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!


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.