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Flea Control and Prevention in Dogs

By: PetPlace Staff

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Fighting the Flea

Types of commercial products available for flea control include flea collars, shampoos, sprays, powders and dips. Other, newer, products include oral and systemic spot-on insecticides.

In the past, topical insecticide sprays, powders and dips were the most popular. However, the effect was often temporary. Battling infestations requires attacking areas where the eggs, larvae, pupae and adults all congregate. Because some stages of a flea's life can persist for months, chemicals with residual action are needed and should be repeated periodically. Sprays or foggers, which required leaving the house for several hours, have been used twice in 2-week intervals and then every two months during the flea season.

Treating animals and their living areas thoroughly and at the same time is vital; otherwise some fleas will survive and re-infect your pet. You may even need to treat your yard or kennel with an insecticide, if the infestation is severe enough.

The vacuum cleaner can be a real aid in removing flea eggs and immature forms. Give special attention to cracks and corners. At the end of vacuuming, either vacuum up some flea powder into your vacuum bag, or throw the bag out. Otherwise, the cleaner will only serve as an incubator, releasing more fleas into the environment as they hatch. In some cases, you may want to obtain the services of a licensed pest control company. These professionals have access to a variety of insecticides and they know what combinations work best in your area.

Treatment and Prevention

As one might expect, flea control through these methods is very time consuming, expensive and difficult. The good news is that currently, with the newer flea products on the market, flea control is much safer, more effective and environmentally friendly. Current flea control efforts center on oral and topical systemic treatments. These products not only treat existing flea problems, they also are very useful for prevention. In fact, prevention is the most effective and easiest method of flea control.

  • One group of products works to control fleas by interrupting the development of fleas by killing flea larva and eggs. These drugs are called insect growth regulators (IGRs). These products do not kill adult fleas, but they dramatically decrease the flea population by arresting their development. One common oral product used is lufenuron (Program®). Lufenuron is given monthly, and is combined with heartworm protection in the product lufenuron/milbemycin Sentinel®. Lufenuron is also available as an injection that lasts 6 months. Methoprene and pyriproxifen (Nylar®) are also very effective IGRs that are available as sprays or collars.

  • Other products kill the actual flea (adulticides) and work quite rapidly. These include both spot-on and oral products. Spot-on products are usually applied on your pet's skin between the shoulders. The medication is absorbed into the skin and distributed throughout the body. Fleas are killed rapidly on contact with the skin. Spot-on products include fipronil(Frontline®), Metaflumizone (ProMeris® and ProMeris Duo™), imidacloprid (Advantage®), and Selamectin (Revolution®). A recently developed oral adulticide is nitenpyram (Capstar®), that when given begins to kill fleas in 30 minutes.

    All these products are safer, easier to use and, if used correctly, the most effective method of flea control. Additionally, some have the added benefit of efficacy against other parasites. Some veterinarians are even recommending a combination of an adulticide and insect growth regulator (Frontline Plus®) as a more complete method of flea control.

    With all these choices it is best to consult your veterinarian as to the best flea control and prevention for your pet. The choice of flea control should depend on your pet's life-style and potential for exposure. Through faithful use of these systemic monthly flea products, the total flea burden on your pet and in the immediate environment can be dramatically reduced. Keeping your pet on monthly flea treatments, especially in areas of high flea risk, is an excellent preventive method of flea control. These products often eliminate the need for routine home insecticidal use, especially in the long run. Although it may still be prudent in heavy flea environments to treat the premises initially, the advent of these newer systemic flea products has dramatically simplified, and made flea control safer and more effective.

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