Flea Control, along with ticks, and mosquitoes in the warm is on everyone’s mind. Last year was an atrocious year for these parasites and this year will probably be just as bad. Many of these parasites are developing a resistance to the parasiticides that are commonly used. In severely infested areas, many heartworm preventatives are proving to be ineffective.
The most important factor in preventing parasites is your pet’s overall health and immune system. A healthy pet will naturally repel parasites and fleas will seek weaker, unhealthy animals. Feeding a natural, species appropriate diet is most important for maintaining your pet’s’ health. Avoid using drugs or chemicals on your pet unless necessary. Also avoid chemical cleaners in your home and never use pesticides or herbicides in your yard. Use natural preventive measures in your house and yard and for your pet. Do not over vaccinate your pet because this weakens their immune system. Most vaccines should be given every 3 years because giving unnecessary vaccines disrupts your pet’s immune system, which makes them susceptible to other diseases and parasites.
Even indoor pets can develop a severe flea infestation. I have seen a number of indoor only cats with flea problems. If they go on a lanai, the fleas can hop in or they can hitch a ride in on their care givers clothing. Once a flea is in your house it can produce thousands of fleas in a short period of time.
Flea infestations are not just annoying. They can be dangerous to your pet’s health. If an animal is allergic to flea bites, they may develop severe skin diseases such as hot spots in the dog and miliary dermatitis in a cat. This can be very uncomfortable for the pet and may lead to secondary bacterial infections due to rubbing, licking, and scratching. If the infestation is severe enough, pets can become anemic and may die due to chronic blood loss from the fleas feeding on your pet’s blood. This may sound unlikely, but I have seen it more than once.
Don’t forget that it’s not enough just to rid your pet of fleas. Fleas don’t spend all their time on your pet, but will hop on when they need a meal. The eggs can be shed anywhere your pet spends time – including your bed. If you have a flea problem, your house and yard must also be treated to prevent reinfestation.
Unfortunately, I have found no natural products that can completely eradicate a flea infestation in Florida. However, there are natural products that can help prevent your pets from experiencing an infestation and it is best to use these products regularly. There are homemade shampoos and sprays which you can make yourself using essential oils. However, if you would like to push the easy button, you can order Wondercide. These are cedar oil products for use on your yard, dog, cat, and home. Wondercide is formulated with organic, food-grade ingredients to be safe, effective & easy-to-use. It kills the full flea & tick lifecycle on contact. You can also spray your buddy with this solution to repel pests any time he’s going into an area that is flea, tick, or mosquito infested. If your pet has fleas, a soapy bath with any natural shampoo or dish soap will kill them on contact. For dogs, you can also place several drops of lavender and palo santo essential oils into a chemical free shampoo to prevent and kill fleas (and ticks). I don’t recommend using essential oils for cats because a cat’s’ liver processes essential oils differently than a human or dog liver. Thus, it is wise to avoid their use or use dilute mixtures with cats, avoiding Melaleuca and the citrus essential oils altogether.
I also recommend using a flea comb soaked in soapy water several times per day after the initial bath until your friend is flea free.
Once you have a flea infestation, you must use a product that will kill fleas effectively. There are several products on the market, some more effective than others. I do not find Frontline to be even marginally effective for eradicating a flea infestation. I do not find that Advantage works well, either, plus I have seen a myriad of health problems from Advantage and Advantix. Revolution seems to prevent a flea problem, but will not work to eradicate an existing problem. Because Revolution can cause seizures and other problems in a dog, I don’t recommend it. I am recommending Nexgard for treating dogs with a flea problem. It has less side effects than Comfortis and seems to be the only product which effectively and safely kills fleas and ticks. The best thing to do is prevent the problem through natural and safe methods. Once you have an infestation, you may have little choice but to use one of these commercial products to ease your pet’s discomfort.
Until recently, the worst side effects I have seen, including death, were from over-the-counter products such as Hartz. However, Trifexis now appears to be the most dangerous product on the market. Its use has resulted in a myriad of problems including death. None of the commercially available products have zero risk. Comfortis causes nausea and vomiting, depression, and lethargy, anorexia, ataxia, diarrhea, itching, trembling, hypersalivation, and seizures. Nexgard can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia, though rare. Advantage can cause numerous problems, including seizures and death. Frontline has less side effects than advantage but is still toxic. Revolution may cause anorexia, vomiting, severe allergic reactions, tremors, and seizures in dogs. Just because a compound applies to or worn on your pet’s fur doesn’t mean it’s safe. Remember: what goes on your pet goes in your pet, by absorption through the skin or ingestion during grooming.
Aside from the natural products listed above, I believe the safest flea prevention is Lufenuron, found in the heartworm preventative, Sentinel. I have rarely seen any problems with this product and it has been around for a long time. While it is a useful flea preventative, it is not very effective for eradicating an already present flea infestation. I do not believe flea collars work at all, besides being a waste of money they can be toxic to your pet. Recently Bayer, the maker of Advantage, released a new collar, called Seresto, that was supposed to be harmless and work effectively to repel fleas and ticks for 8 months. While this collar sounded promising, there have been numerous reports of seizures and other side effects while wearing the collar, so I do not recommend it.
In summary, the best way to prevent fleas is to keep your pet as healthy as possible with a great diet, and minimizing vaccinations and exposure to environmental toxins. Natural preventatives such as Wondercide may be helpful to prevent an infestation if your pet comes into contact with fleas.
If your pet has a flea infestation, you should use effective products to eliminate the immediate problem and follow up with a natural program to keep your pet healthy and flea free.