After another long winter, it sure is great to see the return of warm weather. As a veterinarian, warm weather also means a sudden increase in business. After being cooped up all winter, it seems pet owners and their pets are just dying to get out and start running around. Unfortunately, we see an increase in pets getting into fights and getting hit by cars during this time of year. Also, within the first few weeks of warm weather we inevitably start seeing skin issues related to fleas.
If you have had pets and have never had fleas, you have either used good flea prevention or have just been lucky. We have pet owners who use no prevention and seem to get away with it, but more commonly we see pet owners who use no flea control and then have to spend months trying to get them under control. Hopefully this column will help prevent that situation.
There are a lot of different types of flea products. The earlier flea products came in the form of shampoos, sprays, and leave-on dips. The active ingredients in these products often were in the pyrethrin family. They often did kill fleas, but they had to be applied usually at least once a week to be effective. Because this is very inconvenient for most pet owners, the products weren’t applied often enough and flea infestations were common. In addition, many fleas have become resistant to pyrethrins and won’t kill fleas even if applied properly. Any flea product you buy with the active ingredient ending in -thrin would fall into this category.
About 15 years ago pet owner’s ability to prevent fleas became a whole lot easier. At that time Advantage and Frontline became available. They came in tubes to be applied on the skin on the back of the pet. After applying them, the product would get into the skin and spread over the entire pet’s body within 12 hours and then would last for a whole month! Both products were safer than the pyrethrin products. Both products are still available and work well today. Anytime fleas have exposure to insecticides long enough, there can become some resistance seen. Recently, I have seen a few cases of possible resistance to Frontline and I am sure resistance to Advantage will occur eventually.
After recommending the same flea medications to my clients for the last 10 years or so, we have recently made a few changes to our recommendations. There are two newer flea medications which are safe, effective, and economical. I am hoping by switching clients to these newer flea medications, we can avoid seeing resistance of fleas to the products we use.
The first product is called Vectra and is applied onto the back of the pet’s neck once a month just like Frontline and Advantage. The ingredient, Dinotefuran, is a newer one not found in any other product and kills fleas within six hours of application. This is less than half of the time for most other flea products. It also includes an ingredient which controls eggs, larva, and pupa. While Vectra doesn’t kills ticks, Vectra 3D also has a permethrin added to repel and kill ticks. Because of the permethrin added, Vectra 3D cannot be used on cats. Cats can be extremely sensitive to any product with a pyrethrin added.
While controlling fleas is always the main priority with a flea product, another nice thing about Vectra is how easy it is to apply. They have a patented applicator tip which makes it extremely easy to apply to pets.
The second product is called Comfortis and is a monthly chewable tablet that is just for dogs. The ingredient in Comfortis is Spinosad and has been shown to be very safe. Within 30 minutes of a dog eating this tablet, fleas will start dying. Within four hours of administering the tablet, 100 percent of the fleas will be dead. It can be given to puppies 14 weeks of age and older and must be given with a meal. It will protect a dog for an entire month. It kills fleas so quickly that the flea doesn’t even have time to lay eggs.
Although the older flea products work well often, you may want to consider these new products this year. If you have any questions about a flea control program for your pet, make sure to consult your veterinarian for his/her recommendations. Considering this now may prevent a huge problem later.
Dr. Chad Higgins has been owner of Amanda Animal Hospital for the past 13 years and practices on dogs, cats, ferrets, and other small, furry critters.