Experts say the only truly effective way to
keep fleas off a dog or cat is with a topical or oral medication. Flea collars
are generally described as ineffective, while flea shampoos provide only
immediate relief by killing adult fleas on the pet. They won't prevent the dog
or cat from picking up more fleas from around your home or eggs that hatch.
Several vets specifically caution against using flea "dips," which
they say are harmful to pets and the environment.
give the following advice for safely using flea control topical treatments and
Talk to your vet
before purchasing a flea control treatment. Your vet may have specific
recommendations for products he or she thinks are the most appropriate. This is
especially important in the case of pets that are weak, older, medicated, sick,
pregnant or nursing, or that have previously experienced an adverse reaction to
a flea control treatment. Additionally, some products are not suitable for
puppies and kittens.
Buy your flea
remedies from your vet or from a reputable retailer. Many products sold
online, and sometimes even in stores, are counterfeits that may be ineffective
or harmful to pets.
Know your pet's weight. All
flea control treatments are packaged according to the pet's weight. Don't try
to guess your pet's weight or buy the wrong dosage because it's cheaper.
application instructions exactly. Even if you have used the product before,
review the directions to make sure they haven't changed. Many reported
illnesses in cats and dogs from flea control products are due to misuse.
Never use flea
control treatments designed for dogs on your cat, or vice versa. Permethrin, a
pesticide found in some topical dog treatments, is likely to be lethal to cats.
Monitor the pet for signs of an adverse reaction. Unusual
irritation or redness, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea,
salivation, trembling, depression or seizures. If these symptoms
appear, immediately bathe the dog or cat in mild soap and rise with
large amounts of water (unless the label states otherwise).
your veterinarian about the incident.
Don't reapply monthly
topical treatments within 30 days, even if fleas re-emerge. Contact your vet for
If you aren't using a topical or oral flea-control product
with an insect growth regulator (IGR), your pet will likely become re-infested
in a few weeks unless you take action around the home and yard. You can
begin by vacuuming your carpet daily and cleaning floors (including along
baseboards) and furniture that your pet comes in
contact with to remove eggs and larvae. Seal the vacuum bag in a trash bag and
discard it in an outside trash can. Steam-cleaning floors and other surfaces is
also an effective method of killing fleas and their eggs. If bedding cannot be
vacuumed or steam cleaned, wash it in hot soapy water every week. If an
infestation is bad enough, bedding may need to be discarded.