My Labrador retriever is having a terrible time with fleas this spring. She was on Frontline, but that wasn't working, so our vet switched us to Advantix. It was effective for a while, but she's starting to scratch again. Is this normal? What should we be doing to prevent fleas?
Fleas! Unwelcome residents in our Florida paradise. Fleas like warmth and humidity. Tampa Bay has both, so fleas thrive here. Americans spend more than half a billion dollars annually on flea control. For years, ineffective flea collars, dusty powders and smelly dips were the only options. But we have come a long way.
To learn more, I talked with Dr. Michael Rumore, head veterinarian and owner of Lake Seminole Animal Hospital and SPCA volunteer.
Is the flea problem getting worse?
Perhaps. Fleas die when the temperature is below 32 degrees for three days, but our winters have been mild lately. Fleas live on many animals, so our pets are constantly exposed. And some pets are very sensitive to even one flea, causing an allergic dermatitis, scratching and discomfort.
How are the new products better?
Many target the flea life cycle only, so are overall much safer. About 95 percent of the fleas are in the egg, larva or pupa stages. Insect growth regulators (IGR) are key, preventing the flea from becoming an adult. Only adult fleas bite and cause the flea "allergy." Some products also prevent ticks and heartworms, a real bonus.
What about the concern raised in our question?
First, new products are available. Second, environmental control. Adult fleas live on our pets; other stages are in our yards and homes. An immaculately clean home can have fleas. Fortunately, many nontoxic options are available.
There is no one magic bullet. Also, individual animals respond differently. Flea control is an ongoing effort to see results, like laundry.
Not all that itches and scratches is due to fleas. There are
Talk with your veterinarian. Research reputable Internet sites for information. Flea control and pet health is a team effort.
Paulette Keller, a Tampa Bay native, is a longtime volunteer with the SPCA of Tampa Bay.