Monday, May 9, 2011

The Down and Dirty on Fleas!

Transcript from this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

The Down and Dirty on Fleas!

Greetings, pet lovers, this is Dr. Roger Welton, veterinarian and Veterinary News Network Reporter.

The most common type of flea in the U.S. is the Ctenocephalides felis…or the Cat Flea. Despite its name, this species will feed from cats, dogs and even humans. . These wingless insects attack both people and pets and feed by drawing blood from their host.

While most people relate to the irritation of flea bites, fleas can transmit more serious diseases. Flea allergy dermatitis is certainly the most common problem associated with fleas, but they can also transmit Bubonic Plague, tapeworms and Feline Infectious Anemia.

The challenge of winning the flea battle lies in understanding the flea’s life stages, then attacking all levels of the life cycle.
A single female flea can lay 20-50 eggs at a time, creating over 2000 fleas in her life span of three months. With just 25 adult female fleas that equates to more than a quarter of a million fleas in only 30 days!

The non-sticky eggs fall off the pet, ending up in your carpeting, pet bedding or furniture upholstery. Outdoor environments such as leaf litter, lawn or mulch in moist and shady areas are also ideal environments for egg incubation.

Flea eggs hatch after 1-10 days (depending on the temperature and level of humidity) into larvae. These larvae feed off flea feces and debris, then molts three times in a 5-25 day period before spinning a cocoon (pupae). The flea pupae then hatch in as few as 5-9 days to the fully formed adult….OR they can remain dormant for up to five months.

Adult fleas comprise only about 5% of the entire flea population. The remaining 95% consists of eggs, larvae and cocoons in the pet’s environment. It’s easy to see how the flea can quickly invade and even overrun your home.

Expert “Flea Guru”, Dr. Michael Dryden recommends a combination of products and procedures. The very important first step is a visit to your veterinarian. “You can beat the fleas, but you have to purchase the right products.” Flea products obtained from a veterinarian have been proven effective through rigorous testing. Topically applied products like Frontline, Advantage & Revolution have worked well in the battle against the flea as has the orally administered pills, Capstar and Comfortis. With the rapid life cycle of the flea, the product must have a kill ratio of 90-95% to be considered effective. Anything less will not do the job completely.

Dr. Dryden continues “That’s not the case for (generally less expensive) over-the- counter products. Natural and organic doesn’t necessarily mean safe. I’m all for green and saving the planet. But I am also all for using a product which is proven safe for my pets.”

Shampoos and collars are less effective and in some cases can even cause harm to your pet. For example, the wrong dose of your dog’s flea product can have devastating and even life-threatening results if given to your cat. It may sound silly, but the EPA estimates that this mistake happens thousands of times every year!
Once the flea does appear, Dr. Dryden promotes a 3-part plan. The first step: eradicate the existing fleas on your pet. Proper product usage is very important and, remember, one dose won’t eliminate all the different stages.

Secondly, it’s necessary to ensure that you have rid the premises of the fleas. Use products that contain Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) to kill flea eggs and larvae. Your outdoor environment may need to be professionally treated. You need to regularly clean the indoor areas frequented by your pets. Treat ALL dogs and cats….not just the affected pet. And all pets should be treated for at least three to six months to ensure total elimination.
Thirdly, prevent new infestations with lifelong flea control. Using a veterinarian recommended flea product will kill all levels of the flea infestation. If the flea can’t reproduce, it will become extinct. However, if even one cycle of flea prevention is missed, the battle will continue.

Knowing how to combat fleas is really more than half the battle. And although they are hardy little critters, we do have safe effective products to fight these bugs. Ask your veterinarian for product recommendations and advice.

This is Roger Welton reporting, for The Web-DVM.

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

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Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website


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Chuck said...

Nice spamming, Timothy! All class :( My comment is actually ABOUT THIS POST'S CONTENT. Your blog post discusses the various veterinary grade flea preventives out there and I must say that, at least here in Georgia, the topicals - Revolution, Frontline, Advantage, Advantix - do not work AT ALL! In fact, it often seems that they are an aphrodesiac to the fleas! The ONLY product that keeps my dogs flea free is the monthly pill Comfortis. I recommend to anyone with a bad flea problem to use Comfortis - it is the only trully reliable product!

catgirl said...

I have heard of this miracle flea medication Comfortis, but it is not labelled for cats. I have a couple indoor/outdoor cats that are former ferals that ust cannot be made indoor cats. They are unfortunately the sources of the occassional flea infestation in my home. Does anyone know if there is a equivalent product for felines, or if the makers of Comfortis plan to come out with a cat product?

Roger Welton, DVM said...

At this time, there is no Comfortis labelled for cats, unfortunately. There is a topical product spinosad (active ingredient in Comfortis) currently under development from the manufacturer of Comfortis labelled for cats called Assurity, however, there are ongoing problems with its.

Based on a lot of precidence and a safety of using Comfortis EXTRAlabel on cats, I have discussed this with some clients with semi feral cats that because of lifestyle are bad flea targets. Of the 10 or so that have gone in that direction out of desperation, all have reported not only successful flea control, but no adverse effects. It many be worth having a dicsussion with your vet. THe dose I use for cats is one half tablet of the smalllest dog size.

Roger Welton, DVM said...

It is true that Comfortis is not labelled for cats at this time. Why exactly that is, I honestly do not know. However, the manufacturer of Comfortis is soon to eom out with a spinsad (active ingredient in Comfortis) based product called Assurity, however instead of being a monthly oral preventive like Comfortis, this one is given topically. As far as how it compares to respective Comfortis success in dogs is not really known at this time.
As an alternative, you can discuss with your vet EXTRA-label use of Comfortis perhaps just for your indoor/outdoor cats. I have gone this route with some feline owners at their wits end with flea problems with about perhaps 10 feline patients, giving them 1/2 of the small dog dose per month. So far, no adverse effects and good results. Perhaps this is something you can see if your vet condones.

Freda said...

Doc, what do you think about the new combunation heartworm and flea all in one product that has Comfortis in it, Trifexis. My vet really seems to like it. I would like to get your thoughts on it if you would. While I have no doubt that it will control fleas well hainv treated my dogs with Confortis, may main concerns are that it will prevent heartworm effectively and of course the safety.

Roger Welton, DVM said...

I have not been carrying Trifexis long enough to make any significant observations with my own patients, but the data that comes along withe the product looks quite good in terms of safety and effectiveness. The fact that the product has active ingredients in Comfortis and Interceptor, both excellent and safe preventives for fleas and heartworms respectively, I do not see why this product would not be a good choice.