Anybody that has ever owned a dog or cat at one point has probably had to deal with those tiny little bugs that we all despise. That’s right, I am talking about the ever-dreaded flea. The problem is that if you are seeing a live flea on your pet, it represents only a very small total population of the developing fleas. At any time, about 57% of the fleas are eggs, 34% are larva, 8% are pupa, and only about 1% are present as adults. So if you see 1 adult flea on your pet, there are another 99 developing in various stages. That is why once you see fleas on your pet, they are so hard to combat.

As you are probably well aware there are lots of products available on the market. Recent advances have made the war on fleas a lot easier with the help of several new products We want to give you a clear, concise description of various flea products so you can make the best decision about which product will be most beneficial for your pet.

Alternative Flea Treatments: Unfortunately, products such as ultrasonic flea collars, Brewer’s yeast, elemental sulfur, garlic, vinegar in drinking water, and B- complex vitamins have all been shown to be ineffective in controlling fleas. D-Limonene, a citrus extract, is very dangerous to pets. It can cause decreased body temperatures, loss of coordination and death. Diatomaceous earth is also very dangerous. The silica in the product can cause permanent lung disease.

Advantage (Imidacloprid): This is a once a month product that is applied to your pet’s skin. It kills adult fleas before they can feed or produce eggs. This product works well for dogs with flea allergies because it prevents them from being bitten. It essentially paralyzes the flea by binding to nicotinyl receptors. Since mammals mostly have muscarinic receptors and not nicotinyl receptors, there is little risk of toxicity. Fleas are killed within 12 hours after the initial application.

Capstar (Nitenpyram): This is an oral pill that kills adult fleas within 30 minutes. This is the fastest acting product, but it also lasts the shortest time. This product will only be effective for 1 day. This is a great product if your pet has recently been exposed to a heavy flea load, but it is not effective to treat advanced flea infestations

Frontline (Fipronil): is another topical adult flea killer. It comes in both a liquid and spray form. The product will stay concentrated in the hair and sweat glands for about a month. After that time, the product will not be as powerful. It was originally labeled to kill fleas for up to 3 months, but if you live in a region where fleas are a problem, you will need to use it once a month. The way this product works is it affects the central nervous system of the flea by blocking the passage of chloride ions through GABA regulated chloride channels. After 48 hours the animal can be bathed as often as needed without affecting the efficacy of the product. Frontline, unlike Advantage, will also repel ticks for up to a month. It is a good choice if your pet tends to pick up a lot of ticks.

Program/ Sentinel (Lufeneron): Program is an oral medication that is given once a month. Program works differently from the other two products. It doesn’t affect the fleas’ nervous system, but it inhibits chitin. Chitin is necessary for fleas to have healthy eggs. Also a developing flea can’t hatch out of its egg because it needs a chitin egg tooth. The main disadvantages are that Program will not kill the adult fleas that are already present on your pet. The fleas must essentially die of old age. You may see adult fleas for up to 4-6 months after starting your pet on Program. Secondly, this product will not help pets that have flea allergies. The flea must bite your pet for the medication to start working. Sentinel is a product that has Program in it as well as heartworm prevention medication. Thus, the flea control portion of Sentinel has the same disadvantages as discussed above.

Revolution (Selamectin): Revolution is applied topically on the skin of the dog or cat each month This product kills a variety of parasites including immature heartworms, adult fleas, flea eggs, ticks, ear mites, and sarcoptic mange mites. This product does enter the bloodstream through the skin. Most pets tolerate this product well. Studies have shown that about 1% of dogs can have digestive upset with this product. It works by blocking nerve signal transmissions.

Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids: These are ingredients that are found in an assortment of products from shampoos and sprays to topical canine spot-on products. Many spot-on flea products are available at discount, grocery, and farm stores. Cats and young animals can be very sensitive to these products. They can be quite toxic if overly used. Signs of poisoning with these products can include muscle tremors, weakness, depression, vomiting, seizures and death. Signs may develop within a few hours to 3 days following exposure. These products are processed by the liver. These products are not as effective as other ones described above and certainly are not as safe.

Carbamates (e.g. carbaryl) and Organophosphates (e.g. malathion, chlorpyrifos): These chemicals are used to primarily kill adult fleas. They are potentially very toxic to pets, particularly to cats and young animals. These ingredients are found in a variety of formulations for use on the animal and in the environment. Given safer, more effective products that are available, these products are no longer recommended.

Treating The House: Carpets, pet bedding and resting areas in the home should be well vacuumed Bedding should be frequently washed.

Insect Growth Regulators (IGR’s) (e.g. methoprene- Precor, fenoxycarb, pyriproxyfen-Nylar): These hormones will cause the egg and larva to develop abnormally. These products work well to help break up the lifecycle and are good for indoor flea control. They tend to work best when used as a spray especially under furniture and appliances and in dark areas of the house. Your pet will still need to be treated with another product.

Given the widespread problems with fleas, we realize that nearly every pet owner has had to deal with these pests. We provide this information to you so you can make the best decision for your pet. We know prevention is extremely important. If you keep your pet on a good preventative medication, it will eliminate flea infestations and a lot of headache down the road for both you and your best friend.