"Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em;
whilst little fleas have lesser fleas and so ad infinitum"
Fleas are a common problem in cats and dogs and can cause a lot of discomfort which may not get noticed immediately. Therefore most pets will need a helping hand at some stage. However not all pets will need the same treatment and methods of control, and a lot of time and money can be wasted without getting anywhere.
Therefore, it helps to know something about fleas in order to be the most effective in getting rid of them!
Knowing the above can help in deciding how to tackle a flea problem. There are two approaches:
There are several ways flea products can work. The adult flea is the most vulnerable, whilst the egg is the most resistant, to treatment. Sometimes it is necessary to make a two-pronged attack on both stages of their life cycle.
ADULT FLEA KILLERS. Historically the adulticide was all that was available. Unfortunately the original ones (organophosphates) were also toxic to the pet and the owner as they get absorbed through the skin and membranes into the body. Besides, they were not particularly effective. Nonetheless they are still widely available from pet shops and supermarkets because they are cheap and do not have a prescription license. They take many forms: collars, powders, aerosol sprays and baths. The fact that they can be purchased by anybody means that they cannot be very strong, and typically they may only work for a couple of weeks and only slow the rate at which the fleas breed rather than stop them completely.
To achieve better control and to win the war against fleas needs proper medicines and these require a prescription. The products are much safer and more effective and well worth the initial expense. Examples are Frontline®, and Stronghold®. At last we now have products that really do work completely without making the pet ill.
ENVIRONMENTAL agents attempt to kill the eggs and larvae - not an easy task. Again, organophosphates can be used, but new products work by blocking larval development making them very safe as they do not affect mammal tissue. An example is Acclaim Plus® and VIP®
STERILISERS are a novel way of preventing a flea outbreak. They DO NOT kill the flea. Instead they sterilise them and prevent the eggs and larvae from developing. They block chitin, which is the constituent of the flea skeleton, and have absolutely no effect on mammals, making them the safest products around. However to work they need to be used on all pets in the household, which can be cost-limiting. At the moment there is only one product available, Program®. This product is available as a six-monthly injection in cats, making it altogether easier for un-co-operative patients!
- Decide if you have a problem or just want to prevent a problem. If it is severe then you will need to use environmental agents as well. Remember that eggs and larvae will be in the carpets and bedding so to break the cycle of re-infestation these will need to be treated too.
- Consider how your pet would respond to various types of treatment: sprays, collars, shampoos, tablets. Also how easy will it be for you to give the treatment?
- Does your pet go swimming or get bathed a lot? Frontline® will still work after contact with water.
- Consider safety, both for your pet and yourself. Be particularly careful about what you use if there are children around or if the pet is very young. Avoid organophosphates as they can be absorbed and can accumulate over time.
- Consider costs - having a lot of pets may mean forking out a lot of money. Ask for advice if you are on a budget, as we will stop you spending money on unnecessary products. Remember, though, that cheap products that don't work or need to be bought more frequently will cost more in the long run than one good bottle of a product that will last a long time.
- Please consider the environment. Some products can do a lot of damage. Again, it is the organophosphate range of goods that are the worst. Always avoid contaminating fish and ponds whatever the product.
- Program-for-Dogs® and Stronghold® contain a round-wormer and the latter is also affective against fox mange which is a very common problem in this area, so it may be worth asking for this product for its greater protection.