How to Address Flea Prevention throughout the Year

Flea Prevention Tips from Upper Arlington Veterinary Hospital

Summer may be winding down (at least, according to the calendar) – but before you prepare for fall, there’s a few things to keep in mind regarding your pet(s).

In our last blog, we talked about the risks and dangers associated with extreme heat, namely heat exhaustion and heat stroke. As it begins to get cooler outside, the heat becomes less of a concern, however, fleas still persist as a problem. It’s important to remember that just because it’s not as hot outside, that doesn’t mean you should stop flea prevention.

September, October and November are the peak flea season months. Why? Because as the weather cools and becomes more damp, fleas are looking for a warmer, drier host, and they’ll often seek refuge in our pets.

Flea Control & Prevention Tips

  1. Start now! Don’t assume that just because your pet stays in your own backyard or neighborhood that they’ll be immune to fleas. Fleas can be present anywhere that other animals (like possums or raccoons) have been, laying in wait for a new host. If your pet spends time at the dog park, doggie daycare, obedience classes, boarding, or visits other placed with dogs and cats, then he or she is at a higher risk of getting fleas.
  2. Make sure ALL pets in your home are on some form of flea control. For example: indoor- only cats who live with dogs can still be at risk. Forgetting to treat indoor-only pets is a common mistake made when people are dealing with a flea issue in their home. There are many good products including topical and oral medications prescribed by veterinarians that work to prevent and treat flea infestations if used correctly and throughout the entire year.
  3. Pets going through flea treatment should be bathed regularly to remove dead fleas, flea eggs, and flea dirt (if using a topical flea product, read the instructions on bathing–often times they have a 24-48 window after application during which the pet should NOT be bathed). Please be aware that bathing alone will not address a flea infestation as most of the problem is present in the egg and larval form throughout the home the dog or cat resides in.
  4. Vacuum everything, and do it regularly. Throw away the vacuum bag and empty the canister into an outdoor trash bin–do NOT leave it indoors, where fleas and larvae could escape.
  5. Wash your pet’s bedding and any other furniture they sleep on. Flea aren’t stuck in pet fur, rather, they fall off around your home after they have had a blood meal in areas where your pet usually rests. NOTE: It can take months to successfully rid your home of all stages of the flea life cycle, so remain vigilant and patient.

How To Spot A Flea Problem

The first sign is usually a pet who is scratching or chewing at themselves more than usual, and you might notice red bumps or hair loss in those itchy areas. Use a finger or a fine comb to pull back the fur and look for living fleas or flea dirt (flea feces). Flea dirt looks black, but it turns to red/rust if you place it on a wet towel.

In addition, if your dog or cat ingests a flea that is infected with tapeworm, little bits of tapeworm (called proglottids) will be visible in their stool or around the pet’s rectum.

Recommended Flea Prevention & Treatment Products

Dogs:

Sentinel – not only for heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention, but it’s also an effective flea sterilizer (which is particularly helpful, as a single female flea can lay thousands of eggs in her lifetime). Sentinel should be given year round.

Bravecto – this is an oral chew that starts working within hours of being administered, and you only have to give this to your pet once every 12 weeks. Bravecto also kills ticks, and we recommend 6-9 months a year of treatment.  For an existing flea problem, we recommend all year administration.

Effitix – this is a topically-administered preventative that you’ll apply once each month to your dog’s shoulders and back. It works to kill both fleas and ticks, and is particularly useful in puppies who are still growing because its dosing is dependent on weight. This product should NOT be used on cats.

Cats:

Effipro – this is a topical solution that’s applied to your cat’s back and neck once per month, and it protects against fleas and ticks.

Revolution – also a topical, this product is applied to the back of the neck once per month, and protects against heartworm, fleas and ticks. This is a recommended medication for cats who live both indoors and outdoors.

Program injection – this injection is given at the veterinary office and helps control fleas for six months; it doesn’t kill adult fleas, but it does prevent them from reproducing.

 

This might seem like a lot to digest, but it’s important to read through the details and be prepared for fleas. If you’re cognizant of the warning signs and properly medicate, you’ll ensure that your pet is flea-free and the situation will be under control.