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Thread: Flea Control for Cats

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    Staff - Veterinary DrGus's Avatar
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    Default Flea Control for Cats

    To effectively control fleas it is important to understand the flea life cycle. The flea eggs in the environment hatch into a little caterpillar-like stage, so small they are barely visible, then into a cocoon (this stage is HIGHLY resistant to insecticides), then the adult hatches out. That is a 3 to 8 week process. The adult seeks out a dog or a cat, and once it hops onto them it stays there until the flea dies of old age. The pet is what is termed a dead end host; fleas do NOT hop from one pet to another, ALL the fleas on a pet come from the pet's environment. The flea bites and sucks blood immediately and begins laying eggs in 24 hours (this is important timing). The pet then acts like a giant salt shaker dropping flea eggs all over the house/yard, starting the 3-8 week cycle all over again.

    Frontline Plus is the number one flea product both in the US and worldwide. It spreads over the surface of the skin and is concentrated in the sebaceous glands in the hair follicles, keeping the hair shaft treated for one month after application. The fleas pick up the product by contact with the hair and the drug takes time to percolate through the chitin exoskeleton (shell) of the flea. It will kill all the fleas within 24 hours in the first two weeks after application, within 48 hours in the last two weeks of the month, ticks within 48 hours. That means that in the second two weeks after application the fleas live long enough to begin dropping eggs all over, restarting the 3-8 week life cycle (and the fleas continue to bite until they die so the pet receives multiple bites per flea). However, Frontline Plus contains a second ingredient (a chitin synthesis inhibitor) that prevents those eggs from hatching. After 4 weeks after the application fertile eggs are produced, so don't go more than 4 weeks between applications.

    Revolution is the preferred product in cats. It is applied like Frontline but rather than staying on the surface of the skin it is a systemic drug that is absorbed into the body. When the fleas take their first blood meal they ingest the product and die within 15-30 minutes, only one bite per flea vs multiple bites per flea with every other topically applied product. It is effective for a full 4 weeks (but not longer). It also prevents heartworms, ear mites, and a couple of intestinal parasites, a huge bonus for cats that won't eat the monthly Heartgard heartworm preventive.

    Of the recommended products, Frontline Plus is the only one that covers ticks.

    Advantage has the same disadvantage (sorry!) as Frontline as far as time required to kill fleas. It also washes off easily (Frontline is extremely resistant to washing off). Not a problem since most people don't bathe their cats? Actually, it's a big issue since they bathe themselves all the time so the last two weeks of the month you will get surviving fleas dropping eggs.

    Advantix is poisonous to cats.

    None of the over-the-counter flea products should be used on cats. The vast majority of the ~150 dribble on flea products available in the stores are old technology insecticides with the potential for toxicity. The Hartz dribble on, for example, has been pulled from the market again because of a large number of deaths in cats. If you call poison control, there is a separate 800 number for Hartz, Spot On, and most of the other OTC flea products -- not a good sign!

    KEYS TO EFFECTIVE FLEA CONTROL:

    1) If you see fleas on your pet, you have fleas in your home. You MUST treat the environment, that's where the real flea problem lies. We carry a premise treatment spray that is easy to use. You can also have your exterminator treat the house and yard.

    2) Frontline Plus and Revolution will kill all adult fleas on a pet for the first month after application, but as long as there are fleas in the environment you will see fleas on the pets, that's how the products work. And if you go past 4 weeks with either of them you will have flea eggs produced that will survive, and you have started the 3-8 week life cycle all over again.

    3) To successfully control fleas in your home, ALL dogs and cats must be treated with their own dose of Frontline Plus or Comfortis (dogs) or Revolution (cats). This will kill existing fleas and break the cycle of flea reproduction. It can take up to 3 months to bring a home flea infestation under control. For best results, apply monthly throughout the entire year. A single untreated pet will continue to salt the area with fertile flea eggs, making fleas difficult or impossible to control.

    4. If you walk your pet outside, it may pick up fleas in areas where untreated animals (neighbors' pets, rodents, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits) have access. That's why it is so important to consistently apply it monthly.

