Flea Fighting Options for Infested Pets

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The best way to fight fleas is to prevent them from attacking your dog, your cat or your home in the first place. Once the fleas have attacked your pet, you need medicated products.

Besides driving pets crazy, fleas are dangerous to your pet's health. Fleas can cause anemia, especially in animals that are young or debilitated. A single female flea will consume up to 15 times her body weight in blood over the weeks of its adult life. Fleas also serve as hosts to other parasites, like tapeworms, none of which you want for your pet.

Start your prevention efforts by inspecting your pet for fleas. They are about the size of a grain of rice, only thinner and darker. You might also see signs of their dirt or feces. The best place to look is on your pet's belly, under the arms and down toward the groin. If you see any tiny dark insects scurry about, your pet has fleas.

The truth is if your pet has fleas, he will most likely already be scratching and chewing at his fur. Look at where he is chewing for signs of infestation.

The next step to preventing fleas is to head to the back yard. Fleas will avoid a well-groomed yard in favor of one where there is lots of leaf litter and yard debris where they can thrive. Get rid of the litter and debris and then visit a garden store to purchase beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic roundworms that kill flea larvae, but are safe to humans, your pets and plants.

Now that the yard is safe, move inside and start vacuuming your carpets, furniture cushions, mattresses and any place where fleas might be hiding. When you think you have vacuumed the area thoroughly, go back over it again. And be sure you dispose of the vacuum bag or empty the canister into a plastic bag that is sealed and thrown in the outdoor trash can immediately.

Some people swear by borax as an effective pre-treatment, although this is not recommended by the borax manufacturers. If you choose to try it, sprinkle the borax on the carpet or furniture, work it in with a broom, and then let it sit for a few hours before you vigorously vacuum the area. Do not let pets in the room during the treatment and again, take the vacuum bag outdoors immediately.

These steps will help protect your pet, but what can you do if your dog or cat already has fleas?

Dogs:

Collars

The PowerBand Flea and Tick Collar for dogs protects against ticks and fleas in all their stages of life. It kills young fleas, adult fleas and flea eggs for up to five months. The collar will fit all but the most mammoth-sized dogs. You activate the release of medication by squeezing the buckle between your thumb and finger and then pulling sharply. The collar does not need to be replaced if the dog gets wet.

Shampoos

Adams Flea & Tick Shampoo is an insecticide, repellent and deodorant for dogs already suffering from fleas. The cleansing shampoos will kill fleas, ticks and lice, and help restore your dog's coat. After thoroughly soaking your dog's fur with warm water, apply the shampoos on his head and ears.

Lather and repeat the process on his neck, chest, middle and hindquarters, bathing the legs last. It is important not to rinse off the shampoo until the dog has been fully lathered for three to five minutes. After that time, you should rinse him thoroughly. You can use the shampoo every two weeks, as needed. Do not use it on puppies younger than 12 weeks.

Applications

Direct monthly application of medicines like Frontline for dogs will control fleas, ticks and chewing lice. Frontline contains Fipronil, an antiparasitic agent. The dosage is based on the dog's weight. It can be used on puppies at least eight weeks old, as well as breeding and lactating dogs.

The liquid medication is applied between the dog's shoulder blades, so it cannot be licked off. It is designed to stop and prevent fleas by killing adult fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae and prevent reinfestation. Because it is absorbed into the dog's skin, it is waterproof.

Cats:

Shampoos

Adams Flea & Tick Shampoo, as described for dogs, can also be used on cats. Follow the same instructions.

Applications

Frontline also produces an antiparasitic spray for cats and kittens, at least eight weeks old. When used monthly, it will control flea and tick infestations. While wearing latex gloves, you spray Frontline to your cat's back, sides, stomach, legs, shoulders and neck.

To coat the cat's head and face, spray Frontline into your gloved hand and then rub it gently into the cat's fur, avoiding his eyes and mouth. You spray one to two pumps per the cat's weight (10 pounds = 10 to 20 pumps). It should be enough of a mist that the cat's fur is damp to wet.

In short, there are steps to take to lessen the likelihood of flea infestation in your pets but even with these precautions, it can still happen. Luckily, there are products available to treat your pets if this does occur.

Jennifer Folk is a freelance writer who writes about pet care and pet meds.

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