Flea Control Fact Sheet
Fleas can be a real trial. The last ten years have given us a number of excellent weapons in the war against fleas, to the point where they can be extremely well controlled. Gone are the days of bug bombs and constant fleas sprays. Instead we have new technology and new understanding of the flea's life cycle to help us combat the problem.
Your dog or cat can get fleas from a visiting pet, from animals travelling through your yard, or you can bring them home on your clothes. Once on your pet the fleas will rarely leave. They will bite your pet and have a blood meal. After feeding, a female flea will lay up to 25 eggs per day. She can live for 2 weeks (that's 300 eggs!).
Unlike adult fleas, the eggs do not stay on your pet. Instead, they fall off and lodge in the carpet, floor, or bedding. Larvae that look like tiny worms hatch from the eggs. They feed for a while, then make "cocoons" (pupate) and are dormant for a while. When conditions are right, the new flea hatches from the cocoon and leaps onto your pet and the whole process starts again.
If your pet already has fleas, just killing the adults is not effective for long term flea control. You could treat your pet with a flea shampoo or spray to kill most of the fleas on him, but as soon as one of the eggs in the environment hatches the new flea will jump right on your pet and your problem starts all over again. We need to take a two-pronged approach to solve the problem; we need to get rid of the adult fleas so our pets are not being bitten, and we need to stop the cycle of flea-egg-larva-pupa-flea to control re-infestation and future problems.
Before we get into the new methods of flea control, we need to revisit an old one. I have heard stories from many clients about how one of their pets never seemed to have fleas, although their other pets in the same environment may have been crawling with them. I've also seen pets that have the entire flea population of the province on their backs, while their neighbors are flea-free. What makes one pet appear to be more susceptible to fleas and others resistant?
It is a fact that an animal with healthy skin and hair will be more "resistant" to fleas, even in a flea-friendly environment like the lower mainland. Keeping your pet's skin clean and disease-free and keeping the coat clean and tangle-free is your first line of defense against flea infestations. Sometimes adding essential fatty acids (EFAs) to the diet will help decrease skin inflammation and the resulting susceptibility to fleas. Make sure your pet is on a good diet, and make sure that any skin problems like itching, allergies, ringworm or mites are taken care of promptly.
Bravecto is a new product that treats and prevents flea infestations and controls ticks for dogs over 2 kg and 6 months of age. It is not a topical product, so is not affected by swimming or bathing. It is a flavoured chew tablet, and starts killing fleas and ticks within 2 hours of administration. It is effective in controlling Ixodes ticks, the most common species of ticks in our area. It lasts 12 weeks, so only needs to be given 4 times a year. However, it does not contain a dewormer; this must be given separately if needed.
Program (cats only)
Program mimics chitin, a protein in the external skeleton of the flea. When a flea bites a treated pet, it gets a dose of Program. When the flea goes on to reproduce, the Program is incorporated into the developing flea in the egg instead of chitin, resulting in the embryonic flea's death. Any eggs laid by fleas that have ingested Program will not hatch, circumventing the infestation problem. It will not kill the fleas on your pet. To do that, we recommend a dose of Advantage.
If your pet already has fleas when you start giving Program, there will be a 2 to 3 month delay before you see a significant decrease in the number of fleas on your pet. This is because there are already lots of eggs, larvae and cocoons already in your home. These will have to hatch and go through their life cycle to adulthood before Program affects them.
Program should be used year round for best flea control results. It comes as a liquid that is given by mouth once per month. There is also an injectable form that is given once every 6 months. Because of other concerns in cats (specifically injection site tumors), we recommend that most cats be given the oral liquid every month rather than the injection, whenever possible.
Sentinel (dogs only)
Sentinel is a flavoured, chewable tablet for dogs. It contains the same active for treating fleas as Program. See above (Program) for more details on how Sentinel works to treat fleas. The difference between Sentinel and Program is that Sentinel contains a dewormer.
Advantage is applied topically once every 4 weeks. It is supplied as a liquid that is applied to your pet’s back, on the skin. In the first 24 hours after application it spread over your pet’s entire body and sits in the hair follicles. It will last for 4 weeks. All of the fleas that are on your pet will die within 24 hours of application. New fleas that jump on your pet will generally be killed within a day or two. Advantage will lose its effectiveness if you bathe your pet frequently, and it will lose some effectiveness over the course of the month. It may be one of the best products for pets with fleas allergies since it kills the fleas quickly. It is possible for fleas to develop resistance to any insecticide, including Advantage, so we do not advocate using it as a long-term control method. It should be used as a short-term solution for flea infestations, along with Bravecto, Sentinel or Program for long term control.
Ovicollars contain Precor, a non-toxic product that kills flea eggs. When the collar is worn continuously its effects are similar to that of Program®. The same 2 to 3 month "lag time" can be expected. A single Ovicollar will work for up to 12 months on cats, 10 months on dogs.
Flea combs have very fine teeth that can pass through your pet’s hair and pick out the fleas. A metal flea comb will last longer than one with plastic teeth. They are safe and ideal to use on very young kittens and puppies under 8 weeks of age that are too young to treat with any other method.