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PetMeds Vet Blog with Dr. Dym Dr. Michael Dym
Holistic & Conventional Veterinarian
"Over 19 years of caring for the well-being of pets"
Visit his Ask the Vet blog.
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My Pet's Flea Medication Isn't Working


Steps to Help Flea Medication Effectiveness

There are times when pet owners may feel their pet's flea medicines are no longer working as effectively as they used to. So, what do you do? Below is a list of four options to help control fleas on your pet and in your home, even if your pet is already on a monthly flea medicine.
  • Make sure to apply topical medications correctly (do not split medications to use on more than one pet)
  • Make sure your pet's skin is healthy so topical flea l medications work well
  • Treat the yard and house where 95-99% of the flea population lives
  • Kill all fleas as soon as they hatch from the cocoon stage (pupal). Or, use a flea medicine with an IGR (insect growth regulator) which kills flea eggs and larvae.
Treating your home for fleas is just as important as your pet's flea medicine

Apply Topical Flea Medications Correctly

Touch the skin with the applicator tip. Don't put the applicator tip in the hair because hair cannot absorb product. Put the tip on the skin, which is able to absorb the medication. You can slide the applicator under the hair (rather than parting the hair with your fingers) if you are sure the applicator touches the skin. Apply along the back where your pet cannot reach. You can apply to one spot or several spots, however, the more often you lift the applicator tip and move to another location, the more likely you are to get product in the hair or on yourself.

For some pets it is helpful to apply both above and below the collar. For flexible cats, apply at the base of the skull rather than along the back. If your cat can lick it off, the medication won't work and your cat may get sick. Do not rub the product in. Keep your fingers away from the applicator tip so that the pet, and not you, receives the dose. Squeeze the tube until it is entirely empty.


Make Sure Your Pet's Skin is Healthy

Be sure the skin is soft, flexible, and healthy. If skin is dry, thick, and unhealthy, the medication will not be carried through skin as it should. If necessary, supplement with Omega 3 fatty acids to improve your pet's skin and coat. We recommend Super Pure Omega 3, Brite Coat Chews. Keep the coat groomed and washed to remove matted hair, feces, old dry skin, and debris.

Treat Your Yard and Home

Only 1-5% of flea population lives on your pet, while the other 95-99% lives in your house and yard. Remove fleas, flea eggs, and larvae from the house and yard by using flea medication treatments that kill adult fleas (adulticides) and contain insect growth regulators (IGR's) to prevent eggs and larvae from developing into adults. For the yard:
  • Treat all shady areas in the yard, under fences, and in the dog house.
  • Remove all leaf litter and material fleas can live in.
  • If you mulch, use eucalyptus or cedar mulch to deter insects.
  • Vacuum the house twice a week.
  • Pay attention to mop boards, sofa cushions, carpets, and pet beds.
  • Treat all pets in the household with flea products.
Limit your pet's exposure to wildlife. The following wildlife carries fleas that infect pets: raccoons, opossums, deer, mice, cattle, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, skunks, ferrets, Florida panthers. Rotate flea control products to prevent resistance to any single product.

Kill Flea Eggs and Larvae Before They Mature Into Adult Fleas

Fleas go through 4 growth stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Flea treatments kill adult fleas and larvae, but no pet, house, or yard product kills fleas when they are in the pupal stage and wrapped in a cocoon. You have not failed. The insecticide has not failed. Nature made the flea cocoon as safe as a bomb shelter. Pupal fleas mature and emerge as adults over a wide time span. They can emerge from the cocoon in as little as a couple weeks, or as long as several months-depending upon temperature, humidity, and the flea's ability to sense a suitable host.

Be prepared to treat newly hatching adult fleas by reapplying Virbac Knockout Fogger to the carpet and Virbac Yard Spray Concentrate to the yard. Often, the best time for reapplication is 1-2 weeks after the first treatment. Then, reapply in another 1-2 weeks. If it is cold, flea pupae may not hatch for weeks or months. Over this time, your yard and carpet treatments will have dissipated, and will not be strong enough after several weeks to control the newly hatched fleas. To be successful, retreat the house and yard as soon as you find newly emerging fleas.

Max's Tip: Because flea preventatives are carried in the oils on the skin, the kill rate may be slower in animals with heavy fur and in those with dry skin.  
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