5 Important Things To Do If Your Pet Has FLEAS

Hello, readers! So, if you’ve stuck around for the last week or two, you’ve been with me as we hammered the topic of fleas and flea prevention into dirt (flea dirt, to be exact).

Today, we’re going to wrap up with something short, sweet, and important! Many people (myself included) find themselves in a flea induced panic at least once in their life. Here is a quick guide to help you keep your head on straight so that you can help your pets and get rid of your fleas ASAP.

If you notice that your pet has fleas, you should:

  1. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath, then proceed to step two.
  2. Get some flea prevention. Call your vet. If you’ve been to the vet within the last 6-12 months, they should be able to get you some effective flea prevention that starts working within hours. As a reminder, I recommend these products for dogs and cats. I do NOT recommend these products.
  3. Treat Your Environment. Remember that a large portion of a flea problem is actually in your environment- your yard, your carpet, your furniture. Call an exterminator for the best recommendations on how to treat your home in a way that is safe for your family and also effective. If you can’t hire an exterminator, make sure you follow the instructions on over-the-counter pesticide product labels carefully. Wash your bedding, steam clean your carpet and furniture, and vacuum frequently.
  4. Keep using flea prevention for at least 4 months… and then year round. It takes at least 4 months to get rid of an active flea infestation, as fleas in the environment may hatch, hop on your pet, and start the process all over again. After the infestation has resolved, I recommend year-round flea prevention for all pets. Why treat the problem again when you can simply prevent it?
  5. Watch Out for Flea Related Illnesses. Usually, these are fairly mild. Tapeworms are very common, and they are spread when an animal ingests a flea while licking/chewing. Tapeworms can be easily identified when an owner sees small, rice-like worms around the pet’s rear end or on bedding. They can cause GI upset and, in severe cases, malnutrition. More serious illnesses, like bacterial infections spread by fleas, can also occur. If your pet is ill and has had fleas recently, make sure you tell your vet so that they can help diagnose the problem.

Thanks for reading! How have you dealt with flea infestations in the past? How long did it take to see an improvement in your pet and your environment?

If you enjoyed this post, please like, comment, subscribe, or share! Check back on Thursday, where we will be tackling a new (but still itchy) topic, environmental allergies in pets!

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My 5 LEAST Favorite Flea Preventatives for Dogs and Cats

Welcome back, everyone! We’ve talked about my favorite flea preventative products for dogs and cats, and discussed why flea prevention is important- even for indoor pets. Today, we’re going to talk about my 5 least favorite flea products (some of them shouldn’t even be called ‘preventatives’) on the market. I will attempt to stay off of my soap box and give factual information (based off of my knowledge of parasitology, pharmacology, and the flea life cycle), but some of this is anecdotally based.

Disclaimer: I have not been sponsored or paid to write about these products by anyone. These opinions are my own and are based of 2 years of experience as a veterinarian and a combined total of nearly 10 years of working in the veterinary medical field. My opinions do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or of the veterinary medical profession as a whole. I will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or for any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.

Now, here are my 5 LEAST Favorite Flea Preventatives for Dogs and Cats:

  1. Hartz

    I have two problems with the Hartz line of products. First, I don’t find them to be very effective. They will kill adult fleas, but do not keep killing the larvae and eggs. These stages live in the environment, will continue to hatch, and then will hop right back on your dog- starting the whole process over again. I believe that this lures pet owners into a false sense of security; I see many clients that think that they are doing everything that they need to for their pet, but in reality, they are wasting their time and money.

    My second problem with the Hartz line of products is that I see more adverse reactions with these products than with other flea medications. I don’t think that this is due to unsafe ingredients (the brand has full licensure by the EPA, which regulates all topical anti-parasitics), but it may be because people buy this product and do not get counseling from veterinary staff on how to properly use it. I also think that since these products are less effective and shorter acting, they may be applied too frequently, resulting in toxicity. Most of the complaints against these products is anecdotal, but I recommend that you spend your money on something else.

  2. Capstar (and other generic nitenpyram products)

    Overall, capstar is a good product. But it is not a good flea prevention- it is a good flea killer. I believe that this isn’t always clearly communicated to clients, and so they are lured into a false sense of security. Capstar is a tablet that is given and it kills all the active adult fleas on the dog or cat for 24 hours. That’s great, as long as you cover the rest of the month with something else.
    Remember, killing adult fleas for 24 hours is not going to stop your infestation- it will only set it back a little bit. In one of my first jobs at a veterinary clinic, an old man would bring in his 5 cats every month for capstars and a steroid injection (to treat the itching from the fleas). We could not persuade him away from this habit. Don’t be like him- Don’t waste your money every week and instead buy a monthly preventative.

