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Fleas, Fleas, Fleas

on November 6, 2011
Posted in Cats

The common flea, Ctenocephalis felis, is well known to most dog and cat owners. Fleas are tiny primitive parasites that feed on the blood of dogs and cats and humans in some cases. Fleas live on pets and in the environment. Fleas have a 4 stage life cycle, egg, larva, pupa and adult. Research shows that if you have a flea problem in your house 5% are adults. Most of the fleas exist as pupae ( 10%), larva ( 35%) and eggs (50%). Many flea control programs concentrate on adult fleas but as you can see in doing this you leave most of the fleas behind. Since a single female flea can produce 2000 offspring in 6 weeks, it is important to focus on getting rid of the other stages. The real problem is in the pupa stage; it is resistant to just about everything, so that even when you kill all the adults, eggs and larvae with conventional insecticides and growth regulators, you will have fleas again in about two weeks when the pupae hatch.

So how do you win the war on fleas?

Start with a good diet for your pet. If your pet is on a good high quality homemade or premium diet then they will not taste or smell as good to the fleas. They have increased natural resistance. Garlic and brewer’s yeast can be used as supplements to help control fleas but if your pet is on a good basic diet these may not be needed. You need to watch the amount of garlic you use in your pets–I would not use a garlic supplement in cats and I would limit the amount given to dogs–1/4 clove for small dogs up to 1 clove for large breed dogs. Brewer’s yeast can actually be an allergen for dogs so it is not one of my favourites either.

Bathe your pet weekly and use a flea comb to comb out fleas. You can use herbal flea shampoos but in reality any glycerine shampoo with kill the fleas and is very gentle. It can even be use in young puppies and kittens. Avoid using essential oils unless you use a product endorsed by and recommended by your veterinarian. Essential oils can be very toxic to dogs and particularly cats. There are some good herbal flea powders but they are not effective for very long and have to be applied frequently. I find they work better in the environment.

Topical conventional spot on insecticides can be effective if you are having a severe problem but watch what you use. I do NOT recommend any over the counter flea spot ons that you buy at the pet store or big box stores. If you choose to use a monthly flea spot on, get one from your veterinarian. The over the counter ones from the pet store are highly TOXIC and I have seen many animals get sick from them even when given at the proper dosage. The ones your vet carries will be safe. There are other safe, non toxic medications like Program that are synthetic flea hormones and do not affect mammals.

Read also: Helping Your Outdoor Cat Avoid Bug Bites This Fall

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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