Years ago, if you walked into any veterinary office in the late summer, you would see hairless and itchy dogs and cats waiting to see their veterinarian for some much needed relief. The cause of this summer epidemic was fleas, and pets developed flea allergy dermatitis. Today, because of advances in flea control, it is unusual to see pets with severe flea allergies in my office.
Fleas are tiny insects that live on blood meals that they get when they bite dogs and cats. When the flea bites, saliva is injected into the wound. Dogs and cats can be very allergic to the protein that is in the saliva. The allergy causes redness, swelling, and itching and makes pets very uncomfortable. In the past, powders, baths and dips were used for flea control. These were messy, labor intensive and had unpleasant odors. Luckily today there are many options to prevent fleas that are safe and easy to administer.
One method of controlling fleas is to sterilize them and prevent them from reproducing. One pregnant flea can be responsible for an infestation in just a few weeks. The product lufeneron (Program) makes it impossible for the flea to reproduce. Lufeneron is a pill and has to be given every month. This method has been extremely successful in controlling fleas.
There are many excellent products available that kill fleas. These include selamectin, fipronil, imidocloprid and spinosad. They are available as either spot-on liquid preparations or in pill form. Some are combined with heartworm prevention medication. All products have to be given monthly and are very effective.
Many pet owners are concerned about the toxicity of flea prevention products and will only used so-called natural products. Unfortunately the natural products on the market are not effective in controlling fleas and infestations can occur when they are used. The flea prevention products used on our pets have been on the market for a long time and rarely cause severe side effects.
Pet owners have to balance benefits and risks when using any medication and it’s important to realize that fleas can spread disease. In addition, your pet can bring fleas into your house and cause a major infestation that would require toxic pesticides to be applied to your environment. For this reason I believe flea control is an essential part of keeping your dog or cat healthy.