A guide to fleas and flea control

  • Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of your pets.  The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common cause of infestation in both dogs and cats.
  • When infested with fleas, some pets will just be itchy, but others can develop skin problems, especially those with a flea allergy, who can develop flea allergy dermatitis.
  • If your pet has fleas, you may just see them scratching.  Sometimes live fleas can be seen.  You can also check for ‘flea dirt’, the blood-based faeces of fleas, by combing them onto a wet piece of paper.
  • The majority of the flea life cycle occurs in the pet’s environment, so only 5% of the flea population are adults which are actually on the pet.
  • Environmental flea control can be achieved through regular vacuuming and use of household flea sprays.
  • For pets, there are many topical treatments (such as spot-on solutions and sprays) available that if used regularly will help to treat or prevent flea infestation.  It is important to treat all cats and dogs that are in the household.
  • Fleas also have a role in the lifecycle of tapeworm, so regular flea treatment and worming is important.

The life cycle of fleas

  • Adult fleas feed on your pet.  The females lay eggs, which fall off your pet into the environment.  Flea eggs hatch into larvae, which live in the environment (usually on pets bedding, in carpets and between floorboards) and feed on organic debris.  Flea larvae will develop into pupae, which, within days to weeks will hatch into adults.
  • So, because the majority of the flea population is not on the pet, just treating against adult fleas on the pet will not give as good control over the flea population as addressing other stages of development and the environment as well.

Controlling fleas in the environment

  • The vast majority of the flea population are found in the environment, concentrated mostly to ‘hotspots’ such as where the pet sleeps, in carpet edges and between floorboards.
  • Vacuuming can pick up eggs and flea dirt; though will often miss pupae, larvae and adult stages.
  • After vacuuming it is important to use a household spray, such as Indorex® Household Flea Spray, to spray not only the ‘hotspots’ but also the rest of the house.  This contains an insecticide, which will kill adult fleas for up to 2 months, and an insect growth regulator, which prevents larval development for up to 12 months.  Always read the directions for use carefully, ventilate the house well after use and do not use around caged birds or fish.
  • Other similar household sprays available include Vetkem® Acclaim Flea Spray and Staykill® Household Flea Spray.

Controlling fleas on your pet

  • Flea treatments for use on your pet are designed primarily to target the adult stage of the flea life cycle.  There are a wide range of products available, many of which will be explained below:
  • Remember, it is important to treat all dogs and cats in the household, or the treatment is likely to fail.
  • Always read product directions before use and follow instructions carefully.  Seek veterinary advice before using treatments on your pet, especially in young or pregnant animals.  Do not use more than one product at a time.
  • Some treatments are sprays but most are available as a spot-on treatment, which is a small amount of liquid administered by application onto your pet’s skin.

Treatments that are available without a veterinary prescription

  • Frontline® spot-on, Effipro® spot-on and Eliminall® spot-on are all examples of flea treatments that contain fipronil, which is an insecticide that is effective against adult fleas.  Some of the fipronil-based products are also licensed against ticks and biting lice.  These are usually recommended for application every 4-8 weeks.  These products can be purchased without a written prescription from your vet.
  • Advantage® is another spot-on solution available to purchase without a prescription.  Advantage® contains imidacloprid and is licensed for treatment of fleas and biting lice (in dogs only).

Treatments that require a veterinary prescription

  • Frontline® Spray and Effipro® Spray are fipronil-containing sprays designed for application directly onto your pet.  Puppies and kittens from 2 days age may be safely treated.
  • Frontline® Combo Spot-Oncontains both fipronil and (S)-methoprene.  It kills adult fleas on your pet and protects against re-infestation for 4 weeks in cats, and 8 weeks in dogs.  The addition of (S)-methoprene, an insect growth regulator, allows Frontline® Combo to inhibit the developmental stages of the flea for 6 weeks in cats, and 8 weeks in dogs.  This feature is important preventing environmental contamination.  Frontline® Combo is also effective against ticks and biting lice.
  • Advocate® is another spot-on solution; this contains imidaloprid and moxidectin.  This is available for cats and dogs and is licensed for treatment and/or prevention of mixed parasitic infections.  In cats, this includes fleas, larvae, ear mites and some worms.  In dogs, this includes fleas, larvae, ear mites and other mites, and a number of worms (including lungworm).  Advocate® is a popular treatment because it provides some worm treatment as a spot-on, including lungworm in dogs.  It is important to remember that Advocate® does not treat for tapeworms; this can be achieved by using Droncit® tablets as well.
  • Stronghold® is a spot-on solution for internal and external parasites, containing selamectin, available for dogs and cats.  It is indicated for treatment and prevention of flea infestations, and has some residual activity against flea eggs.  For dogs, Stronghold® also has some activity against roundworm, heartworm, biting lice, sarcoptes and ear mites.  For cats, Stronghold® also has some activity against roundworm, heartworm, biting lice, ear mites and intestinal hookworms.
  • Advantix® is a spot-on solution containing imidacloprid and permethrin, for use in dogs.  Do not use Advantix® on cats.  It eliminates fleas and ticks, and repels ticks, mosquitos, sandflies and stable flies.

For all veterinary flea treatments it is important to read all product instructions carefully and use as directed by your veterinary surgeon.
These products are available from www.AnimedDirect.co.uk.
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