|Getting rid of summertime pests: Let the battle begin!
As I mentioned last week, the number of products on the market to combat fleas and ticks is dizzying and confusing. How do you pick? What’s the most effective way to get rid of these pesky pests? Truth is, the jury is still out. Fortunately, we have many weapons to keep in our arsenal so the odds are on our side of winning. The trick is to get rid of the pests without harming our pets.
Every year many pets are rushed to the emergency hospital because of overdoses or poor combination choices of chemicals from flea and tick prevention medications. It’s important to keep in mind that even the stuff you buy over-the-counter is a chemical and every animal is different in their reactions to exposure to chemicals. Although as you’ll see, we recommend hitting various areas all at the same time to effectively break the chain reaction of reproduction, but it is important not to mix incompatible chemicals together. It is especially important in households with both dogs and cats that you make sure you are using products made specifically for each species.
You really have to have a battle plan in order to have a chance to win the war on fleas and ticks. It helps to attack on all fronts at once – on the pet, in the home and the outside environment. If you skip any of these steps you risk instant re-infestation. Over the counter products are OK, but for the best results, you should work with your veterinarian and get her recommendation for the safest, most effective prescription product.
For the pet you have a choice of pills, shampoos, collars, powders and an array of topical ointments. What you choose will depend on how heavy the infestation is and what else you want it to do – some medications are combined with wormers or heartworm protection. Oral meds include “Capstar,” a pill which will kill all adult fleas within four hours, but has no residual effect. “Sentinel,” also oral, does the opposite. It will prevent the eggs from hatching, but won’t kill the adult fleas. Topical products include Advantage II (newly formulated to be effective for those tough fleas that have built up a resistance to the original Advantage), Advantage Multi, Advantix, Bio-Spot and others. They all last a month and are effective against the adult and the larvae. Again, be careful you are not using a shampoo with one active ingredient, using a powder with another and a collar with a third. Most professionals agree the products that have a residual effect are best, especially those that help prevent the eggs from hatching.
Shampoos rarely kill all the fleas, but bathing can be helpful if there is a lot of flea dirt on the pet. Fleas drink blood and that’s what they poop. If you see what looks like pepper in your pet’s coat it’s most likely from fleas. It’s easy to find out if it’s really that and not just dirt by combing some out onto a white paper towel and putting a drop of water on it. If it turns red, it’s from a flea. Don’t be surprised when you bathe your pet to see the water running red as it gets rid of the flea waste. It’s best to bathe your pet first and then apply a topical ointment.
Treating the animal though, is not enough or the first time he steps outside he will get re-infested. For every flea you see on your pet, there are 10 times that many living in the environment laying eggs. If you have a heavy infestation, it is important to get a spray or powder for your yard and a bomb or spray to treat the inside of your house. It’s also helpful to put a flea collar into your vacuum bag and to change it often.
With all the options we have available, it’s amazing there are any fleas left. Sadder still to see how many animals still come into the shelter covered with these pests. Which all points to the fact that although we may be able to win a battle here and there, we will never totally win the war against fleas and ticks.
Register now to be part of our 3rd Annual Mutt Strut on Sept. 29. Walker teams are now forming – get your friends together and join the fun! Help raise needed funds for the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. Details at animalshelterleaguerp.org.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.