GOT FLEAS? DrNan
Fleas are everywhere. It’s never cold enough here in the South to kill the larvae and eggs. And we keep them safe and warm in our houses in all seasons: beneath the furniture, in the carpet, in the dog beds, in every crack and crevice.
It is easy to get overwhelmed. A female flea can lay hundreds of eggs. If a dog or cat walks through a hatching nest, they can quickly pick up enough fleas to set them itching. Tiny dogs, puppies and kittens can have life-threatening anemia from fleas draining all their blood. Fleas are serious.
Highly allergic dogs and cats develop skin allergies, with crusts, itching, hair loss and nasty infected hot spots. Cats develop crusts around their neck areas. Dogs show itching and hair loss on their rump area at the base of the tail and on the rear legs. It takes only one flea to cause these severe skin problems in a dog that is very allergic. Their allergy is to the saliva of the flea, so one bite can make them miserable. You must completely eliminate all the fleas to keep an allergic dog or cat comfortable and healthy.
Don’t expect to see the fleas. They only spend 5% of their time on the dog. The other 95% is spent hiding and laying eggs. If they bite humans, there must be hundreds of them hiding in the house. They would rather bite dogs and cats. Often the only sign that fleas are on the dog is a tiny drop of blood deep under the hair coat. We call those “flea dots” and they are actually digested blood excreta. If you see these in the bedding, on the white bathroom sink, or anywhere the kitty sleeps, you are in trouble. You are probably overwhelmed already. A very fine comb drawn through the coat can sometimes find a flea or some flea dots and establish the reason for itching and hair loss.
I know of no natural remedies that are effective in eliminating fleas. I wish I did. People have tried brewer’s yeast, garlic, diatomaceous earth, cedar chips, essential oils… on and on. The research I have read actually showed some effects from a gram of brewer’s yeast daily on a dog’s food. The fleas were reduced by 5 to 15 percent. So instead of having 100 fleas on and off the dog in a day, there were only 85. Not good enough. Especially for allergic guys who react wildly to the saliva of a single flea bite.
Years ago, we could control fleas with Sevin dust. Every year the overall population of fleas get stronger and stronger and can now resist all those old remedies and chemicals. Boric acid powder or Borax washing powder does seem to help a little, if you powder the rugs and the cracks and under everything. But it, again, cannot control an outbreak. So, we are left with no real alternatives but insecticides. I hate that. I am searching for a non-toxic solution. If you find one, please let me know.
The Master Plan: “Three Strikes and They’re Out”
To get control, you need to treat the dog,the cat, the house AND the yard.
Strike One: treat the dog and the cat. The best product this current year seems to be the new Seresto 8-month flea and tick collar. It solved my own flea problem. I never recommended flea collars until I met this one. Click the blue links to order from Chewy.com or Amazon.com or Tractor Supply Expensive, but well worth it. ($55 or so). Or treat every animal with monthly flea drops. Frontline Plus is the brand I use on dogs. Revolution is best on cats. (It protects against heartworms too.) A monthly pill for dogs, Comfortis, is also a very good drug. New Trifexis is Comfortis plus heartworm prevention. Excellent product. All of these continue killing fleas for 30 days or more. Keep in mind, however, that it takes up to 6 hours for the drops to kill a flea. So you might see a flea in that time period, especially if there are lots of them jumping on. If you have a very allergic dog, 6 hours is enough time for the flea to bite and deposit saliva. So, you certainly will continue having problems with skin allergies. You have to do Strike Two and Strike Three below to get enough control to protect allergic dogs and cats. There are lots of flea products out there.
Strike Two: treat the house. You may not see the fleas at all, but remember, if there are 5 on the cat, there are 95 more breeding in the carpet. Flea eggs hatch and the little brown larvae crawl under furniture, under throw rugs, under couch cushions, under the washer… out of sight. They then form pupae, which look like tiny brown rice grains. When the adults hatch from these pupae, they hatch in the hundreds. You have to kill them before they hatch. The product that has worked best for me is a fogger made by Raid. You can buy it from Lowes or Target, or Click here to order from Amazon. There are several formulations, and I think the ones in the purple bottles work best. They have a growth inhibitor called Precor or Nylar (Methoprene), which kills the eggs and prevents larvae from hatching, in addition to killing the adults. The residual stays in the rugs for months.
ALSO get a large bottle of the same spray with a spray wand. Use this to spray under furniture, under beds, under couch cushions. Note that the spray also has Methoprene, Nylar or Precor on the label. Pictured is the Black Flag brand with wand. Click here to order from Amazon
Raid foggers come in a package of 3, which will cover 900 square feet. The package costs about $17 at Target. Use the foggers every 3 months for at least 3 treatments. Then, if you are using the products above on the dog and cat, you may not need to use the foggers again. If you see a flea again after that, you definitely need to repeat the fogging cycle.
