Fleas, fleas, fleas! (I hope this isn’t like Beetlejuice). I see cases almost everyday, and despite all the chemicals, insect repellents and bug bombs out there, fleas not only persist, but they also flourish. Where do they come from? Are they the spawn of Satan? Are they magical creatures sent from another dimension to mess with our minds? I know ecologically they have a job and a place in the environment. For instance, they do help to enrich and maintain specific soil environments. (Please don’t ask me what those soil characteristics are.) Personally, I wish they would enrich someone else’s soil far away from my patients and me.
It used to be more of a summer issue, but, truthfully, with all the warm winters we’ve had, I see fleas even in the winter. It does not matter if it is a house with only dogs or only cats. It does not matter if your animals never go outside. It does not matter if your dogs are treated and your cats are not. Anyone and everyone’s pets can get fleas if they are not treated with flea preventatives. They commonly come in through the basement or the attic. Fleas are everywhere. They are pervasive!
The two tell tale signs exist (this is the magician’s secret, so hold on for the spoiler alert). The first sign involves hairloss and scabs centered around the back part of the animal just in front of the tail. A second symptom is that your pet will be sleeping and all of a suddenly jump up and start biting at him/herself. The presence of flea dirt, which looks like pepper on your pet’s skin, is also a big hint.
Once your pet is infested, they will rarely go away without using a topical or oral flea preventative. Fleas are like that crazy relative that brings three suitcases for a weekend visit and then stays for months. Given that half of the flea life cycle is spent partying in the environment away the pet, it can take a good three months of continual household and pet treatment to be flea free. They even live in the vacuum cleaner bags (or sweeper bags if you are from Western PA).
What products actually help? I truly think consistency is much more important than the actual product. (I must make the disclaimer that I am not getting kick-backs from any of these companies…if I was, I’d be driving a much faster car!) Also, this is just my opinion, others may disagree with me. For fleas AND ticks, Vectra, Advantix, Advantage and Frontline Plus do the job. Revolution works reasonably well for fleas and also helps with mites. Orally, Sentinel and Comfortis quickly kill adult fleas.
Now for the naughty list; I have seen multiple failures with Pet Armor, which was marketed as the generic Frontline, and it is the ORIGINAL Frontline, NOT Frontline Plus which is what has been used for years. The other products that I STRONGLY avoid are anything made by the Hartz company. Many patients have had severe, life-threatening reactions, and the product often fails to control flea population. Tossing change into a fountain and making a wish may be just as effective. Hartz must have a good marketing department and an even better legal division.
Well, I guess I’ll step off my soap box long enough to wish everyone a healthy, flea-free season. Feel free to ask any questions … that is … if you’re itching for more!
Casey Kurtz, VMD, is a veterinarian at French Creek Veterinary Hospital