Fleas: A Year-Round Problem

Fleas are tiny parasites that live on the blood of mammals and are the most common external parasite in dogs and cats. Fleas can transmit disease to you and your pets before they are even found and removed. Contributing to this problem is using flea preventives/medications sporadically. A lot of pet owners think seasonal or warm weather flea control is enough. But fleas are still active even when the weather gets cold so every-now-and-then treatment is not an optimal way to protect the health of your pets and family members. That’s why it’s important for year-round, lifelong control based on your pet’s lifestyle, health and home environment.

Spot-on Treatments Versus Oral Products

The key to preventing disease and reinfestation from fleas is a once-a-month regimen using a topical (spot-on) or pill product. Spot-on products generally contain ingredients such as selamectin, fipronil or imidacloprid. The topically applied residual spot-on formulations containing these ingredients take 12-42 hours to be effective. Spinosad, a chewable tablet, also starts to work within 30 minutes and elimates fleas within four hours. It provides prevention from flea infestation for an entire month.
For long-term flea protection, the monthlies are better because with a once per month application, you get a whole month’s worth of protection.

Nitenpyram is usually found in a pill form that will eliminate fleas within three to four hours (it starts working within 30 minutes). In pets with flea allergy dermatitis, nitenpyram is usually optimal because it works right away. Nitenpyram is short-acting and therefore can be given once per day if necessary. It’s good for a kick-start.

The easiest thing to do is to schedule a time for flea treatment for your pet on a particular date each month; mark it on your calendar and you won’t forget. You can purchase flea preventives from your veterinarian or pet store. Besides treating the pet, it’s important to treat your environment because fleas can live off of your pet in places such as a pet bed, for example. Treating your home/environment can be done by applying a topical residual insecticide that kills newly acquired fleas (within 24 hours) before they can reproduce; by administering a topical, injectable or oral insect growth regulator (IGR) to stop flea reproduction; repeating the application of insecticides and/or IGR to the environment or combinations of the above.

Did you know:

  • Fleas don’t fly. But they can jump several inches in height and over a foot in length.
  • Fleas can live outdoors in temperatures as low as 33.8°F for up to five days.
  • Flea eggs and immature stages can live year-round in places where animals are housed, areas protected from the cold, in upholstered furniture and even interiors of automobiles.
  • Heavy infestations may lead to iron deficiency, anemia and death, particularly in young animals.
  • Diseases may include pruritus (intense chronic itching), cat scratch disease, murine typhus, plague, flea typhus, tapeworm infection and rashes/allergies.
  • Adult fleas can transfer directly from one host to another.

*Source Companion Animal Parasite Council

Flea bites can occur in anyone in contact with an infested dog, cat or home. Chances are if one cat or dog in the house has fleas, then the others will too, therefore, all cats and dogs should be treated. Year-round, uninterrupted prevention is the best approach for all.