Getting Rid of Fleas

So hopefully you’re now confident that fleas are the problem, and you understand the lifecycle and how it impacts the ways that we treat fleas. Now lets move on to getting rid of fleas once an infestation has started.

Principles of Flea Treatment

Flea treatments revolve around killing the adult fleas with an ‘adulticide’, and preventing the eggs and larvae from developing with an ‘insect growth regulator’ (IGR), which also prevents reproduction in fleas). Most treatments contain an adulticide, and some contain an IGR alongside it.

To successfully treat a flea infestation, you need to:

  1. Kill all adults (or prevent them from laying any more eggs) – use an adulticide or flea contraceptive
  2. Wait for the pupae (cocoons) to hatch, and ensure that all new hatchlings are killed by an adulticide – treat for 12 consecutive weeks
  3. Prevent new cocoons from developing – use an IGR or a treatment that kills eggs and larvaeor take into account that new eggs will still hatch and go through their lifecycle – treat for 20 consecutive weeks

In the following topics, we’ll look at how this can practically be achieved and help you to choose the right medication options for your pet.

Why is my flea treatment not working?

There are three main reasons for flea treatment not to work.

1. You’ve chosen the wrong product

In this situation, the medication you’ve chosen isn’t effective for some reason. Here are some examples:

  • You’ve chosen a product that isn’t right for your pet’s lifestyle (for example, a topical spot-on when they regularly swim).
  • You’ve used the wrong size for your pet.
  • You’ve chosen a product that your flea infestation is resistant to.
  • Natural flea products often don’t have proven efficacy, so you may not get the desired results with these products.
  • You’ve accidentally bought a fake flea treatment – beware of low prices!
  • Lastly, you may have switched flea treatments hoping to find a more effective one, but still be using the same active ingredient – for example, the many brand names of fipronil can give the illusion of choice when there isn’t any!

How to fix it – ask a vet for help choosing a product

2. You’ve used the product incorrectly

Incorrect use of the product can cause it not to work. Here are some examples:

  • You’ve combined your chosen product with something else which has inactivated it (the classic example being flea shampoo and spot-ons).
  • You’ve not got the full dose onto the skin.
  • You applied a topical treatment too low on your pet and they’ve licked it off.
  • You’ve tried splitting one large pipette or tablet between two pets.

How to fix it – check the instructions, then double-check them. Don’t bathe your pet if you’re using spot-on treatments.

3. You haven’t treated for long enough or had gaps in treatment

Remember the flea lifecycle – you have to treat for at least 12 weeks to control a flea infestation. That’s 12 weeks without gaps, so if you’re using a product that lasts 4 weeks, you need to reapply every four weeks without fail – if you’re a few days late that’s a gap, and your 12 week timer needs to start again.

How to fix it – ensure you have enough product to treat for 12 weeks in a row. Mark each treatment date on your calendar and set alerts to help you remember. Or, use a product that lasts 12 weeks with one application.

What about the worms?

Whatever you choose to get rid of fleas, you’ll also need to give your pet a tapeworm treatment. This is because tapeworms are carried by fleas – when pets eat fleas during grooming, the tapeworm hatches in their body and infects them too.

Tapeworm treatments are also available over the counter, or your vet can supply you with one. Make sure that you follow any instructions on the packet about when to give the tapeworm treatment.

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