  3. Flea/Tick Shampoos, Powders, or Sprays

    These products were once very popular methods of flea prevention, but they simply do not work. In order for them to have a chance of being effective, you would need to treat your entire home and bathe your pets every day. That would take a lot of time, money, and resources, and even then, your success isn’t likely. There are much easier, safer, and less messy ways to deal with parasites.

  4. Fipronil Products

    I almost didn’t put this one on the list, because I respect Frontline (Fipronil) as the flagship topical flea prevention for dogs and cats. However, now that Frontline’s patent is up, other generic fipronil products have come on the market. Let me be clear- out of this list, these products are probably the safest and the most likely to actually get rid of fleas. However, they don’t even compare to the line of newer products available through your vet.

  5. Essential Oils/Homeopathic Remedies

    If you want to see a veterinarian’s eyes turn red, tell them that you feed your pet garlic to prevent fleas. Not only does this not work, but garlic can cause hemolytic anemia (which can be fatal) in dogs and cats. I also have seen people using coconut oil, skin-so-soft, human shampoos, and essential oils on their pets. These products aren’t made to be used on pets, especially for this purpose. They won’t work, may damage your pet’s skin, and can be very harmful to your pet. Please don’t listen to the pet witch doctor you met online. Your vet really does know what’s best for your pet. If there was a cheaper and easier way to prevent fleas, we’d be all for it.

Question for readers: Have you used any products listed above? What was your experience?

If you enjoyed this article, please comment, like, or share this post so that we can reach more pet owners and help more pets live their very best life!  Come back on Sunday, where we will wrap up our flea series by talking about what to do if you have fleas.

My 5 Favorite Flea Preventions (For Cats)

Hi Y’all! Last weekend, I confessed my feline flea prevention faux pas. On Thursday, we talked about my 5 favorite flea preventions for dogs. Today, we’re going to give the cat people some love. Flea prevention is just as important for cats (even if they are indoor only) as it is for dogs. Cats often have fleas with few symptoms or signs- they are fastidious groomers and an owner may see their cat itch and be unsure why.  However, many flea products available on the market can be harmful or deadly to cats, and so it is important to know which products are best for your kitty.

Although this article will focus mainly on flea products, many of the products I list below are also heartworm preventatives. Heartworm disease in cats results in respiratory distress and can even be fatal. Your cat won’t need a heartworm test to get started on heartworm prevention, but it must be purchased from a vet or with a veterinarian’s prescription, so talk to your vet today about getting on flea and heartworm prevention.

Disclaimer: I have not been sponsored or paid to write about these products by anyone. These opinions are my own and are based of 2 years of experience as a veterinarian and a combined total of nearly 10 years of working in the veterinary medical field. My opinions do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or of the veterinary medical profession as a whole. To ensure complete transparency, products listed below that are followed by a star are sold in the veterinary practice where I work. Products that are italicized have been given to me as free samples by company representatives.

Please note that I only recommend products that are safe and effective. I would never recommend anything that I didn’t feel comfortable using on my own pets.

Now, without further ado, here are my 5 Favorite Flea Preventions For Cats

  1. Revolution* 
    Revolution is a very safe, gentle, and effective flea and heartworm preventative. It is applied topically on the back of the neck and lasts for a month. It also protects against ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms. I use this product frequently on my two cats. This is also the product I use on many small mammal species, such as ferrets, guinea pigs, and rabbits (although this is considered “off label” use).
  2. Advantage Multi
    This product is also a topical flea and heartworm prevention that protects against ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms. The biggest difference between this product and revolution is that Advantage Multi has been tested and is labeled for use on ferrets. This product is only available through your vet, but another product marketed by Bayer (and available over the counter) is Advantage II, which is essentially Advantage Multi without the heartworm and intestinal parasite component.
  3. Bravecto for Cats*
    This is one of the newer products on the market, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Like the others, It is a topical that is applied to the back- but it only has to be applied every three months. The only downside is that you must apply a larger volume of product compared to Advantage or revolution, and the solution is somewhat greasy until it dries. It protects against fleas and ticks, but does not protect against heartworms or intestinal parasites. I recommend using a monthly oral heartworm prevention, such as Heartgard, if you’re using this product.
  4. Comfortis*
    Comfortis is a prescription product that is also available for dogs. We didn’t talk about it for dogs as I prefer Trifexis for dogs, which is essentially comfortis plus heartworm prevention. There isn’t a trifexis for cats, unfortunately, so you should pair comfortis with a monthly heartworm prevention. It is a tablet you must give once monthly, by mouth. The biggest downside is that this tablet is somewhat large, and can be difficult to give to cats as they can be significantly harder to give medicines to than dogs.
  5. Seresto
    Seresto for cats is an over-the-counter collar that prevents fleas and ticks for 8 months. I really like this product. It is very safe, effective, and has a safety release mechanism in case you cat gets caught on something. I don’t recommend any other type of flea collar for cats- seresto is different from other collars because it is safe and effective, isn’t greasy or smelly, and doesn’t contain chemicals that are highly toxic to cats.

