San Marcos Vet Speaks: What you need to know about FLEAS

Fleas are insects, they are black in coloration and are about the size of the tip of a pen. They can extremely agile and can move quickly around the body and jump several feet to a new host. After fleas obtain a blood meal they will defecate out little black granules that are about the size of a grain of sand, this is commonly called “flea dirt”. Most of the time the only indication that a pet has fleas is this flea dirt”, which many people will mistake as black dandruff. To confirm that your pet has flea dirt”, just take the black dandruff and place it on a white paper then add a drop or two of rubbing alcohol. If you see the dandruff dissolve into red or brown it is actually “flea dirt”. The reason why it is red is because it is partially digested blood from your pet!

The adult flea is only the start of the problem – fleas, like all insects go through a multi-stage life cycle (Egg – Larva – Puppa – Adult). This lifecycle can take as little as 14 days to as many as 60 days, and according to scientists the adult flea usually only makes up about 5% of an overall infestation! Most flea products only target one portion of the flea lifecycle. Due to this fact, if you do happen to get a flea infestation using multiple products to attack each portion of the flea lifecycle will get your infestation under control quicker.

PRODUCTS/OPTIONS:

Depending upon your own personal beliefs or your pet’s lifestyle you may choose one product over another.  But there are A LOT of different products out there! Some of those products work well, and have scientific research behind them, whereas other products might have little to no research done on them.

NATURAL/HOLISTIC FLEA CONTROL:

Diatamateous Earth: this product consists of dead microscopic sea creatures.

  • How it Works: it dehydrates the exoskeleton of the flea.
    • PROs: “natural” product
    • CONs: No scientific studies evaluating kill time or how well it actually works. Can cause irritation/drying of the skin, if it gets into the eyes or is inhaled it can cause distress – irritation, redness, coughing, sneezing, etc. Has to be applied regularly (daily to weekly) in order to see any effect, there are no FDA regulations on this product.

Essential Oils: this product consists of different combinations of oils that are diluted and impregnated into a material (collar or bandana).

  • How it Works: certain oils have shown to have insect repelling qualities, by using these oils on an object (NOT DIRECTLY ON THE PET) the idea is that they repeal insects to protect the pet.
    • PROs: “natural” product
    • CONs: No scientific studies evaluating kill time or how well it actually works. If improperly diluted they can cause extreme toxicity, and if ingested can cause liver failure, kidney failure, anemia, and seizures. There are no FDA regulations on this product, so effectiveness and toxicity are NOT regulated in any way.

TOPICAL FLEA CONTROL

Advantage/Frontline/Activyl

  • How it Works: these products work on the adult flea. Once the flea lands on your pet the product is absorbed through their feet. According to the label packaging fleas will die within 8-12 hours depending on the product.
    • PROs: easy application to the back of the neck.
    • CONs: If you bathe your pet more than twice per month the product will start to wash off.
  • Newer Products such as Activyl will actually start to work sooner than the 12 hours labeled time. Though it will take the product 12 hours to kill the flea, within about 15-30 minutes the fleas will start to act “drunk” and detach from your pet, stopping them from taking a blood meal.

 

ORAL FLEA CONTROL

Comfortis/Trifexis

  • How it Works: these products work on the adult flea, and has to be given once per month. Once the flea lands on your pet and has a single blood meal the medication will be ingested by the flea. The flea will then die in between 4-6 hours depending on the product.
    • PROs: will not wash off after bathes or time in the water. No residue on the skin. Trfiexis also prevents heartworm disease and intestinal parasites!
    • CONs: Comfortis and Trifexis should not be given to pets with seizures. Common side effects include vomiting and diarrhea. Comes as a flavored tablet – some pets do find this medication to not be very tasty, and may have issues taking the medication.

Sentinel

  • How it Works: this product works by stopping the flea lifecycle but does not kill the adult flea, and has to be given once per month. Once a flea lands on your pet and has a blood meal it will ingest the medication. The medication will stop the adult flea from reproducing. Thus the adult flea will live for about 5-7 days, and then die on it’s own time.
    • PROs: will not wash off after bathes or time in the water. No residue on the skin. Sentinel also prevents heartworm disease and intestinal parasites. This medication tends to be fairly inexpensive.
    • CONs: Does not kill the adult flea – not recommended for pets with flea allergy dermatitis. Rare side effects include vomiting and diarrhea. As with any oral medication it may be difficult to give this medication to a pet that is a picky eater.
  • If you do see adult fleas on your pet we recommend using a topical flea product

Nexgard

  • How it Works: this product works on the adult flea, and has to be given once per month. Once the flea lands on your pet and has a single blood meal the medication will be ingested by the flea. The flea will then die in between 4-6 hours depending on the product.
    • PROs: will not wash off after bathes or time in the water. No residue on the skin. Comes as a chewable. Also kills ticks!
    • CONs: Rare side effects or vomiting and/or diarrhea has been reported. As with any oral medication it may be difficult to give this medication to a pet that is a picky eater.

Bravecto

  • How it Works: this product work on the adult flea, and has to be given once every 3 months. Once the flea lands on your pet and has a single blood meal the medication will be ingested by the flea. The flea will then die in between 4-6 hours depending on the product.
    • PROs: will not wash off after bathes or time in the water. No residue on the skin. Comes as a chewable. Also kills ticks!
    • CONs: Rare side effects or vomiting and/or diarrhea has been reported. As with any oral medication it may be difficult to give this medication to a pet that is a picky eater.

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *