The Most Effective Way to Kill Fleas

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A common complaint this time of year is when clients call or come into the vet clinic complaining about persistence of fleas, despite their diligent use of the tried, tested and effective topical flea and tick medications such as Frontline Plus or Advantage II. Often this is the result of a failure of us as veterinarians in fully educating clients on a complete flea control program.  Before all of the topical spot on flea products came out many years ago, it was taught to us in veterinary school to stress to clients to treat the home environment, given that almost 80% of the flea life cycle occurs in the environment.

Killing flea offspring is key in any flea prevention program

While many of the topical flea products claim they are highly effective against flea eggs, many exterminators and parasitologists I have spoken with have told me that often flea eggs can be resistant to the insecticidal effects of some of these products.  Most of the flea eggs that are laid on the animal do roll off onto the pet’s bedding, carpeting, or furniture in the home. It is therefore important for animal guardians not only to treat their pets topically with flea control medication, which indeed controls and kills flea adults and larvae on the pet, but also to treat the home as well with insect growth regulator compounds such as Virbac Knockout Fogger from 1800petmeds or other products like flea busters, or even employing an exterminator in heavy infestations to help kill flea eggs.

I also find it helpful to treat the yard as well with a yard and kennel flea spray. Many garden stores sell special type of worms called nematodes, which are often effective against fleas when applied in the garden or backyard.   Unless a multi-pronged flea approach is taken, as well as careful attention to application of the topical flea products, according to manufacturer recommendations, clients may find that relying on the topical spot on products alone may fail in their attempts to control these pesky parasites.

PetMeds® Why You Should Never Switch to Grocery Brand Flea & Tick Pet meds

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Dr. Dym recommends using popular flea meds like Advantage, K9 Advantix, and Frontline Plus since imitation products could cause allergic reactions in your pet Another common scenario in the clinic is when veterinarians ask clients about which flea or tick control products they are using, and are often told over the counter products picked up at the local feed store or supermarket. As a veterinarian of nearly 20 years experience, I can tell you that many of the local topical reactions as well as rare whole body reactions, often occurs in pets treated with cheaper imitation topical spot-on products purchased over the counter.

And while rare reactions can occur with any topical pesticide, I do recommend that clients stick with the more tried and tested long standing flea and tick products such as Advantage, K9 Advantix, Frontline Plus and Revolution. Because of increasing reactions in recent years, especially with the cheaper over the counter version spot on products, the EPA is re-examining the labeling requirements, as well as precautions they will require on all such products. A statement on this is pending and should be released soon by the EPA. The important point for animal guardians to understand is that when using a topical flea and tick product that they strongly consider sticking with the ones that I mention here as being most reliable in terms of performance and safety.

This is especially important, given the increasing number of flea and tick born diseases being seen in both animals and people. However, if any rare topical, digestive, or neurological reactions occur, any such reactions should be immediately reported to not only your veterinarian and drug manufacturer, but also your local poison control center for instructions on treatment. And of course an alternative product should be chosen in the future.

PetMeds® Natural Flea and Tick Pet med Alternative: Brewer’s Yeast

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While there are of course many effective topical flea and tick medicines that work wonderfully in most dogs, such as K9 Advantix, Frontline Plus, and Revolution, there is the occasional pet that will have a rare topical or systemic reaction to any of these medications, and so many clients are often asking about natural flea and tick alternatives, especially as the flea season bears down on most of the country. Using Brewers Yeast with garlic may be able to naturally protect against fleas

While the efficacy of many of these products can vary, I have indeed found that adding nutritional supplements such as Brewers Yeast and garlic to the diet can often help repel fleas for many pets. Chock full of vitamin B, Zinc, and biotin, Brewers Yeast is simply wonderful for skin and coat health, including helping with unwanted shedding in many pets. Along with garlic in these tablets, many clients do report a reduction in flea infestations in their pets. They can safely be added to most pets’ diets and have no side effects in my experience and opinion.

How to Ensure Your Pet’s Flea Control Medications Work

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Pet owner compliance is the number one reason flea pet meds don't effectively kill fleas

Why do fleas sometimes stay on a pet after application of a topical flea treatment?  This is something that veterinarians have been increasingly asked in recent years, as clients are questioning whether topical spot-on products that have been on the market for a number of years are still as effective.  Most veterinary experts and parasitologists answer the efficacy question with a resounding YES. 

