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New Drug Eradicates Fleas In Hours

By: Susan Rubinowitz

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Fleas – the scourge of dogs and cats from time immemorial – have a new enemy that promises to eradicate them from pets within a matter of hours.

This new weapon in the long war against the seemingly indomitable flea is a medication called Capstar®. Manufactured by Novartis Animal Health, it starts working to kill adult fleas within 30 minutes. According to the company, it wipes out 90 percent of the flea population on dogs within four hours and within six hours on cats – all with a single dose.

The tablets, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, are available from veterinarians. Pet owners can place the pill directly in their pets' mouth or hide it in food, but should watch closely to be sure the pet swallows the tablet. If you're in doubt that the animal has ingested it, it's safe to give a second pill.

According to the manufacturer, Capstar® is safe enough to use on puppies and kittens when they reach four weeks of age and two pounds in weight. The tablets can be used together with heartworm preventives, corticosteroids, antibiotics, vaccines, deworming medications and other flea products.

Fleas make life miserable for pets because the hatchlings feed by biting the animal and consuming his blood. The bites can produce red, itching welts that the pet scratches, often sparking an infection.

Fleas Can Lay Up to 2,000 Eggs

The flea's fertility and reproductive speed make them tough adversaries. A female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs in her lifetime, each one hatching into an adult flea in just three weeks. After the insects feed on its host's blood, they lay eggs in the coat. The eggs drop off the pet, often landing in the household carpet, sofa or bedding. The larvae that hatch from the eggs weave a cocoon, and the adult flea that emerges hops aboard your pet to start the cycle all over again.

Capstar's® main ingredient, nitenpyram, kills the flea after it feeds, explained Novartis spokesman Darrell Klug. The flea dies after ingesting the compound.

Still, you may need to give repeated doses because immature fleas still ensconced in your carpeting or upholstery may well hop onto your pet, restarting the cycle.

To prevent the fleas that may remain in your home from multiplying long term, you may also want to treat your pet with an insect growth regulator like Novartis' Program®, also known as lufenuron, which comes in Flavor Tabs. This substance interrupts the lifecycle of fleas, keeping immature fleas from developing into adults. Both drugs can be used together safely, laboratory tests have confirmed.

Some anti-flea topical products have their limitations. Liquid drops can take 12 to 48 hours to work.

Man's battle against the mighty flea started gaining ground about a decade ago, with the discovery of methoprene. This chemical, unrelated to Capstar®, plays tricks on the flea's hormones, fooling it into thinking it's still a juvenile. The flea simply doesn't grow up and lay eggs, said Robert E. Lewis, professor emeritus at Iowa State University, curator of its Insect Collection and author of the book ``The Fleas of the Pacific Northwest." That substance was the first weapon to undermine the flea's reproductive cycle.

For more information about Capstar, call Novartis' toll-free Guarantee Hotline at 1-888-327-9745.

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