Pet Health
Flea Control
Dr. Michael Richards, DVM

Since we know that the flea lays her eggs on the pet and they fall off, it is obvious that
they fall off where the pet goes. This means that you must treat your house if your pet
comes inside. Many people resist doing this, explaining that they never see fleas in the
house. The flea egg does not move and it is very hard to see. The flea larvae does not
have legs so it has limited movement. The pupal stage of the flea does not move at all. It
is not likely that you would be aware of immature fleas --- until they grow into adults. At
this point you will be overwhelmed and the problem will be very hard to control. It is
possible to kill the pre-adult stages of the flea in the house. Outside, the flea eggs fall off
in areas where the pet does things that dislodge them, like jumping around, sitting and
scratching, etc. If these areas are warm and moist throughout the day, the flea can
reproduce there. It is not necessary to treat large expanses of lawn that dry out during
the day -- concentrate on areas the dog spends time, that stay moist and warm. Make
sure you treat around the doors in and out of the house, where your dog or cat is likely
to be waiting around and where flea eggs are likely to drop off.

There ar now several "once a month" flea control medications for pets. Lufenuron
(
Program - tm), makes control of preadult fleas easier than it has been in the past. This
medication is approved for both dogs and cats. It is administered once a month and is
active in the body for that entire time. At the present time there are no known side
effects of the medication other than a small percentage of pets who are nauseous after
administration of the pill. It may be administered when other medications are being used.
The pill does not affect adult fleas at all. Therefore it is important to start this pill before
the flea season or to treat for adult fleas as necessary. There are also "once a month"
adult flea control medications.
Advantage (tm) and FrontLine (tm) are two new
medications that provide long lasting adult flea control.
Advantage works for about one
month to kill fleas and
FrontLine works for one month in cats and up to three months in
dogs. These are very effective products. While these products may be combined with
Program (tm), their ability to kill adult fleas effectively may make it un-necessary. There
are many other products that will kill the fleas on the pet. Shampoos, powders, and
sprays
tend to kill only the fleas present on the pet at the time of application. Mousses (flea
foams) and flea creme rinse products tend to have some residual effect. Dips, which are
usually used as pour-on products, have a slighlty longer residual effect and are more likely
to be associated with toxicity. Proban, an orally administered flea killing pill has short
duration of action but is made to be given twice weekly. There are "spot on" products as
well, which have may have a longer duration of action. However, all of these products are
more toxic and/or less effective than
FrontLine (tm) and Advantage (tm).

Treating the house should involve a two pronged approach. To kill the pre-adult fleas it is
necessary to use methoprene (Precor). This can be done by using this product alone, or
in combination sprays with an adult killing ingredient. The ingredients that kill preadult fleas
are generally effective for 3 to 4 months, indoors. Killing adult fleas can be accomplished
using any of the pyrethrins (tetramethrin, pyrethrin, permethrin, etc.), or an
organophosphate. The adult flea killing ingredients do not have a residual effect and
retreatment every 2 to 3 weeks until the fleas are gone is usually necessary. These
products come in sprays and aerosols (foggers). It is very important to read the directions,
figure out the square footage you are attempting to treat and use these products
properly. Foggers generally are ineffective unless one is placed in each room, so small size
foggers may be the most economical approach. An alternative to this approach is to use a
sodium borate product for flea control - such as FleaBusters. Some people use
diatomaceous earth (food grade) in the house to control fleas.

Flea treatment in the yard can be accomplished using one of the yard sprays specifically
made for this purpose. There is a new approach, in which a nematode (worm) that lives
on flea larvae is spread in the yard. This is non-toxic and appear to be effective. These
worms are sold by various companies. One brand name is Interrupt, available through
veterinarians. Remember, it is only necessary to treat areas which stay warm and moist.
For some people this will be the whole yard. For others, treatment of much less than the
whole yard will be effective.

Prior to this year (1996), we felt that effective flea control meant that you needed to
treat the pet, the house and the yard. Not treating any one of these could lead to
perpetual flea problems. It appears that
FrontLine (tm), Advantage (tm) and Program
(tm) may change that situation and allow control of fleas with treatment of the pet, only.

Flea control can be accomplished if you are careful to take a few steps to ensure that
your plan works. Treat your pet with one of the new flea control products. If you elect to
treat the house, to it right. Measure your house and figure out the square footage --
then apply a proper amount of flea control product. If you are using foggers, make sure
that they will cover the area you anticipate -- don't expect them to treat two rooms by
placing one in the hall, for instance. Get a fogger for each room. If you use a professional
exterminator, make sure they use a product that kills preadult fleas as well as an
adulticide. Pay them to come back in 2 weeks the first time, rather than waiting a month.
Keep up the treatment until you see no fleas, then use the preadult products 2 or 3
times a year to keep the problem from coming back.

Fleas can be controlled. It can be expensive to take care of a flea infestation but it is
usually cheaper than dealing with the complications to your pet's health that fleas can
bring about


Opinions expressed are those of Dr. Richards.

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