Fleas can be a serious health problem for both pets and their owners. Flea bite allergies, tapeworm infestations (fleas serve as the intermediate host that brings the tapeworm to your pet), and even the Plague are some of the problems that fleas can cause. Obviously, the biggest problem is the itchiness the bites cause to you and your pet.
First, a few facts about fleas. For every adult flea found on your pet, there are hundreds to thousands of eggs, hundreds of larva, and tens of other adults in the yard and/or house. Fleas will defecate on your pet and when you part the fur you can often find the droppings, which are dark brown or black looking, sized like pepper, and will melt brown-red if wetted. The adult flea, once on the pet, stays there, feeding, and then laying eggs, which then fall off the pet to begin development. Larva looks like tiny maggots. These can be seen in the rugs or in the bedding. Eggs are sized like fine dandruff, white, “egg-shaped”, and can fall off the pet if rubbed. The pupated larva (those in a cocoon) can survive almost anything, including insecticides, dryness, extreme temperatures, and time. Vibrations (like your pet walking by or vacuuming!) tend to stimulate their hatching. Once the fleas hatch and start taking blood meals, they have a lifespan of only 2-4 weeks. They like humidity and they hate dry conditions. In the South Bay Area, the weather never gets extreme enough to kill the fleas off.
All pets should be on some form of flea control year-round. Fleas can be present year-round in the Bay Area, even winter.
For dogs, Revolution, Frontline, Comfortis, or Advantage are great at killing adult fleas. Sentinel works great as well, and provides heartworm and intestinal parasite control, but will not kill adult fleas. You can apply Advantage or Frontline, or give Comfortis, IF you see any adult fleas on the dog, along with giving Sentinel.
For cats, we recommend Revolution , as it provides both heartworm and flea control. But Advantage and Frontline also work great, too. Program , especially the injections can be convenient or desirable if you do not want any “chemicals” on the coat of your cat.
ADVANTAGE: Is a liquid which is put on the back of your pet in one or more spots. It then spreads across the oils and waxes of the skin to cover the entire body within 24 hours. It kills adult fleas within minutes of contact. It lasts 1 month. Bathing your pet will remove some of it and you will probably lose about 1 week of action for every bath. It may, therefore, be necessary to reapply it sooner if you bathe your pet more often than once a month. It can be used on both dogs and cats safely, as young as 6 weeks for puppies and 8 weeks for kittens. We’ve also seen some cats show excessive drooling after receiving a treatment of Advantage from having licked up some of the medication. The bad taste of the alcohol in it causes them to drool. Beware of “look-alike” products available at pet stores, which may not be safe for cats.
COMFORTIS: Is an oral flea control product for dogs ONLY. It is a chewable, flavored pill which kills adult fleas for one month! Since it is a pill, there is no external residue to worry about, no worry about petting your pet and cannot be affected by bathing. It is a unique compound that has received “green awards” for its environmental friendliness. Dermatologists say it has the quickest kill time of the adulticide products, making it ideal for those pets with an allergy to flea bites (FAD- flea allergy dermatitis).
REVOLUTION: Is topical flea control product. Revolution also protects against heartworm disease, some kinds of ticks, ear mites, scabies mites, and some intestinal parasites. Revolution is applied the same way as Advantage and also kills adult fleas. In addition, it also prevents the development of new flea eggs. It is safe for cats and dogs and lasts for one month per application. Your dog must be tested for heartworm disease before starting Revolution. Cats do not need to be tested for heartworm disease. This is a prescription drug. The manufacturer says that as much as 10% of the cats can lose hair temporarily at the application site, but we have not seen that happen. You need to use Revolution year round for the heartworm protection here in the Bay Area.
FRONTLINE: Is a topical flea and tick control product. It has better effectiveness against ticks than Revolution, however, Frontline does not provide heartworm control- only flea and tick control. It lasts one month and is more resistant to being removed by bathing than Advantage.
PROGRAM: Is an artificial insect hormone which goes into the pet’s fat and is released slowly over the next 32 days. It is safe for both dogs and cats. This hormone, when taken in by the flea with its blood meal, prevents the eggs laid by that flea from hatching or developing into adults! Once that flea dies, there are no progeny to take its place. It is very convenient and effective. Program will not kill adult fleas. There is a Program injection for cats that lasts 6 months. Program should be used year round to provide the best flea control.
SENTINEL: Is for dogs and combines PROGRAM and INTERCEPTOR (heartworm preventative) in one pill! Sentinel must be used year round for heartworm and flea control. It is a prescription drug.
FLEA COMBS: Work extremely well, are safe, help groom excess hair off your pet, never “runs out”, and are non-toxic. They are labor and time intensive but remove adult fleas instantly, so they cannot bite your pet. They can find fleas much more easily than searching by hand.
FLEA SPRAYS, FLEA COLLARS, POWDERS, and DIPS have been replaced by the previously mentioned products!
In general, however, we find that most people do not need to treat the house or yard as long as consistent flea control is being used on the pets.
If you use Program (includes Sentinel for dogs), Comfortis, Advantage, Frontline, or Revolution you will only need to treat the house if you are getting bit. It will help to vacuum a few days prior to treating to get those pupated larva out of their cocoons. Remove the vacuum bag and throw it away after vacuuming. Treat the house every 2-3 weeks, 2-3 times.
When treating the house, be sure to move furniture while vacuuming to get the larva which have migrated underneath the furniture. Be sure to concentrate on areas where the pet likes to sleep. This is where there will be a lot of eggs, larva, and droppings which the larva feed on.
You should only need to treat the yard if you yourself are getting bit by fleas and if you are ONLY using Program/Sentinel with your pets. Incoming fleas and untreated eggs may be coming from squirrels, raccoons, possums, or neighborhood cats, which are not on Program. Even still, we recommend that you try using Advantage, Revolution, Frontline, or Comfortis on your pets first, before spraying the yard. All sprays in the yard tend to be broken down quickly by the sun and only kill adults, so retreatment is very important outside. You can buy various insecticides such as MALATHION, DURSBAN, DIAZANON, and SEVIN at the hardware store or garden supply and do it yourself. A lot of the effective insecticides have been outlawed by California EPA, however. You should treat the entire yard every 2-3 weeks for 2-3 cycles then every 1-2 months, depending on how bad your problem is. You can have a PROFESSIONAL SERVICE come out and do it. Some have a guarantee for a certain period of time .
If you have any questions, give us a call and we will give you our expert advice!
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