control will make your animal a much happier pet, but it can be a complicated topic. Seek your veterinarian's advice and give fleas the flick!
Contributors: Provet Resident Vet
By Dr Cam Day BVSc - Last updated