Question for readers: Are you guilty on skimping on your cat’s monthly flea and heartworm prevention? Have you ever had a good or bad experience with a product? Share below!

If you liked this post, please comment, subscribe, or share to help us reach more pet owners! Don’t forget to stop by on Thursday, where we will break down my 5 LEAST Favorite Flea Preventative for Dogs and Cats.

P.S. Happy Easter!

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Photo cred for Easter Bunny and Orange Cat Picture: Pexels.com

My Flea Confession (and what you can learn from it)

Guys, I have a confession to make.

A few months ago, I was sitting on the couch with my fiancé watching TV. One of my cats, Thursday, hopped up in my lap. We have tortoise shell cats that are extremely sassy (we call it their “tortitude,”), and so it is a special occasion if they want attention. I seized the day and began petting her, only to become horrified a few seconds later.

MY CAT HAD FLEAS!!!

“How could this happen?” I found myself thinking, “My cats only stay indoors, I have hard wood floors, and both of my dogs are on flea prevention!”

I immediately started laughing. I had just used the same excuses that my clients rattle off day in and day out, and I definitely knew better. I had been telling my clients for two years that they needed to have all of their animals on flea prevention- even the ones that are “indoor only.” And now, I realized that I wasn’t practicing what I preach!

It was humbling, to say the least.

Luckily, I immediately applied Bravecto for cats (a topical feline flea prevention that lasts for an entire THREE months), and the problem went away. I am extra careful now to make sure that I give the torties their flea and heartworm prevention every month, at the same time I give my dogs theirs. I hope to never be in a state of ‘flea-nial” ever again!

FLEA-NIAL: The state of denial a pet owner is in when they say “my pet doesn’t have fleas” (and their pet definitely has fleas).

Now, you can learn from my mistake. Here are a few reasons why ALL mammals in the household need to be on flea prevention:

  1. You can track fleas, flea eggs, or other parasites into your home. Fleas can come into your house on you or your shoes. Don’t worry- they won’t parasitize humans, our body temperature is just a little too cold for them.
  2. Your dogs- even if they are on flea prevention- can track parasites into your home. Many preventions need the flea to bite the pet in order to kill the flea. This means that a flea could “hitch a ride” on an indoor/outdoor pet, come in, jump off, and colonize your indoor-only pets.
  3. It only takes two fleas to start a family. Listen, kids. When a mommy flea and a daddy flea love each other very much… But, seriously. A female flea can lay over 500 eggs in her lifetime. And those fleas can lay 500 eggs. Two fleas can easily start an infestation.
  4. Dormant stages of the flea’s life cycle can live in the environment for MONTHS. I usually tell my clients that it takes at least 4 months to get rid of an active flea infestation in your home. That is because certain life stages of the flea, especially the pupal stage, can live in your environment for up to 4 months. Because of this, you must use your products continuously and year round to prevent reinfection of your pet.
  5. Fleas can survive the winter. Especially if they are indoors, on an inside only pet, or laying dormant in your home. I see almost as many animals suffering from flea infestation in the winter as I do in the summer. I suspect that this is because owners are not as diligent as applying flea prevention in the winter time.

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Picture of the flea life cycle: borrowed from Eli Lilly and Trifexis.

Now, hopefully you have learned from my stupidity and now know the reasons WHY you need flea prevention, even in indoor pets. If you liked this post, please comment, share, or join the conversation on twitter @KatieHoganDVM

You won’t want to miss my post on Thursday- we will be talking about which flea preventions work well, which work some of the time, which are a waste of money, and which can actually be harmful to your four-legged friend.

Question for readers: Have you ever had a problem with fleas in your home? How did you finally manage to get ahead of the problem (or are you still struggling with it)!?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in my professional veterinary career, to apply to my own pets. I also work at a veterinary clinic that sells flea and heartworm prevention. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers and thier animals. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”