Fleas are the most common external parasites affecting felines, one of many flea hosts. Numerous cats are presented to their veterinarians every year because their owners see or suspect fleas. Flea Infestations can lead to many dermatological problems that are more serious than just the cosmetic hair loss. In cats, flea allergy dermatitis and skin infections (or pyoderma) are one of the most common allergic reactions that we see in veterinary medicine. As a result, many feline patients are brought to their veterinarian not necessarily because their owners saw fleas but because these pets are suffering from the secondary problems of a flea infestation.
- use a veterinarian recommended product
- read the label carefully and apply all topical products properly
- know and understand the flea life cycle
- treat all animals in the house
- consult your veterinarian
- think that your indoor cat cannot get fleas
- cheap out on your flea control
- only use a flea medication if you see fleas
- get frustrated
- wait to treat your cat
There are many products labeled to kill fleas, and they come in a variety of forms, such as topically-applied liquid or spray, collars, and oral tablets. The flea preventatives that are available through your veterinarian are typically more effective in eradicating flea infestations. Veterinary approved products will also prevent recurrence of a flea infestation. But more importantly, it is safer for your cat to see a vet and have them recommend the best product for your cat based on their age and lifestyle.
Products that are veterinarian approved are also recommended, as some over the counter products can actually be toxic to cats. Unfortunately, unlike their canine counterparts, the amount of safe and effective products we can use with cats is more limited. The good news is that vets have a variety of options that are effective in keeping fleas off your furry friend.
It is always important to read the label carefully because many of the products that can be used safely in dogs cannot be used safely in cats. So don’t just reach for the first product on the shelf with the fancy label. In addition, some products cannot be applied for up to 2 days before or after a bath, while other products can be applied as soon as your pet is dry. Most topical flea treatments can be removed by using certain soaps and shampoos, rendering the product ineffective and leaving opportunity for a flea infestation. If you follow product directions and use it properly, you will see better and safer results.
If you are seeing adult fleas on your cat, you are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. If there are fleas on your cat, there are also more fleas elsewhere in your house. Not only adult fleas but there are also younger fleas and flea eggs present too. If you use a treatment that solely kills adult fleas, then the flea eggs will still hatch and the immature fleas will still live and grow, thus keeping the flea infestation going. Flea eggs hatch in weeks to months, so continuous flea preventative treatment is the key to not only eradicating an infestation but also preventing a new infestation. Flea eggs are small and can be embedded in carpet fibers and fabrics, thus making cleaning and removing them from the environment very difficult.
If one pet in the household has fleas, then every pet in the household has fleas—even if you don’t see them yet. As a result, all cats in the home should be treated for fleas and kept on flea preventative year-round, regardless of whether or not they are indoor or outdoor cats. Fleas have legs and can easily jump from one pet to another; fleas don’t care if your cat goes outside or not; and all cats and dogs can be potential targets for these little parasites.
It is recommended to bring your cat to the vet not only if you see a flea, but also for any cat suffering from chronic skin problems such as itching, hair loss, or red skin, as these issues may be secondary problems associated with a flea infestation. Common secondary problems often seen with fleas and other parasitic infections include skin infection and flea allergy dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic skin reaction to flea saliva. Some animals may be so sensitive to flea saliva that just one bite can lead to a severe reaction. In these severe cases you may never even see the guilty parasite. Flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common allergic reactions seen by veterinarians. By bringing your cat to your veterinarian, you have the chance to discuss with the doctor the proper treatments for not only the underlying flea infestation, but also for the secondary dermatological problems associated with the flea infestation. In many cases the primary and secondary skin issues will need to be treated.
There is a common misconception that indoor cats cannot get fleas. It is true that the risk of flea infestation for indoor cats is lower than those that go outdoors; however, fleas can easily and quickly jump from one warm-blooded animal (e.g. people, animals passing through your property) to another (e.g. your indoor cat sitting by the open window or your outdoor dog or cat). This is especially true in apartment buildings or condominiums, where fleas can end up in the common areas and be transferred from pet to pet. In addition, fleas are more driven to find indoor environments in the cooler months of the year because they’re seeking warm-blooded animals living in a warm environment, where the fleas thrive best.
Bargain flea control products are just not as effective or safe as the premium, veterinary-approved products. This is especially important for cats. Since cats can have toxic reactions to many over the counter products, it is always a better idea to use a premium product specifically labeled for cats.
Older topical flea removal products can also be counterfeit, meaning they don’t actually contain any parasite-killing ingredients that they claim to carry on their label. Because of this is important to buy all you flea products from a reliable veterinary approved source. It is safe to say that your vet will be able to recommend a product that actually works and is safe for your cat.
If you see fleas, then the infestation is already bigger than you think it is, and your cat is not only in discomfort from the fleas biting them, but he/she may also be suffering from flea allergy dermatitis and possibly even a skin infection, which is a common problem associated with fleas. Veterinarian recommended products, if used as per their label and on a regular basis, will help to prevent you from ever having a flea problem, In addition, your vet will be able to recommend a treatment plan for secondary problems associated with flea bites.
Severe flea infestations can be frustrating because they take time to fully eradicate—typically several months—due to several generations of fleas all trying to complete their natural life cycles at once. The flea life cycle includes flea eggs at the start, mature adult fleas at the end, and immature flea larvae in the middle of the life cycle. Flea eggs will hatch out baby fleas; mature adult fleas will reproduce to lay eggs that eventually produce more baby fleas; and all stages of live fleas feed off the blood of warm-blooded animals, e.g. cats, dogs, people, deer, squirrels, woodchucks, etc. Fleas can survive off of your cat for up to 2 weeks, meaning they hide in your rugs, bedding, and furniture before and after latching onto your cat.
Keep in mind that all animals in the house must be treated for fleas or with a flea preventative, otherwise the flea infestation will just perpetuate through the pets that aren’t receiving any treatment or preventative.
Whether you have an indoor or an outdoor cat, flea control starts with your pet’s first exam with his veterinarian. This is especially important for cats because there are a limited number of safe products available to treat and prevent fleas in cats compared to that in dogs.
Since flea medications are readily available in stores, most people believe that this is a simple problem to solve with the first product they find on the shelf. However, it never hurts to get the advice of a professional who kills fleas for a living! Most veterinarians are happy to recommend a treatment and preventative protocol for your cat, utilizing safe and effective medications tailored to your pet’s overall health condition and lifestyle.
Remember, too, to speak to your veterinarian about an appropriate parasite preventative program not only for your feline, but for all pets in the household. Then you can hopefully avoid the frustrations of having to treat a flea infestation in your household.
Parasite prevention is one of the most important ways you can keep your cat happy and healthy. Consulting with your veterinarian about the best flea preventative product for your cat based on your location and lifestyle will greatly reduce their chance of getting fleas. Using a premium veterinary approved cat product and applying that product properly, routinely, and year-round will greatly reduce the chance that you’ll have to experience the frustration of eradicating a flea outbreak. Preventing fleas from parasitizing your pet also keeps your cat free from the discomfort of pulling his hair out because of secondary flea allergy dermatitis and skin infections. Remember that flea prevention and treatment is an important aspect of keeping your furry friend happy and healthy.