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Flea and tick products: which one is best?

Ah, flea season. How we loathe it. As summer draws to an end, we are seeing the typical spike in flea infestations. Getting rid of the little suckers can be frustrating, and the wide array of products available can be overwhelming. Where to start?

Flea and tick collars available at the pet or grocery store are really not a good choice (but they work great at killing the fleas you vaccuum up if you put one in the bag or canister). They tend to not protect the whole pet, and it is not at all uncommon to see fleas walking right over the collars with no ill effects. Plus they’re not great to have around kids, because the pesticides can be easily ingested.

Cheap topical flea and tick preventatives are, well, you get what you pay for. And these can be tricky. There is actually a product on the market that is marketed as flea treatment, but unless you read the fine print, you are not going to realize that it does not kill fleas at all, just sterilizes the eggs. Toxicity is also a concern. And flea/tick medications sold for dogs should never EVER be used on cats. Cats can be very sensitive, and dog products can cause neurologic problems and in extreme cases, even death.Oakley and Dakota

So what do we recommend?

Frontline Plus is our old standby, a good workhorse that kills both fleas and ticks. It’s been around for a long time, and we see very few reactions to it. There have been concerns about its effectiveness against fleas recently, so some people have chosen different options. The biggest cause of product failure is inconsistency in use, but if you feel that Frontline is no longer working, we do have other options!

Our favorite of the new products is Nexgard, an oral flea and tick preventative that is given once a month. It is only available for dogs, but it seems to do a great job in killing fleas and ticks. Because it is an oral medication instead of a topical one, the flea or tick does need to bite your pet and feed on him, so you will find attached ticks, but they will most likely already be dead. This has become pretty popular since we started carrying it, and almost everyone has been very happy with it.

Advantage II is another topical medication choice if you only need protection from fleas. It’s a great choice for indoor cats, or for dogs who don’t venture into woods or fields where they’re likely to pick up ticks. Advantage is available for both cats and dogs, and it seems to work very well.

If Advantage isn’t seeming strong enough, we are also carrying a product called Activyl. Unlike our other flea and tick products, Activyl must be purchased as an entire sixpack, but for the really tough flea infestations, it seems to make a big difference.

catzillasunrollIf you’re looking for a product that works against more than fleas and ticks, we carry a product called Revolution. Revolution is a topical product that protects against fleas and heartworm disease in dogs (and ticks but not very well) and fleas, heartworm, and ear mites in cats. Because it’s not particularly effective against ticks, we don’t typically recommend it for dogs (who must be heartworm tested or current on oral heartworm medication), but we do have it as an option for those who are interested.

And last but not least, we carry an area treatment for the home that we really like, called Siphotrol. It is a spray rather than a bomb, so you are able to put it in the places where it needs to be, such as the corners of rooms and under the furniture. It is pet-safe once dry, and it dries pretty quickly. It is a great option if you already have fleas in your home, because only a very small portion of the flea population is the adult fleas you see on your pets. The siphotrol will take care of the various life stages of fleas that are living in your carpeting or furniture, and give you a big step up in effectively eliminating the problem.

For complete instructions on how to combat fleas in your home, check out our Dealing With the Dreaded Flea Infestation post from last year. Chock full of excellent information and recommendations on returning your home to a bug-free zone.

 

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New weapons in the war on bugs!

Flea season last year was horrible. We saw so many clients with flea infestations who had never ever had flea problems in the past. It was frustrating and expensive for clients, and frustrating for us because they were so hard to treat. While we have an excellent step-by-step treatment guide for dealing with fleas, it seemed that no matter what people were doing, it just wasn’t working.

Recently, a few new products have come onto the market. One is just for fleas, the other is for fleas and ticks. White Oaks Veterinary Hospital is carrying both of them in order to give our clients more options when it comes to fighting the dreaded bugs that our pets can harbor.

The first one is for fleas only and is available for both cats and dogs. It is called Activyl, and we’ve been getting great reviews from clients.

Nobody wants fleas.

Nobody wants fleas.

We are only carrying the flea-only version of the product (the one that also kills ticks is toxic to cats), and it is currently only available for purchase as a pack of six, but at this point it does appear to be a powerful weapon against those dreaded blood-sucking, home-infesting fleas. If you have a kitten and you’re just looking for a general flea preventative, we would still recommend Advantage because it is a bit more gentle. If you’ve been using Frontline or Advantage and it’s working for you– fantastic! No reason to fix something that’s not broken. But we want to make you aware that we do have a potentially more potent option for the really tough flea problems.

Our other new product is something we’re pretty excited about– the first once-a-month ORAL flea and tick preventative called Nexgard.

nexgard

There have been other oral flea preventatives out there for awhile, but this is the first one that works against ticks as well. It is made by Merial, the makers of Frontline, and it has had extremely good reviews. It is slightly more expensive than Frontline, but it’s a terrific option for dogs who swim a lot, are bathed a lot, or have owners who dislike the oily patch that topical preventatives leave.

As with many oral medications, the most frequent side effect is vomiting, but otherwise this product seems to work very well. A number of staff members have tried it and liked it (I love it for my smooth-coated dogs– no mess!) and we are excited to see how it performs this flea season.

