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On the front line in the fight against fleas

"If you perceive you need something new and different in the way of flea control, you do have new choices this season," says Dr. Michael Dryden, flea expert and veterinary parasitologist at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Comfortis is the first FDA-approved chewable (beef-flavored) pill offered monthly. "It works amazingly fast," Dryden says. "It begins killing fleas in 30 minutes. And because it's a pill and not a (topical) spot on, there's no question about effectiveness for dogs who swim a lot." (Some spot on products also say they are waterproof.)

Vetra 3D for Dogs is a new monthly spot on for dogs, labeled to kill fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

A third new choice for canines, ProMeris for Dogs, maintains a new mode of action which attacks fleas' nervous systems by blocking voltage-dependent sodium channels, resulting in paralysis and the death of the flea, not to mention killing ticks, as well.

For felines, there are two new options, both monthly products: Vetra 3D for Cats and ProMeris for Cats.

Some suggest fleas are developing resistance to products currently available through vets. And one study does indicate the process of selective resistance has begun. However, Dryden doubts that's necessarily the case.

"Certainly, fleas have become more challenging," Dryden concedes. He blames the flea revival on a number of things, including a general warming trend that has made it possible for fleas to survive in same places months past when they normally would.

Dryden also blames his own profession. "Veterinarians don't really explain how these products work and as a result, sometimes clients have unrealistic expectations."

Dr. Jay Stewart, a veterinarian in Aumsville, Ore., and member of the Board of Directors of the Companion Animal Parasite Council, agrees. "People often wait until they have a problem, a real infestation, and then they expect an instant miracle result. Today's products are very good — but not that good."

For example, Stewart says that by the time owners realize they have fleas, the eggs, larvae and pupae have been in the carpeting for some time. And by the time they begin to treat their pets, the adult fleas have already begun to lay more eggs (they can lay up to 50 a day).

With the right advice, you can gain the upper hand on an infestation. When there's a flea invasion, an integrative approach — which combines products — may be extremely effective. You should also treat the environment (passively by vacuuming and washing pet bedding, or more aggressively with an exterminating service).

While Dryden is, so far, skeptical about fleas developing a resistance to the recent generation of veterinary products, including Frontline, Advantix and Capstar, he adds, "We know for a fact that fleas have developed at least some resistance to synthetic pyrethroids, which are in virtually all the over-the-counter products. That's one difference, in general, between the over-the-counter and the superior veterinary products."

Also, if there's any question about a product, who's a better pet expert to answer your questions — a veterinary professional or stock person at Wal-Mart?

Dryden adds, "If you think about prevention, and use an appropriate product, and use that product appropriately, there's no reason to ever deal with flea problems today."

Send questions to Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207 or e-mail

Why you don't want fleas

Here are six reasons why you don't want fleas hanging around, according to Dr. Jay Stewart, a veterinarian in Aumsville, OR, and member of the Board of Directors of the Companion Animal Parasite Council. Learn more at

• Many pets are allergic to flea saliva (flea allergy dermatitis), which may be severe, easily leading to infections.

• Fleas transmit tapeworms. If you ever see a moving grain of rice in your pet's feces or near the animal's rear-end, your pet has tapeworms, and therefore likely has fleas. Now, you have to treat fleas, as well as using a product to eradicate the worms.

• Repeated bites may cause anemia, so severe in puppies and kittens that it can be life-threatening.

• Fleas pay a role in the spread of cat scratch fever.

• Fleas bite people, too. In fact, when there's an infestation and the pets are treated, the fleas have no one else to bite and may ruthlessly go after people.

Having fleas is simply 'gross.' Many pet owner share their beds with their animals. Fleas can lay their eggs there, and eventually the maggot-like flea larvae can live there, too.

On the front line in the fight against fleas 05/14/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 5:31pm]
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