While researchers and experts acknowledge the persistence of fleas on some pets, the problem is NOT due to resistance of the fleas to products like Advantage II, Frontline Plus and Revolution. In fact, resistance has never been documented. Human error is the most common cause for lack of flea control, and much of this involves veterinarians failing to educate clients on the various aspects of flea control. Veterinarians can inform pet owners by showing clients how the spot-ons are applied, to treating all animals in the home. Also, an important part of any flea management program is by making sure the home environment is treated which is where much of the flea life cycle and hardy flea eggs reside.  Environmental flea treatment is very important including not only the pet’s bedding, but the rest of the home and yard. Products like Virbac’s Knockout Fogger are often effective for the home, or many clients prefer to have their homes exterminated.  With a comprehensive flea and tick control program, the products available today are still the fastest acting and most efficient ever in use for animal guardians.

For more information, read our 4 step guide on How to Kill Fleas In Your Home.

PetMeds® Topical Flea and Heartworm Medicine: Revolution

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american-pitbull-terrier Topical Revolution is a simple monthly topical parasiticide for many external and internal parasites (fleas and heartworms), and has been increasing in use in recent years because of its many possible potential applications. Unlike many of its competitors like Frontline or Advantage, topical Revolution does require a written prescription from a veterinarian. I have found it most useful in controlling fleas, ticks and ear mites in dogs and cats.

Veterinary dermatologists often are now frequently using it off label every 2 weeks for a total of 3 treatments in many itchy dogs to treat any possible hidden scabies mange mites, which are often difficult to find on even multiple skin scrapings at the vet office. Topical use in cats has also helped in protecting cats from the intestinal parasites roundworms and hookworms. While it’s labeled for efficacy against heartworms, in my opinion I still stick with the tried and tested prescription monthly heartworm preventative medications such as Heartgard. This is because in my experience over the years I have seen a few rare pets test positive for heartworms when relying exclusively on Revolution for heartworm prevention. I often get questions about safety issues around people, but as long as you allow the product to completely dry, which occurs up to 2 hours after applying, there seems to be no risk to humans. Also, animal guardians can be free to bathe their pets anytime after this two hour mark, as this product is labeled as water proof. While supposedly being safe to use in pregnant animals, I personally never like or recommend applying topical pesticides to pregnant animals.

PetMeds® K9 Advantix: Flea Medication for Dogs

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K9 Advantix is one of the most common used once monthly topical pesticides used for external skin parasite control, covering fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. One of the nicer benefits is that it will still be effective even after washing and bathing (wait 24 hours after applying), and has additional benefits of not only quickly killing mature and immature fleas and ticks, but in also repelling these parasites from biting as well. It comes in very convenient dosing packaging for dogs up to 10 pounds, dogs from 11-20 pounds, dogs from 21-55 pounds, and dogs over 55 pounds.

If your pet is on the border of these dosage cut offs, you can always start with the lower dose of K9 Advantix, however, if effective pest control is not seen, than giving the higher dose is certainly safe in most pets. It is not necessary to separate dogs after dosing them topically with this product, however, if dogs are actively playful and/or licking one another, it may be best to have them apart for a few hours, until the product has had a chance to dry.

A few years ago, it was recommended not to purchase this product if an animal guardian also had cats due to their sensitivity to the permethrin insecticide in this product. However, that labeling has now changed and it is ok to use in households with cats, as long as animal guardians wait until the product is completely dry on the dog before exposing them to household cats. K9 Advantix is a flea medication for dogs only. Always wait until product is thoroughly dry before letting your dog be around cats.

I have not heard of its use in other species, although an animal guardian of exotic pets can certainly contact Bayer to find out if this is possible. Side effects are rare, but may include (in sensitive pets):

-          Contact irritation/allergy causing hair loss at site of application

-          Digestive upset

-          Neurological reactions such as seizures (rarer cases)

If this should occur, changing to a different topical pesticide like Frontline Plus or trying a natural alternative may be helpful. I never recommend using two topical pesticides at the same time such as Frontline Plus or K9 Advantix. However, if one is not working for an animal guardian, make sure one is treating the home adequately for fleas, as well as one could change from one product to another. It is typically not harmful to humans unless the product is swallowed or gets in one’s eyes. But I have heard of isolated reports of skin numbness following contact with the product, thus animal guardians should always wear gloves when applying this or any topical pesticide in my opinion.

PetMeds® Are Topical Flea & Tick Pet Medications Safe?

