The Best Flea Treatment for YOUR Cat: my recommendations
There are so many different products out there, how can you possibly decide which is the best flea treatment to give your cat?
Knowing exactly what you want the flea treatment to do will really narrow down your options. Let me guide you through several of the best flea treatment products you should consider.
Which one is the best will depend on you and your cat!
Hello! I am trying to figure out which flea medicine I should use on my cats. I live in Florida (USA), I have cats that go both inside and outside and I’ve tried multiple different topical medications that have not worked in the past. I was like into Capstar, but apparently, that only works for 24 hours (if I’m not mistaken) and I would like something that lasts longer if possible. I’m scared to try any new medications because my aunts cat had a seizure from one that led to his head being permanently cocked to the side. To get to the point, I was wondering what you would recommend for long term management of fleas for both kittens (I have 2) and adult cats? The kittens are about 5 pounds, but I am not sure how old they are, I found them in my yard. - Katelyn
What would I recommend for Katelyn's cats to treat any fleas that are present as well as prevent fleas in the future?
Flea Treatment for Cats
What do we actually want (and need) the flea treatment we use to actually do?
The Ideal Flea Treatment
The ideal flea treatment should:
kill fleas with no resistance being present
persist for the entire treatment interval
be easy to administer
treat any additional parasites depending on individual need
I discuss these factors in more detail in my post about the ideal flea treatment.
There are a lot of different products out there, I can't possibly cover them all. Different active ingredient all do slightly different things, so let’s have a look at some of the most common and effective flea treatment options available that you should consider for your cat.
One of the first flea treatments I think you should be considering are Fipronil products. You’ve likely heard of Frontline, being one of the earlier, really effective options.
Fipronil alone is only effective against adult fleas. A lot of fipronil products (like this one) also contain (s)-methoprene which prevents flea pupae and larvae from growing into breeding adults and stops flea eggs hatching. I’ll discuss why this could be important in just a bit.
Fiprinil used to be very effective and, in some areas, it still does work very well. There does though appear to be regional resistance problems developing. In some areas fipronil has become completely ineffective, or it needs to be given more frequently to stay on top of a flea infestation.
As a result I think in a lot of cases, especially where there is a high flea and pet population, Fipronil products are no longer one of the best products to reach for. Your vet will know how effective they are in your local area.
Advantage, with the active ingredient of Imidacloprid, is a good alternative to Frontline.
It is a safe and effective flea-only product. This means it only kills the adult fleas, however it does this job very well and is one of the most affordable flea treatments that actually works.
Selamectin is the next drug to consider. This is found in products like Revolution or Stronghold. Not only is selamectin excellent at killing adult fleas, it’s got the added benefit of also being effective against the eggs and larvae in the environment.
This has several important benefits in specific situations. If there is already a flea infestation present (and if you are seeing fleas on your cat there is!) then using a flea product that reduces the environmental flea load and prevents more adults developing is going to help you eliminate the infestation faster.
If you’re not sure how, then head here to watch me show you how to check your cat for fleas.
If there is a high risk of fleas or if your cat has flea allergies and suffers from flea allergic dermatitis then you also want to knock out all fleas as best you can. Minimizing the risk of an allergy developing and minimizing the risk of a flea infestation.
Revolution or Stronghold is going to be ideal in these situations.
If you also want a flea product that also protects against ticks, lice, intestinal roundworms and heartworm, this drug has also got your cat covered. It is also a smaller volume which can make application easier, especially for those cats who don’t like anything applied to their skin.
Another solution would be a drug called Bravecto, the active ingredient being Fluralaner, as well as Moxidectin.
This is a spot-on flea treatment that provides protection against fleas and ticks for 12 weeks. It is also active against intestinal worms, and can provide heartworm prevention for an 8 weeks period.
The final flea treatment option to consider is the Seresto collar (which you can find here). This is a collar containing Flumethrin and Imidacloprid, that is worn by your cat permanently and provides seven to eight months of flea and tick protection, also preventing flea larvae development for 10 weeks. The collar slowly releases the active ingredients and prevents fleas and kills ticks for that long period of time.
This is the longest flea treatment product that is available, and is an excellent option if your cat is accepting of a collar without losing it. Although these collars are very secure and they don't generally get lost, they do have a break-away safety feature. If your cat is a big explorer or tree climber then there may be a high risk of their collar becoming lost.
Other Flea Products (to Avoid)
It’s worth discussing a few of the other options out there on the shelves that are marketed as flea treatments for cats.
Capstar is a drug that was mentioned in the question from Katelyn. Now, it is very effective at very quickly killing all the fleas that are on the cat when it is administered. But it has no persistence, only lasting for about 24 hours after tablet administration.
This is not a long term option for the control and prevention of fleas.
Program is another flea treatment that some people use, which is often actually a poor choice in most cats. This is an injection or oral suspension containing Lufenuron that lasts for either six months (the injection) or 1 month (the oral liquid). What this product does is to actually sterilize the adult fleas.
It can be used to break the flea life cycle, but you need to wait for all of the eggs and larvae in the environment to hatch out and to develop into adult fleas, which then need to feed, become sterile and then die from natural causes.
This is not going to be good flea treatment option for outdoor cats, or for those that suffer from a flea allergic dermatitis where just one bite can set them off and give them severe itchiness and a severe skin allergy.
Program, in my opinion, would only be good for indoor cats, that are in more urban environments, where there is a lower flea risk and a low risk of you bringing fleas into the house.
Organophosphates + other “old” chemicals
There are plenty of cheap products that come in pill, topical, or collar form that contain old insecticides that are either ineffective, much less safe, or in most cases both of these. Always check the active ingredient before buying any off-the-shelf flea treatment on your cat.
Go online and you’ll find all manner of “natural” flea remedies for cats.
All I’m going to say here is that they don’t work and can be dangerous. Garlic and essential oils are just 2 often-suggested examples that can both kill cats very effectively.
Never use a dog product on a cat. Some of them can very quickly kill them. Dog products may contain a different drug concentration that could be harmful, of may contain an active ingredient that is very toxic to cats. An example of this is the product Advantix which contains Permethrin as well as Imidocloprid. Permethrin is extremely poisonous to cats.
Always use a cat-only product unless you are specifically advised otherwise by your veterinarian.
The best flea treatment for your cat is going to depend on their lifestyle, your geographical location, local parasite risk, as well as the ease of application or administration. This is something to chat to your vet team about.
Side- effects are clearly another consideration. If we think about side effects of flea treatment then you need to be aware that anything that you give your cat carries the risk of side effects, no matter how small that risk is. There is generally no getting away from this no matter what product you use.
If it is doing something, there is going to be the risk of side effects, although some products are much safer than others.
Talk to your vet team about the recommendations for your individual cat based on their lifestyle and your specific area, and come up with an effective parasite prevention strategy that protects your cat from more than just fleas.
The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.
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