What Flea Treatment Options Are Available for Your Dog or Cat? What Flea Treatment Options Are Available for Your Dog or Cat?
The advancements in modern flea treatments are making it easier to eliminate the problem of flea infestations of cats and dogs. The range of products available is wide, and deciding how to go about treating your pets and home can be confusing. Some products are available only through your veterinarian's office. Often, you get what you pay for, and it's best to go the route recommended by your vets. You also want to be careful with your use of flea products; you don't want to mix and match different flea products as your pet may develop an allergic reaction to the toxins in the products. Make sure the products you purchase are specifically designed for cats or dogs. Note the different size, weight, and age the product specifies use for. When in doubt, always consult your veterinarian, especially if your pet has an illness or disorder.
Topicals: Topicals are flea-fighting products, typically applied once a month to a small area on the back of your pet. They are one of the newer products on the market, and also one of the most effective. The best brands of topical spot-on treatments are available through your veterinary office, such as Frontline Top Spot, Advantage, Revolution, Defend, and Bio Spot. These can be on the expensive side (about $40 for a three-month supply), but are also highly effective. There are now cheaper, imitation brand topicals available in any pet supply store or supermarket, but largely these aren't as effective as the topicals you purchase at the vet's office. Topicals are very easy to apply. Usually you simply apply the topical in a single spot at the nape of the neck of your pet, between its shoulder blades, where it's hard for it to lick. They also last a long time in effectiveness, up to a month or so, and most are water-proof. Some are designed to not only kill the adult fleas on your pet for up to a month, but also prevents the eggs and larvae from hatching on your pet, completely breaking the flea life cycle all together. Some kill ticks as well as fleas. Check with your vet for your pet's specific needs.
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Oral Tablets: There are now products on the market which are ingested orally by your pet, which work to either kill off the adult fleas present on its body, or to inhibit the development of flea infestation.
- Program is a product available through your vet, which contains an insect development inhibitor. It is available as a tablet for both dogs and cats, and also as an injectible for cats. The tablets should be taken by the pet once a month. The injection form is given only once every 6 months to cats. This product prevents the development of a flea infestation on your pet, however it does not kill the adult fleas. So if you've got a flea infestation to begin with, you have to get rid of the adult fleas first with another means. Speak with your veterinarian if you are interested in seeking this treatment.
- Capstar is another oral tablet product designed for use with cats and dogs, and available through your vet. Once ingested, a Capstar tablet works to kill all the adult fleas on your pet, taking effect within a half hour, continuing to be effective for the next 24 hours. The pills are only effective for this short time period however. It is a useful product for getting rid of the fleas on your pets before you have your home flea-bombed, and then following up the treatment of your pet with a topical to break the cycle of infestation.
Collars: Collars are one of the older methods out there for flea protection. Keep in mind that they are best utilized as a preventative measure. Essentially, once your pet has become infested with fleas, a flea collar is not going to do much to help. Make that the collar is neither too tight or loose around your pet's neck. You should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your pet's neck. Cut off the excess length of the collar that sticks out from the buckle once you have tightened the collar just right. Collars don't last forever, and the effectiveness will be reduced if the collar gets wet. Remove and replace flea collars as necessary, and monitor your pet for irritation or hair loss around the neck.
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Sprays: Sprays come in different strengths and formulas. They can be a trickier product to master than others, depending on how finicky or sensitive your pet is. You will want to be very careful not to get the product in your pet's eyes or ears. Sprays come as either pump bottles or aerosols. Pump bottles can be easier to use, particularly for cats, as they are likely to be disturbed by the hissing noise an aerosol makes. Cats may also be more resistant to the wetness of the spray. Sprays will typically need to be applied once a week to be effective. You don't have to soak your pet, but you want to make sure you spray all parts of your pet's body. Make the job easier by spraying the product onto a cloth and then rubbing the pet down with the cloth. If your pet is very sensitive or prone to allergic reaction, or its skin is really irritated from flea allergy dermatitis, sprays are not the best idea. The chemicals in the sprays can sting their sensitive skin.
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Powders: Flea powders can be easier to apply than a spray due to their dry consistency, however they can create quite a mess. They will only really be effective for a few days, as long as the powder remains on your pet's coat. One problem you may encounter is that the powder can be inhaled by your pet, so if your pet has asthma or any breathing difficulties, powder should not be used. Always apply flea powder to your pet in well-ventilated places.
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Shampoos: You might choose to bathe your pet yourself with a medicated flea shampoo. This will kill the adult fleas on your pet's body, and wash away the nasty flea dirt and larvae. However, most flea shampoos do not have much of a residual action; you will have to use a follow up treatment to keep the fleas away. You must thoroughly work the shampoo over your pet's entire body, into their hair down to the skin, and leave it on for at least 10 minutes before rinsing it off. Rinse well and be careful of your pet's eyes and ears.
For cats, bathing may be tricky. They are naturally averse to being wet to begin with, but especially don't like running water. Pouring water over your cat from a bucket or pitcher might make the process easier. Your cat will probably struggle as well, so it's a good idea to have someone else help you to gently hold down your cat as you pour the water and apply the shampoo. It's also a good idea to contain the cat in a tall plastic bucket or container, dipping them into the water so they do not have as much room to struggle.
Once again, if your pet's skin has become really irritated or it is suffering from flea allergy dermatitis, you should be careful with its sensitive skin. Medicated shampoo might not be the best idea, as it will be too harsh and sting the skin. Have your vet recommend a gentle, grooming shampoo to clean your pet with. Bathing your pet with a non-medicated shampoo will still rinse away most of the fleas on them along with the flea dirt. Afterwards you can apply a topical like Frontline to their clean coat to keep the fleas away. You should do this whether or not the shampoo you used was medicated. Usually you should wait at least a day before you apply the topical treatment.
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Flea Combs: Flea combs are safe products for any pet, since they contain no toxic ingredients. If you comb your pet frequently during the summer, it will help you to spot a flea infestation early. Flea combs are good to use on pets that are sensitive to flea products, that are ill, pregnant, or young kittens and puppies. Flea combs have very thin, close-together teeth (about 32 teeth per inch), which trap the adult fleas as you run the comb through your pet's coat. As you comb, have a bowl of detergent water within reach; dipping the fleas caught in the comb into the detergent water will kill them. Combing your pets thoroughly will take quite a long time, but this is a good way to get rid of the fleas present on their coats and will allow you to see just how badly infested they may be. You will still need to treat them in addition to prevent eggs from hatching on them.