Some years, it seems fleas are everywhere, while other years they appear more reclusive. Mostly, the problem is all about weather conditions.
"So, far, the fleas haven't been too bad, but don't breathe easy yet," says Dr. Zack Mills, of Duluth, GA. "Human nature being what it is, if people don't see fleas, they tend not to treat with a preventive product. And then they wonder why they have fleas at about this time of year. They don't want to use the product until they start seeing fleas. But that's counterintuitive to what these products are for, which is prevention."
Mills adds, "The benefit of Frontline Plus (a monthly spot on product which also kills ticks) is that it has an adulticide to kill adult fleas and a growth regulator, so if any fleas survive long enough to lay eggs, those eggs will not survive. If you use the product, it can prevent your house from getting infested with fleas, which makes life so much better for our pets and for us."
Although Mills wishes he had a nickel for every time a client suggests a flea preventive product isn't working -- when Mills knows he sold the owner a 6-pack of monthly Frontline Plus treatments six months before, and the owner now has four or five left.
"Obviously, no product can work if it's not being used," he notes.
Negligence can lead to infestations fast, Mills stresses. If a dog brings in just two fleas, in a matter of two weeks there may be 2,000 flea eggs hatching. Those fleas now begin to joyously reproduce, and within a month there may literally be millions of fleas in your home.
"At this point, how can they expect any single product to instantly eradicate his problem? That isn't a practical expectation," says Mills.
Another concern is choosing the right flea preventive product in the first place. That choice depends, in part, on where you happen to live and your pets' lifestyles. After all, there are many choices.
"Veterinarians and technicians are fully trained at the art of picking products that work appropriately for our clients and their home situations," says Dr. Christy Belew, of Kansas City, KS. "Do the clients have dogs? Do they have cats? What amount of time do they spend outdoors? When you walk into a big box store, if you even find help, the person helping you has absolutely no training on those products. Of course, they can only sell what's on the floor. When you go to your veterinarian, your veterinarian can say, this is your situation at home, this is the product we're going to recommend."
Dr. Ernie Ward, of Calabash, NC, adds, "I'm always looking for these products for my clients that handle heartworm, fleas and nasty intestinal parasites, and it's tasty and chewable, I'm on board. All you have to do is talk to your vet, ask a simple question: 'What's the best product out there?' I know one of the products that I like is called Trifexis (a monthly tablet that kills fleas, prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult hookworm, roundworm and whipworm infections)."
And that's what so important, adds veterinary parasitologist Dr. Michael Dryden, a distinguished professor Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Every pet is different. And every pet owner is different."
Still another consideration is ease of use.
"When we talk about being able to apply products, we want something that's easy for many of our clients, especially older pet owners," adds Belew. "For example, a product that's not complicated, it has an easy (spot-on) applicator, it doesn't drip, it's not messy. Vectra 3D (which also kills ticks) is one of those products that we really like when we talk about ease of application."
Dryden adds, "For some pet owners, an oral chewable is preferred. You don't need to worry if the product was actually applied correctly. Let alone the fact that some of these animals go swimming after you put it on. In a study we did of Comfortis (a chewable product), it was easy to administer and performed very well at eradicating fleas from dogs."
"There are many other excellent products. What's important is that you can win the war on the fleas," adds Dryden. "It's a matter of working with your veterinarian to create the best preventive plan."
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun