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Which flea medication?

Tuesday April 28th, 2009

By Kathy Gervais

Question:

What should I look for in a flea preventative for my dog?

answered by Kathy Gervais

Answer:

Fleas are small insects who live on your dog's skin. Their bites can make your dog quite miserable. If your dog is allergic to flea saliva, a bite will result in severe itching and scratching, leading to skin inflammation, hair loss, and red irritated areas called "hot spots." Fortunately, there are a number of effective and safe products on the market that control flea infestations. Some control internal and external parasites, while others only control external. The product one uses depends on your dog's lifestyle and exposure risks.

External parasites can be controlled by these topical products: Advantage (fleas), Frontline (fleas, ticks), Advantix (fleas, ticks, repels mosquitoes). These products can become less effective to various degrees if the dog is bathed or swims a lot.

Program is an oral medication containing lufenuron that sterilizes female fleas, but does not kill adult fleas. Therefore, it can take a few months to control fleas using this method alone. The oral product Sentinel combines Program with a heartworm preventative.

Revolution (selamectin) is a topical product that controls both external parasites (fleas, ear mites, saroptic mange, some ticks) as well as internal parasites (heartworms, some intestinal worms) on a monthly basis. It is absorbed into the body and therefore is not affected by shampoos or swimming.

New on the market is Comfortis (spinosad), an oral product that is labeled to effectively kill fleas for a month duration.

Use of these products will effectively control flea infestations, making the use of insecticide defoggers or products like flea busters (borate crystals) in the house unnecessary in most cases.

The less expensive pyrtherin-based products that are available are not as effective or as safe as the above products. Whichever product you choose, follow the labeled instructions very carefully. Some of these products can only be used on dogs and are toxic to cats and should not be used in households where cats live.

Kathy Gervais is a veterinarian at Pets Unlimited, one of the San Francisco Bay Area's most comprehensive animal care facilities, and a graduate of the University of Minnesota Veterinary School.

Read more about Kathy Gervais in the DogTime expert center...
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