    5. If your pet has access to areas under your house, remember that untreated animals such as raccoons and opossums may have spent time there, leaving flea eggs behind. Be sure to treat these areas as well. Continued use of Frontline Plus, Comfortis or Revolution helps protect your pet no matter where your pet roams.

    6. Because Frontline Plus is waterproof, you can bathe your pet, walk your pet in the rain, and allow a refreshing dip in the pool or pond. REMEMBER: your pet needs to be dry at the time Frontline is applied and remain dry for 24 hours after application. Revolution and Comfortis are internal products and bathing has no effect on their efficacy.

    Therefore, the best flea control involves treating the environment every 3 weeks (remember the 3-8 week life cycle in the environment) and treating the pets with Frontline Plus every 2 weeks or Comfortis every 4 weeks (or Revolution every 4 weeks in cats). An alternative to every 2 weeks for Frontline Plus in dogs is to dose them every 3-4 weeks with the next size dose. For example, if a dog is 25 pounds instead of treating with the 22-44 pound size use the 44-88 pound size. Since the active ingredient in Frontline Plus is essentially nontoxic to mammals, the next size up contains double the amount of product, and the next size is only about $0.50 more, it is just fine and certainly more cost effective to go to the next size than to dose with the correct size every 2 weeks (double the cost vs $0.50 more).

    Bottom line for flea control:

    1. Treat house and yard regularly.
    2. Comfortis every month or Frontline Plus every 2 weeks in dogs, Revolution every 4 weeks in cats.
    3. If you have a flea problem AND a tick problem in a cat, you can either use Frontline plus for both or, if your cat is sensitive to flea bites and you need immediate flea kill and tick control, use both Frontline Plus for ticks and Revolution for immediate flea kill (and heartworms, etc.). Since one product is systemic and the other is stricty topical, it is safe to use both together.
    Dr. Gus

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    Staff DianeP's Avatar
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    Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Dr. Gus! You're the best!!!!!
    Diane and Cicero - Sr. Manager
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    Senior Member calicokitty's Avatar
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    That is really great for you to do that. To have everything in one post is wonderful.

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    Dr Gus,

    Thank you for all the information.

    If over the counter flea products should not be used on cats than why are companies like Hartz allowed to sell them? Most people here know not to use them but a lot of cat owners don't and end up losing their pets.

    Ellen

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    Staff - Veterinary DrGus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellen View Post
    Dr Gus,

    Thank you for all the information.

    If over the counter flea products should not be used on cats than why are companies like Hartz allowed to sell them? Most people here know not to use them but a lot of cat owners don't and end up losing their pets.

    Ellen
    I don't know. If I were benevolent dictator I'd take them off the market.
    Dr. Gus

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    Staff - Cats KarenA's Avatar
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    Thanks so much for that excellent information, Dr. Gus. I live in Las Vegas where I haven't seen a flea in nine years but you never know!!
    Karen A/Publicist

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    Senior Member calicokitty's Avatar
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    I am already relying on some of your information to answer questions in another cat forum.

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    Senior Member BeckyMorgan's Avatar
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    And thanks to your information, I knew not to use the product our old vet's grooming shop told me was "just like Advantage, only cheaper". (Formet vet had retired and the staff was running the shop.) They're all Frontined and thank you for the advice...at least, I think that's what all that purring means.

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    Staff - Veterinary DrGus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KarenA View Post
    Thanks so much for that excellent information, Dr. Gus. I live in Las Vegas where I haven't seen a flea in nine years but you never know!!
    My brother is in Scottsdale and he also has no flea problem. Other problems, like the heat or the fungal infection Valley Fever, are there to balance against the lack of fleas.

    Reminds me of a t-shirt belonging to a friend of mine who works in a nuclear weapons lab. On the front it says, "The inside of a nuclear exposion is 10 million degrees" and on the back "But it's a dry heat!"
    Dr. Gus

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    Senior Member calicokitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrGus View Post
    Reminds me of a t-shirt belonging to a friend of mine who works in a nuclear weapons lab. On the front it says, "The inside of a nuclear exposion is 10 million degrees" and on the back "But it's a dry heat!"
    I remember a poster that told the steps to take after an atomic bomb blast. It ended by bending over and kissing your *** goodbye.

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