Be careful with these foggers. They are insecticides. Everybody has to leave the house for a few hours during the fogging. Cover food and food preparation surfaces. Birds and fish can’t handle these chemicals at all. Cats are particularly sensitive to pyrethrins and permethrins, so keep the kitties off the rugs for a day if you can, while the chemicals dry. Be sure you get the fog under everything. Pull up rugs and pull out furniture. That’s where the fleas nest. Methoprene is considered not to be toxic to animals and people. Cornell Extension Service has a writeup here.
Strike Three: treat the yard. I try to use granules rather than sprays in the yard. They don’t wash away with every rain, so they don’t end up in the pond or the treatment plant. They also don’t harm flying insects like the sprays do, and hopefully this protects the wild birds to some extent. I use Triazicide Spectracide brand granules from Lowes or Home Depot garden centers. Click here to order from Amazon. The granules can be spread by hand using gloves or delivered to the lawn with a lawn fertilizer spreader. Be vigilant and pay special attention to the areas fleas like best: under the porch or deck, under the house itself, in the mulch around plants, in the bushes, and along the fence lines. Of course the doghouse and runs should be treated. Most dogs handle these chemicals well, but again, cats are sensitive. Shivering, salivating, even seizures can be seen in cats. Watch for any odd behaviors like these. Fish are susceptible and bees are too. But birds and mammals are pretty safe. To read the technical and toxicity data for Spectracide Triazicide/lambda cynalothrin: click here.
Strike Four: I know I said there were three strikes. Strike Four is for those dogs whose allergies are so severe that they cannot rest comfortably. Prednisone injectables, topicals or orals can cover up the signs of flea allergies while you try to get the flea population under control. They are miracle drugs, but they have side effects I don’t like. Too much cortisone given too often will cause weight gain, puffiness, excessive drinking, excessive urination, a ravenous appetite. Even diabetes, Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease can be side effects of long-term high-dose cortisone. You have to be careful with it. I do know dogs and cats that do well on the oral form, given in very small doses every two or three days. We can do that safely. There is a transdermal cream that you apply to a cat’s ear flaps which soaks through the skin and deposits prednisolone into the cat’s system. That can work on cats who can’t be given pills. But remember, we are only masking the problem with cortisones. We need to eliminate the fleas.
Benadryl can bring some short term relief. Give 1mg per pound. A 25mg tablet for a 25 pound dog. Once or twice daily.
You should check out this link to see in detail the information on each of the chemicals you might decide to use:
Here are links to the products I mentioned above.
Be sure to match the weight category of each product with the weight of your dog or cat. Each product comes in several sizes. You can purchase a three-month, 6-month or 12-month supply. My own web pharmacy actually has a program where they automatically send you a single dose at a time, every month. That’s cool.
Frontline Plus drops are not a prescription product. You can get them from my website at THIS LINK . Remember you can buy one tube at a time there.
Pet supply stores, such as Animal Supply House Rock Hill sell Frontline, too.
You can buy the large dog size and divide it into smaller doses for smaller dogs and for cats. Here’s how.
Prescription Revolution brand drops for cats can be found at this link on my web pharmacy. Dogs can use Revolution too, and here again, it covers both flea and heartworm prevention.
Prescription Comfortis tablets for dogs are found at this link. You can buy one month at a time if you like.
Trifexis brand is Comfortis plus heartworm prevention. I really like it. Link to Trifexis
These last three are prescription drugs, so by law I must have a relationship with you as a client and see your animal as a patient, in person, to prescribe them. Seems silly and burdensome to me, but whatever. Once you are a client and have had an exam, I will be glad, as always, to verify a prescription for you from any website that might have a good price or a sale going on.
Please correct me if you find any natural remedies that work. There is a powder for the carpet that is made of Boric Acid, and that might help deter fleas once you get them under control using the more toxic stuff.
More information than you can possibly digest can be found under this search link: http://www.bing.com/search?q=flea+control+in+dogs&form=OPRTSD&pc=OPER .
An excellent site to study fleas and many many other diseases is Veterinary Partner, published by the most reputable veterinary information service I know of, VIN. This site is the standard reference for veterinarians and laypersons worldwide. Here’s the link for the flea page, but look around. The site is wonderful. http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=548&S=1&SourceID=42
Also some interesting articles: Flea Allergy Dermatitis Skin Disease
Here are some cool videos you might enjoy:
Fleas on kittens and puppies are special problems. You can’t use Frontline or Revolution drops on youngsters less than 6 weeks old. Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4w3M-LiD-I
How to apply frontline to a cat http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB6ewcogPsI
Excellent comments showing how to use foggers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6RWAD8JcQM
Washing a cat for flea control using natural shampoo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cQ4aDf1pPE
Finding evidence of fleas and flea bites http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B68-GgXSHtU
Technical and toxicity data for Spectracide Triazicide/lambda cynalothrin: