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Help Pets Find Relief From Fleas
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Fleas and summertime may seem inseparable, but proper treatments can give pets a little relief from these biting pests.
Dr. John Tyler, a specialist in small animal medicine at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said a combination of treatments usually works best to rid fleas from pets and their environment. Traditional insecticide foggers are ineffective at treating flea infestations.
"There's been a revolution in flea control in the last year to year and a half," Tyler said. "Several different treatments are available for different situations."
Adulticides are flea treatments that kill adult fleas. Two new adulticides are Frontline and Advantage.
"These products work before the fleas bite. They are extremely effective at killing fleas and are very safe for the animal," Tyler said. "They are available in sprays or as a topical fluid, which is placed in a measured amount between the animal's shoulder blades or at the base of their neck. Body oils spread it around the body where it can control fleas.
Apply either product monthly on cats and dogs to control fleas. Frontline also provides effective protection against ticks for one month. These are sold through veterinarians, and can be put on puppies and kittens as young as 8 to 10 weeks old.
Killing the existing adult fleas on an animal is not enough if fleas remain in the environment. Treat indoors with products containing pyrethrins and/or pyrethroids and an insect growth regulator. Insect growth regulators prevent fleas from reproducing.
"Insect growth regulators such as Nylar work by preventing flea eggs and larvae from maturing into adults," Tyler said.
These treatments also come as sprays for the environment or for use directly on the pet. Program, an insect growth regulator, is available in pills given monthly to dogs or cats. Products for the environment are best applied as a spray because they can be applied directly to flea habitats. In addition to insect growth regulators and adulticides, pet owners should fight the flea problem by regular, thorough cleaning each day. Concentrate on areas fleas like to inhabit.
"Fleas like to stay in carpets, in couch seat wells, under the couch and in the pet's bed," Tyler said.
Pets that go outside pick up more fleas if the yard is infested. Tyler said fleas seek dark, warm and humid places, such as under porches, around bushes and in doghouses. Outdoor treatments are available, such as Diaznon and Malathion .
"If you're going to treat the outdoors, the key is you don't have to treat the whole thing," Tyler said. "Treat the areas where fleas like to live."
Some pet owners see flea collars as the solution to flea problems, but these may not always work as expected, especially for animals with flea allergies.
"Flea collars are not very effective at preventing flea bites and preventing adult fleas from spending time on the animals," Tyler said. "But flea collars that contain an insect growth regulator do work to ensure that fleas that get on the animal will not lay viable eggs."
While most dogs and cats easily tolerate flea treatments, some animals may show sensitivity to the product. Others are allergic to the flea bites. Flea allergies show up typically as red skin and intense itchiness. Dogs lose hair and may develop hot spots where they've scratched themselves raw. These are typically seen from the base of the tail along the back or at the back of the legs.
Cats often show signs of flea allergies by excessive grooming. Some have skin that appears healthy, but have hair loss on the abdomen, flank and back. Others will have small, crusty sores with hair loss.
All flea treatments should be made under the supervision of a veterinarian. If problems persist, the veterinarian should be consulted before changes are made.
Contact: Dr. John Tyler, (601) 325-3432