They are called “Preventives” for a reason…

I want to open up a discussion about Flea prevention. All too often I run into clients that don’t use any flea prevention at all, or they only use it during certain months of the year (most often spring/summer), or they’ll use it when they “see signs of fleas.”  That latter one really makes my head spin.

Some of the common excuses I get for not using flea prevention are:

  1. My pet never goes outdoors.
  2. I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet.
  3. My pet is allergic to or sensitive to it.

Let me address each of these, one at a time.

My pet never goes outdoors.

This excuse is most commonly used with cat owners, but I have heard it from my fair share of dog owners too.  If your dog or cat never sets a paw outside of the confines of your home, she is still not immune to fleas.  Unless you live in the middle of the desert or frozen tundra, there are fleas everywhere in the environment.  Those fleas will do whatever it takes to get to your pet too.  They will hitchhike on your pant leg as you walk from your car into the house after work.  They will hide in your folded pant cuff while you’re out mowing the lawn or gardening, just waiting for you to take them to their next blood meal (ie: your dog or cat, or ferret, or hamster/gerbil/guinea pig).  They will come into your house on a mouse, or just crawl through the tiniest little crack in your doorway or floor or wall.  The fleas will find a way into your home.

10 times out of 10 when an anti-flea prevention pet owner comes to us with a skin irritation complaint, fleas are the primary culprit.  They always seem surprised when we comb off flea “dirt” (flea excrement) from their cat that doesn’t have fleas.  Or if we happen to find a live flea on their dog, it must have picked it up on its way into the veterinary office.

Easy way to tell if it’s just dirt or if it’s “flea dirt:” Place on a white paper towel and get it wet. If it turns brown or red, it is “flea dirt.” If it stays the same color, it’s just dirt.

I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet.

I don’t want to put unnecessary chemicals on my pet, on me or around my house ever!  The key word there was unnecessary.  I will use necessary, safe chemicals around me, on me and, if needed, in me if it’s better than the alternative.

Think about this people.  Start with what you consume on a daily basis.  Do you eat processed foods?  Do you wear lotions, sunscreens, perfumes, anti-perspirants/deodorants?  Do you wash and condition your hair?  Do you use hair products for styling?  Do you launder your clothes?  Do you wear insect repellent?  Do you take medications for any reason, over-the-counter or prescription?

If you answered yes to any of the above, why wouldn’t you do the same for your pet if it could improve their overall wellbeing and health?  Prior to the introduction of topical flea preventives, flea dips were commonplace.  Flea dips consisted of dousing your pet in a pyrethrin.  Pyrethrins have been deemed safe for the environment because they degrade rapidly, but they can be toxic to humans and other mammals.  Pyrethrin toxicity occurs most quickly through respiration, but can also happen more slowly through skin absorption.  Geez.  If you are the person bathing your pet in a pyrethrin, both you and your pet are going to be victim to the aerosolizing of the pyrethrin as you hose your dog or cat down.  The skin absorption is going to be a given for your pet, and a possibility for you, unless you’re wearing gloves during the bathing.

Frontline Top Spot was one of the first true flea preventives on the market.  It’s active ingredient is fipronil.  Fipronil has been proven safe in the environment and to mammals for decades prior to it’s evolution into topical flea preventives for pets.  It has been used in agriculture for decades, and if you’ve ever had your home treated by an exterminator for termites or fleas, I guarantee you they used fipronil!

Now, let me ask you this.  You don’t want to put chemicals on or in your pet, but you are okay with your pet contracting a blood-borne parasite, intestinal parasites (tapeworms), and/or having to live with constant and chronic skin disease?  And then there is the potential for your pet to transmit disease to YOU.  Have you ever heard of Bubonic Plague?  It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is spread by fleas.  So please think again about flea prevention if this is your excuse for not using it.

My pet is allergic or sensitive to it.

Sure, this is definitely something that could happen.  If you use a topical product, there is the possibility that your pet might have a skin sensitivity to the carrier or the chemical itself.  Then try something different.  Try an oral preventive if you pet is sensitive to topicals in general. The number one carrier used in topical products is isopropyl alcohol.  Some people are sensitive to isopropyl alcohol, but it doesn’t mean it is a dangerous product.  If your pet reacts poorly to an oral preventive, then use a topical.  There are several different preventives on the market, oral and topical and some injectable.  Keep trying until you find the product that your pet tolerates well!

Bottom Line.

Fleas are disgusting!  They are annoying pests to us, but especially to our pets.  Imagine living with thousands of little bitey bugs covering your body, biting you for a blood meal several times every second, causing the most uncomfortable itch you could ever imagine from head to toe.  Every damn day.

If you are using something that is over the counter (Hartz, Sargents, Pet Armor, Flea Shampoo, etc.) and your pet is still suffering from a flea infestation and/or flea allergy dermatitis, talk to your vet about appropriate flea prevention, please.  Owning pets does not come without cost.  Either pay for flea prevention that works, or continue to pay your veterinarian for regular exam fees, skin cytologies, steroids, antibiotics, and other skin care medications (tell me again about how you don’t want to put chemicals on or in your pet?).  The former is the best option, and the safest and most comfortable option for your pet.

I love my dogs and my cats.  I would never EVER think about using anything on them that I thought would be even the least bit harmful.  I have seen what “homeopathic flea remedies” look like.  They don’t work.  I have witnessed the agony of a cat nearly hairless with moist dermatitis from head to toe that would go into a seizure if you touched it because it itched that bad.  I have experienced it all folks.  Lemon doesn’t work.  If it did the lemon industry would be making bank.  Diatomaceous earth doesn’t work.  If it did we’d see a lot more of it on the market being advertised as such.  Essential oils (tea tree oil, lavender, etc.) don’t work!  They might help by deterring some fleas from jumping onto your pet, but most fleas aren’t phased by it.

And now the floor is open.  Share your opinion(s) on the matter in the comments.  This is how we all learn and grow.  If you agree or disagree, have something to add or comment about, please share!

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