You Can't Win Flea Wars, so Fight Battle of Attrition

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: We have two cats and one dog, and in the last two weeks, we are seeing lots of fleas, especially on the dog, a 4-year-old sheltie. We are going to fog the house and have all the animals bathed. What else should we do? Should I get flea collars for them?

Andrea Ponce

La Habra

A: Flea control in Southern California is a frustrating, never-ending battle. Since eradication is nearly impossible, the emphasis should be on control.

The most effective method of flea control is to treat the environment. Fleas are only on a pet for a short period of time in order to take a blood meal. Then they jump off to lay eggs in the house or yard. The yard, both front and back, needs to be sprayed on a regular two- to three-week basis. The entire yard, including patios, driveways, and sidewalks, should be treated.

The house should be fogged with a product that not only kills the adult fleas but also arrests the development of the eggs or larval forms. The pupa stage of the flea is extremely resistant to insecticide products. This is why follow-up fogging or spraying of the house should be done every two weeks or so. Thorough vacuuming of the carpets and floors should be done and the bag immediately discarded.

Your pets can be treated with sprays, powders, or dips on a regular basis, but just be sure to use only products that are approved for your specific pets, especially with cats. Bathing with a flea shampoo will help keep the skin clean as well as kill the fleas that are present, although frequent use can dry the skin. Fleas can be killed with the use of collars but remember that flea collars are not repellents.

For dogs, there is an oral medication called Proban that releases an insecticide into the bloodstream that is harmless to the dog but deadly to the flea that takes up the blood. Discuss its use with your veterinarian.

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