What the best flea treatment does

  • Works quickly and reliably. Consult user reviews and choose the products that the largest percentage of pet owners find effective.
  • Kills adult fleas, eggs and larvae. Some oral medications kill adult fleas only, so you'll need to combine them with a second medicine or a topical treatment to avoid having a new crop of fleas pop up within days.
  • Causes few side effects. Avoid products containing permethrin and other pyrethroids, which can be dangerous to both pets and humans.
  • Is easy to use. "Spot-on" topical treatments are quick to apply to a pet's neck or back, while tablets can often be tucked into a treat like cheese or peanut butter.

Know before you go

Talk to your vet. 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 had an adverse reaction to a flea control treatment. Additionally, some products are not suitable for puppies and kittens.

Check 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. You might end up with a dosage that's too low to kill the fleas or, worse, one that's too high and causes serious side effects.

Read the directions. Before you buy a product, take a look at the application instructions and make sure you understand them. 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. Be especially careful not to use flea control treatments designed for dogs on your cat, or vice versa. Permethrin, a pesticide found in some topical dog treatments, can be lethal to cats.

Choose the right treatments. Don't waste your time with flea shampoos, dips, sprays or powders. Vets generally agree that these products are ineffective at best and toxic at worst. The same goes for "natural" remedies like essential oils and garlic.

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. Counterfeit versions of Frontline Plus are particularly common.

If you don't see it, ask. Pet stores may not keep all their flea remedies on the same shelf. Some of them may be locked up in a separate case to prevent theft. If you don't see the one you want, ask an employee where to find it.

Treat the whole house. Money spent on a flea treatment is wasted if you don't get the fleas out of your house. Vacuum carpets and upholstery daily, and discard the vacuum bag (outside the house) right away so fleas don't escape. Also, wash bedding, and wipe floors and furniture.

Keep your eyes open. After treatment, monitor your pet for any signs of a harmful reaction. Be prepared to contact your vet if necessary. Also keep an eye out for fleas that survive the treatment. If this happens, don't give a second dose without consulting your vet.

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