The most common external parasite of dogs and cats in Florida is the flea. While there are over 2,000 different species of fleas, the one species that is the most bothersome to pets is, (Ctenocephalides felis,) the cat flea. Even if your pet stays indoors at all times it is possible for them to get fleas. Fleas can be brought in on your pant cuffs and shoes, additionally fleas can get under closed doors and through most screens. Here in Florida we do not have a proper winter like most states and this will result in flea activity all year long. Because of this year round activity, our fleas can become resistant to flea products much quicker.
Itching is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fleas. Some fleas can transmit diseases, but are more likely to be a source of allergies and skin issues for your pet. Severe flea infestation can cause anemia, especially in kittens/puppies or debilitated adult cats and dogs. Ingested fleas may transmit tapeworms to your pet.
Because cats groom often, you may not ever see fleas. However, a flea can begin feeding on your cats within seconds. Within 24 hours of its first blood meal, a female flea can lay eggs at a rate of 40-50 eggs per day and more than 1,300 eggs in her lifetime. Even a few fleas can turn into a major infestation. This is why it is critical to kill fleas quickly.
How can you help safeguard your home and pet from fleas here in Central Florida? Here at Animal veterinary Hospital of Orlando we have a few Do's and Don’ts for dealing with fleas on your pet. Don't waste your time with sprays, dips, and powders because the fleas have had resistance to the chemicals used in these products for over 20 years. Likewise the majority of flea collars also use a chemical that the fleas have long since developed a resistance. Currently there is only 1 flea collar that will actually work in Central Florida, the Serestro collar. This collar does need to be applied 1 finger tight to the pet’s neck as the collar actually releases the chemical onto the pet’s fur. Bathing your pet with a flea shampoo will only help with the fleas currently on your pet. Once you are done bathing, your pet is once again susceptible to the fleas left in the environment. Don't use dish detergent or regular shampoo. The detergents in these products will strip the natural oils off of your pet's fur and can lead to skin conditions in addition to the fleas. If you do bathe your pet make sure that it is a soap-free shampoo. Lastly, there is a 98% chance that the over-the-counter topical flea drops you may purchase are no longer effective.
Our preferred flea product for cats is Cheristan. Cheristan is a topical product, which is applied monthly to the back of your cats’ neck. Cheristan starts to kill fleas in 30 minutes. In a controlled study Cheristan was shown to kill 100% of fleas in 12 hours. That is the fast action your cat needs to start feeling relief. Cheristan is safe enough to use on kittens as young as 8 weeks of age. Its single dose size means you can use Cheristan safely on large and small cats alike. For best results, Cheristan should be applied monthly to every cat in your household.
Our preferred flea product for dogs is Nexgard. Nexgard is a convenient, once-a-month chewy treat for dogs that treats both fleas and ticks. Nexgard comes in a variety of sizes that will treat dogs from 4-120 pounds. Nexgard is safe to use on puppies as young as 8 weeks of age. We do caution the use of Nexgard on dogs that have a history of seizures and epileptic episodes.
Written by Ryan Ross and Edited by Dr. Bruce Bogoslavsky. February, 24 2017