As always with tick prevention, checking your pet over after being out and avoiding high-risk tick areas is advised no matter what kind of preventative you are using (and even if you are having your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease because ticks do carry other nasties), but in the area that we live in, ticks are going to be lurking and for many people and their pets, unavoidable.

Nexgard is not available for cats. It is a dog-only product.

If either of these products sounds like something that you might be interested in for your own pet, or if you have any questions about what the right flea and tick preventative for your pets is, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 717-665-2338. We would be happy to help you figure out the best option for your pet.

 

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Dealing with the dreaded FLEA INFESTATION.

‘Tis the season for fleas. It seems like they are everywhere right now, and lots of people are struggling with combatting them. There are so many options out there for treating flea problems– treating your pets, treating your house. Let us try to lay out a basic warfare plan for you.

Fighting the flea life cycle is a challenging battle. Most people with flea issues find that fleas seem to come in waves– again and again– making the fight seem impossible to win. It is frustrating, but we are here to help. We agree that it takes a lot of work, but with guidance you can end your flea problem by targeting the life cycle and striking it from multiple angles.

It is time to think like a flea to better understand fleas. By the time you realize you have a flea problem, you are likely six or more weeks into these pests infiltrating your home! In a typical flea population, the adult fleas, which prefer to live on your pet, represent only about 5% of the total flea population. The remaining 95% of the flea population, the eggs, larvae, and pupae, exists in the environment. Depending on temperature and humidity, the completion of the life cycle from egg to larva to pupa to adult flea varies from as short as about two weeks up to one year. An adult flea can survive for three months to one year, with the females laying up to 50 eggs per day. It is imperative to treat all the pets and their home environment (which sometimes includes your car, your garage, and the outside yard area), to get a flea problem completely under control.

To Do List:

Step One — Treat all the Pets

Apply a monthly flea product to every pet that lives or enters your home. We recommend Frontline Plus or Advantage II — the active ingredients in both of these products can be safely used on dogs and cats. If you do not treat every pet, the flea life cycle will continue. Be sure to use the product according to package instructions. You must treat all pets for several months (usually at least three) to break the life cycle of the flea. Do not discontinue treatment after only one or two months. REPEAT THE TOPICAL TREATMENT MONTHLY.

If you are using Frontline Plus, do not bathe your pet for two days before or after applying the product. Advantage II can be applied immediately after a bath and a towel drying.

For a severe infestation, Capstar, an oral pill, will begin killing adult fleas on a pet within an hour of ingestion and continue killing fleas for 24 hours. It’s a like a “flea bath in a pill”.

For dog-only environments, Sentinel, which is a heartworm preventative product, also contains a “birth control for the flea that the dog takes”, thus preventing any viable, hatchable eggs being laid by the fleas.

Step Two — Treat the Indoor Environment

Fleas can seemingly go anywhere. Their eggs can be on your pets, but most will fall off into your carpets and furniture and between the cracks in your floor. Once the eggs hatch, the larva live in similar areas until they spin their cocoons, then finally emerge as adult fleas. And then the life cycle repeats. To stop this process, we recommend Siphotrol Plus Area Treatment — an aerosol can product with both quick kill and residual activity against fleas– or you can hire a professional residential pest control company.

Before treating, vacuum the environment very well, concentrating on the areas where “dust bunnies” go and where your pets spend most of their time. After vacuuming, empty your vacuum canister or bag immediately since flea eggs can hatch inside your vacuum cleaner. Be sure to follow package instructions carefully, treating your entire house, even areas your pet does not enter (fleas still will!). This might include closets, basement, garage, and bathrooms. We recommend use of a spray product like the Siphotrol Plus Area Treatment, because foggers will get good overall coverage but may not reach under furniture, under cushions, or in the nooks and crannies.

Wash your pet’s bedding and your own bedding in hot water.

Repeat this process in 2-3 weeks and then as needed to fully resolve your situation.

Step Three — Treat the Outdoor Environment

It is likely that every time your pet walks outdoors, he or she is picking up new fleas. Fleas are often brought into your yard by wildlife and stray cats– animals who visit your yard when you are not looking. People can actually bring “hitchhiker fleas” into the home on pant legs and shoes. Fleas will enter your house through window screens, cracks, and crevices like any other bug. Check your local retail store (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Tractor Supply) for outdoor sprays or granules to help reduce your pet’s exposure to fleas when they are enjoying the outdoors.

Whew, that was a lot of information! Fleas can be an extremely frustrating problem to deal with, and we totally understand that. If you are having problems that you just cannot get under control, talk to us and maybe we can help. Also, your flea products will have a phone number for the manufacturer on them, and that can also be a helpful resource in combatting stubborn flea issues. Merial, the makers of Frontline Plus, guarantee their product if purchased from a veterinarian, and will even go so far as paying for the home to be treated by an exterminator in some cases.

Things will get better after we start getting some good hard frosts, but if you have a flea problem in your home, the change in seasons will unfortunately not be helpful. Hopefully the steps in this post will help you get back to a happy, pest-free household.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Cats, Dogs, fleas, Health, parasites

 

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