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Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

The most frustrating external parasites we deal with in small animal veterinary medicine involve flea and tick infestations on dogs and cats. Not only are these pesky pests irritating to pets, often leading to excessive skin itching, allergies, and secondary skin infections, but they also carry many diseases that are a risk to both the pet and their human family. Thus, thorough and effective flea/tick control is an essential part of owning a dog or cat.  Over the past decade there has been a tremendous expansion of effective  flea/tick product options, many of them involving easy to apply topical medications often between the shoulders or behind the neck. Some of these include Frontline Plus, Advantage, K9 Advantix, Comfortis, Promeris for Dogs, Promeris for Cats, Revolution, and Bio Spot to name the most common ones used.

Although flea medications are necessary to keep your pet free from parasites, some side effects are possible with prolonged use

However, there has been recent concern of short and long term safety with the expansion of use of these products. Prompted by a spike in the number of reported adverse reactions to spot-on flea and tick control products from 2007 to 2008, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada in April 2009 both began an investigation into the safety of the treatments.

Currently there are no definitive conclusions regarding certain products. Some of the reported reactions, which manufacturers are required by law to notify the EPA, when reported by pet owners, ranged from mild effects (skin irritation/hair loss/itching at application site) to more serious side effects (seizures and in very rare cases death). And while the EPA is intensifying its reaction of all spot-on products, most animal guardians are still finding these products safe and effective in the vast majority of their canine and feline companions, and that reactions are rare.

However, long term exposure and cumulative exposure to both active and inert ingredients do remain a concern to some animal guardians and many veterinarians. For those dogs or cats that are very sensitive to topical products, oral alternatives for flea control such as Program may be an option. Herbal flea and tick products can also be an option, as well as Be Flea Free Shampoo and Miracle Mist Skin Spray, which contain essential oils that can be effective in repelling fleas and ticks. One must be extra careful in using essential oils on cats because for some cats tea tree oil can be toxic. And while natural products do present an alternative to those very sensitive pets, they are often not as effective as the more commonly used and prescribed topical flea/tick products mentioned above.

No matter which approach an animal guardian chooses, it is essential to keep up with flea and tick control in both dogs and cats to avoid not only physical discomfort but the transmission of diseases carried by these pests to both pets and people. Stay tuned for the EPA’s findings on this hot topic likely soon to be released sometime in 2010, relative to which products may pose excessive risk of reaction.

PetMeds®: Effective Flea Control for Dogs and Cats

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Many effective flea control products have made their way onto the market over the past few decades, and veterinarians as well as pet owners are often confused as to which ones are the most effective.  It seems that every few years a new topical flea medication is coming out touting superiority over another. However, at the same time many clients may also complain that some of the older products don’t work as well as they used to.  There is plenty of supporting data published by leading parasitologists that indicate that most, if not all of the products are still quite effective.

Fleas can also live in your yard

The biggest problems we’re seeing when flea control fails, lies with veterinarians who are not educating clients on the multipronged approach needed for effective flea control. These steps include not only treating your pet, but also the environment and yard, as well as following product label or veterinarian instructions. The key to effective client compliance is to treat all of the cats and dogs that come in contact with your own.  It is also important to recognize the complex and long life cycle of the flea, which includes multiple stages from the very resistant eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult stages.

It’s important for clients to realize the importance of continuing flea treatment, especially in severe flea infestations, which may sometimes take up to several months to have the flea infestation under the control.  Pet owners should be aware that there are always potentially new sources of fleas, including stray cats or dogs, and various wildlife that can deposit eggs into the outdoor or inside environment.

Some of the more effective topical flea treatments in my experience include the same topical products that have been around the longest, such as Frontline Plus, Advantage II, and K9 Advantix. However, if the environment is not treated, flea eggs can still hatch and develop into larvae and adults. That’s why it is important to treat your home and pet’s environment with flea products such as room foggers, carpet powders, and yard sprays.

For those clients who prefer a more natural approach to flea control, this will indeed require more diligent and persistent efforts. This method can range from adding fresh garlic or brewers yeast to your pets’ diets, or using various essential oil products now available. In addition, more natural flea control products like Be Flea Free Shampoo and Be Flea Spray can also keep fleas at bay.

With heavily infested animals, I often start my clients with a dose of oral Capstar, which will kill adult fleas within a few hours. Capstar can be repeated up to once daily until the topical or oral products have a chance to take effect. And for pet owners with puppies or kittens, Capstar is especially beneficial for these animals because they can quickly become anemic from a severe flea infestation.

No matter which approach is taken, it’s important to address a flea problem from a multifaceted stance and to remember to be consistent by giving all animals within your home flea medication each month.