Oh boy, having a mad itch sure isn't fun. Often those mad itches are caused by fleas. Fleas are those small dark brown insects with very strong hind legs that enable them to jump from host to host. Since they prefer temperatures of 50 to 80 degrees F, we have to deal with them most of the year round. Fleas can cause minor to severe reactions in pets but with good prevention your pet can be protected against those nasty creatures.
As always, if you are in doubt about the cause of your pet's itch, consult a veterinarian. Fleas can be easy to spot with a flea comb. Usually they hang out on parts of the body that are not reached easily by the pet. You can comb these areas and you will find fleas. Often you will see little black specs that look like pepper. That is the feces of the fleas also known as flea dirt. You can pick it up and put it on a moist tissue. Within a few seconds, it dissolves and looks like a blood stain. When you see that, you can be sure that there are fleas present.
So, now you know that your pet has fleas, the next step is to get rid of those pesky creatures and also prevent them from coming back because they can cause mild to severe problems in pets. Some pets just itch and scratch the area where they have been bitten. This can result in hair loss and scabs. In some pets, it takes only one flea bite and they show allergic reactions to it and scratch themselves continuously. In severe cases of flea infestation, pets can become anemic and weak since the fleas feed on the host's blood. In a way the fleas are like miniature vampires.
To keep those little vamps from sucking your pet dry, you have to get rid of them and keep them from coming back. There are many ways to do this and it can be very confusing. So, let me help you out with this by explaining the different ingredients of some of the products and what they do.
Amitraz: This is an insecticide that is used in tick collars. It kills ticks but not fleas and it is not absorbed into the body. It has to be used in combination with other flea products.
Etofenprox: Also an insecticide, is found in Bio Spot for cats and is used topically. This is a pyrethroid which is a longer-lasting, synthetic relative of natural pyrethrins. It kills and repels ticks, fleas, lice, and mosquitoes. It is labeled safe to use on cats.
Fipronil: This is an insecticide found in Frontline and Frontline Plus. It blocks the passage of chlorine through cells in the insect's nervous system, causing paralysis of the insect. It collects in the oil glands of the skin and is then slowly released. It is water resistant and protects against ticks and adult fleas. Can be used on cats and dogs.
Imidacloprid: This is an insecticide found in K9 Advantix and Advantage. It interferes with the nerve conduction system of insects by blocking the insects' nerve receptors. It kills fleas but not ticks and is not water resistant. Advantage can be used in dogs and cats. K9 Advantix is only used in dogs.
Linalool: This is an insecticide found in many carpet powders designed to control fleas and ticks. It is a plant-derived and environmentally safe extract that affects the insect's nervous system.
Permethrin: Found in K9 Advantix, Bio Spot for dogs and Bio Spot foggers. It is related to pyrethrins and permethrins and is a synthitic insecticide that provides a broader and longer killing action than natural pyrethrins. Used in flea and tick control products for dogs, it also kills and repels other insects such as lice and mosquitoes. It is also in many area treatments such as foggers and sprays. It should NOT be used on cats.
Pyrethrins: This is the active ingredient of Natural Bio Spot foggers. It is a natural plant extract from the chrysanthemum flower and acts as an insecticide. It provides quick flea and tick killing action with a wide margin of safety and is used as an area treatment.
Spinosad: This is found in Rx Comfortis and is derived from a naturally occurring bacterium in the soil. When the flea is exposed to this fast acting insecticide, it over-stimulates the insect's nervous system, causing death. It is effective against fleas only, used orally, and safe for cats and dogs.
Lufenuron: This is an insect development inhibitor. It is found in Program and it inhibits the production of chitin in flea larvae. Chitin is a component of an insect's outer skeleton and it is necessary for the lea to live. It can be used in dogs and cats.
Methoprene, Nylar: These are both insect growth regulators and they can be found in Bio Spot for dogs and cats, Frontline Plus, Bio Spot foggers, and Bio Spot carpet powder. It mimics the natural juvenile hormone in insects that prevents the pupa from molting into an adult and thus breaking the biological cycle of the flea. It is used in cats and dogs as a flea control product.
If you still don't know which product to choose, consult your veterinarian. You also have to keep in mind that when your pet has fleas and sleeps on the carpet or sofa, the fleas will also be on the carpet and the sofa and they will lay eggs and multiply. So, often you will have to use an area treatment such as a spray or a fogger to treat the carpets, furniture and pet beds as well. With the spray, you and your pet can go back to the treated area shortly after the treatment. With the foggers however, everybody has to leave the area and stay away for a while. Make sure you read the instructions on the fogger carefully. It will tell you how long you have to wait before using the area again. Also make sure to remove all small pets such as hamsters, birds, etc. from the area and cover up fish tanks with a garbage bag.
If your pets go roaming in the back yard, use an outdoor spray that hooks up to the water hose and treat the yard as well. Since fleas lay eggs, you might have to repeat the treatment after a few weeks when the eggs are hatched.
When choosing a flea and tick product, keep in mind your pet's individual needs and read all directions completely before using the product. Follow the directions properly. Flea and tick preventives, properly used, can be a great help in keeping your pet in the best health possible and free from that mad itch.
As always, Love and Peace,