Image via iStock.com/alexei_tm
By Dr. Sarah Wooten
Fleas and ticks got you down? Can’t seem to keep them off your pets or out of your home? How about some free veterinary advice on what really works to eradicate fleas and ticks for good?
Here my top five recommendations on how to win the fight against fleas and ticks.
1. Utilize Long-Lasting, Quick-Killing Flea and Tick Products
There are many flea and tick prevention products available today—both over-the-counter and prescription—but how do you know what will work the best for your pet?
When you are choosing a flea and tick prevention product, you will want to look for three key factors:
Good residual activity (which means it keeps killing fleas and ticks over time)
Fast and efficient elimination
High level of safety
The flea and tick products out there right now for dogs that I recommend are isoxazolines—Simparica, NexGard and Bravecto. These are all prescription flea and tick preventatives that are only available by prescription from your veterinarian.
Isoxazolines kill fleas and ticks within two to four hours and keep killing for weeks.
Simparica and NexGard are labeled for monthly administration and come in a chewable tablet form. Bravecto is labeled for administration every 12 weeks (or three months) and comes in a chew as well as a topical solution.
The FDA released a statement last year warning pet parents of the potential adverse neurological effects of isoxazolines; however, this product is still considered to be safe for the majority of animals. Always ask your veterinarian for her recommendation on the best flea and tick products for your individual pet.
Other options for pet parents include prescription flea and tick products that use spinosad, like Comfortis.
These prescription flea and tick preventatives are also administered monthly in the form of a chewable tablet. Spinosad flea and tick preventatives are available for both dogs and cats.
One of the major positives about spinosad products is that they kill fleas fast—within 30 minutes. However, with spinosad flea and tick products, vomiting is a common side effect. This is why administering the tablet with food is recommended.
Imidacloprid and Flumethrin
Some pet parents may like cat flea and tick collars and dog flea and tick collars. Seresto offers flea and tick collars that use a combination of imidacloprid and flumethrin to combat fleas and ticks for up to eight months in dogs and cats.
The pros to these flea and tick collars is that they last for eight months and are low-maintenance. You also don’t need to wear gloves when handling the collars.
However, if you like to take your dog swimming, this may not be the best option for you. For dogs that swim more than once a month, the flea-fighting power of Seresto is reduced to five months, the manufacturer says, while the tick control duration is reduced to seven months.
As you can see, there are lots of choices! Your best resource for your area is your local veterinarian, who can tell you what works and what doesn’t.
2. Choose Flea and Tick Prevention That Combats the Entire Flea Life Cycle
Just killing adult fleas isn’t enough; you’ve got to stop the fleas from breeding. The flea life cycle is relatively short, so it is smart to choose flea and tick prevention that can attack fleas at every life stage.
After a flea feeds on a pet, it can start laying 40-50 eggs a day in as little as 48 hours.
If you’ve got a bad flea problem, then you need a flea and tick preventative that kills adult fleas, kills flea eggs and stunts the growth of the larvae and pupae stage fleas.
For dogs, products that contain lufenuron—like Sentinel—are a good choice. Lufenuron disrupts the growth of immature fleas and prevents them from turning into adult fleas.
However, if your pet is dealing with a flea infestation, you should talk with your veterinarian to find the best solution for your pet.
3. Treat All Pets in the Household
To prevent reinfestation, you will need to attack every active host and potential host of the fleas. That means treating every pet in your house as well as the house itself.
If you are treating the dog, the cat still may have fleas that can infest your dog and your house again! Even if you only see fleas on one pet, it is best to treat all pets in the household.
4. Identify Flea Dens and Treat Them Immediately
Sometimes your pet can get fleas if he has wandered into or through a flea den. Flea dens happen when a flea-infested animal rests in one place, like a on a pile of leaves or under a porch. While the animal is resting, fleas and eggs drop off into the environment.
Of course, these areas are of interest to your dog or cat—they smell interesting. If your dog or cat happens across one, they are likely to investigate and pick up fleas of their own.
There are two things to do if you pet has encountered a flea den: treat your dog or cat with a quick flea-killing product, like Capstar, and then treat the flea den, if you can, with a product like Advantage yard and premise spray. This won’t kill fleas over time, but it will stop an acute infestation as long as you kill fleas before they start breeding.
5. Vacuum to Help Fight Flea Infestations in Your Home
If a pet in your home has been dealing with a flea infestation, then flea eggs have made it into and around your home. Flea eggs fall off of their hosts as they move, which means that they end up in your upholstery, furniture and carpets.
One study explains that no matter what type of vacuum you use, vacuuming can be an effective way of collecting and killing fleas of every life stage in your home. Also vacuum pet bedding, carriers, and any place where your pet spends time resting.