If you read last week’s post, you know that I am generally not a fan of pesticide flea products. I much prefer diatomaceous earth, essential oils like the blend pictured above, or other flea control methods. However, if you read last week’s post, you also know that there are some situations that I do recommend pesticides.
If you already have a raging infestation in your house (not uncommon here in the Pacific Northwest), if you live in a particularly badly infested neighborhood, or if you have a very allergic pet would be three exceptions where I would encourage pesticide use, at least temporarily.
For present infestations, these can be really, really hard to get on top of. You can certainly give the techniques from the previous post a try and see if you can get it under control naturally, but generally the only times I’ve seen that work are when the infestation was fairly new and the humans had a strong commitment to spending as much time as necessary to eliminating the fleas. Natural products will work for this, but the process is very time consuming, and it can take a couple of months to really get the infestation cleared. If your pets are sensitive to fleas this is definitely not ideal. If you use effective pesticide products for 3-4 months, you can clear the infestation. It still takes a few months because of how the flea life cycle works and the fact that the pesticides usually only kill adults, but at least during that time your pet will have no or few flea bites, and the population usually drops significantly within the first week of treatment.
In badly infested neighborhoods where there are lots of dogs or cats who are not receiving any kind of appropriate flea control it can take a few seasons for your own flea predator efforts to make a noticeable difference, or they may never make enough of a difference. In these neighborhoods, I often will recommend using pesticide products all through the flea season (about March to November around here), and being very watchful during the winter with regular flea combing.
For very flea allergic pets, just a single bite can be enough to send them into a spiral of immune reaction that can leave them with miserably inflamed skin. These pets I definitely recommend receive pesticide treatment if there is an infestation in the house and if they go outside I recommend treating throughout the flea season. Sensitive indoor cats do not need to be treated unless you have an infestation, though you may want to consider treating any housemates who do go outside if essential oil repellents are not doing the job.
Remember, if you don’t have fleas and are using pesticides for prevention in heavily infested neighborhoods or on housemates of indoor pets who are very sensitive, you don’t need to treat anyone who doesn’t go outside. However, if you have an infestation in your house, all your pets need to be treated or the untreated pets will become safe havens for the fleas and you’ll have used pesticides with poor results.
Now that we’ve covered when I’d recommend products, let’s talk about the two products that I dislike the least. There are a number of relatively safe products on the market, but these are the two I think are the safest.
Comfortis is my favorite of the pesticides. Yes, it is an oral tablet, however if you think about it, any pesticide you put on your pet goes into their mouth anyway, may as well use one that was designed to do that!
Comfortis tablets are effective for a month, and the active ingredient, spinosad, is a pesticide that is actually approved for organic farming. I have seen the fewest pesticide related adverse effects with Comfortis. It does have a tendency to relatively frequently cause vomiting, but if you take a couple of precautions you can minimize that risk. Firstly, always feed it after a meal that is, on a full stomach. Secondly, if you’re giving it to a cat or a very sensitive dog, split the dose in half (give one half after breakfast, one half after dinner on the same day), and roll the tablet pieces in butter. The fat seals the flavor and odor inside and makes it easier for the tablet to slide down the throat. You can also open the blister pack and leave the pill to air out for 24 hours before giving it. It does have a moderate chemical odor when first opened, so this can be helpful for very smell sensitive pets.
The tablets are chewable and flavored which isn’t necessarily helpful with cats, but can be helpful with dogs. Because of this, however, there is an allergy concern. Make sure if you have a food allergic pet that you check on the binder and flavoring ingredients to avoid any food reactions.
The one downside is that fleas have to bite to get the poison. If you have very flea allergic pets, this may not be the best solution as they will still be bitten. I have seen it work for mild to moderately allergic pets, but the severely allergic ones need something that doesn’t require a bite to be effective.
Enter the Seresto collar.
This is a flea collar like never before, and topical medication at its safest.
This product is made by the makers of Advantage and has the same flea pesticide as Advantage, but in this totally new delivery system. If your pet has reacted to Advantage or Advantix, or if you have a known Advantage resistant flea population, this collar is not a good choice.
Otherwise, this collar is the best topical product on the market. Unlike traditional flea collars the 8 months worth of pesticides are actually impregnated into the plastic collar and move out of the collar via diffusion. And unlike monthly spot on flea products, instead of dumping a month’s worth of chemicals on and waiting for it to decrease over time, thus exposing everyone to high levels of pesticide, this collar only releases one day’s worth of product at a time.
One benefit of the collar over Comfortis tablets is that if you do see a reaction, you can remove the collar and bathe your pet and remove nearly all of the product as quickly as possible. One drawback, particularly for cats, is that they have to keep the quick release collar on.
This collar is great for very flea allergic pets as it gives them continuous bite-free protection for the entire flea season, no gaps between the wearing off of one month’s treatment and the administration of the next.
The collar also protects against ticks, so it is my go to suggestion for effective tick protection if you live in or play in a highly tick populated environment.
I recommend other products on an as needed basis (for example, if neither of these products are acceptable for one reason or another), but these two are my favorites.
There is one other option I’ll mention. There is a topical product called Cheristin for cats only that is made from a similar pesticide as Comfortis. This is a decent product as well, and would be my first choice for a cat who couldn’t wear a collar or keep a collar on, but who was severely flea sensitive or who was impossible to pill.
Need flea products? Check out the products page with links for the essential oil flea blend Bug Off, and to my online pharmacy where you can find Vetriscience’s essential oil flea spray or pesticide products if you need them.
Have questions? Email me! I love blogging, especially when I know it’s answering my tribe’s questions.
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