How to Choose the Best Flea Treatment for Your Dog and Cat

With so many products out there, how can you choose the best flea treatment for your dog or cat?

This is what the ideal flea treatment needs to do, and other important questions to answer including side effects and the importance of where you live.

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And then my final question is from Bridget, who would like to know which flea treatment to use for her dogs and cats. She’s asking because a problem is that the vets don't always stock the flea treatments that you want to use, but promote ones that they get a discount on, like Advocate. What are my thoughts on this subject?

The ideal flea treatment

I'll start off by saying what we want our ideal flea treatment to do.

We want it to kill fleas, we want it to persist for a known period of time, to keep working as well as it did on day one for a known period of time that is also the administration interval. We want it to be non-toxic and easy to administer.

We also want any flea treatment to cover any other parasites that may be present and may be a risk to your dog or your cat. This is really going to depend on the geographical area that you live in, where you live in the world. This is because different parasites, and the diseases they can transmit vary by country and region.

Finally, we also want our flea treatment to ideally help reduce the environmental flea population. So that's reducing the eggs and larvae developing into adults.

So let’s think about older products, ones that have been around for a long period of time and a lot of pet shop and supermarket products are going to include these active ingredients. Not all of them by any stretch, but some of them, they either don't persist for the whole month or whatever the administration interval is said to be. They might kill the fleas on day one, when they're applied, and maybe have an action for the next few days but they're not going to keep killing those fleas for that whole month.

They might have a low safety index as well. Overdosing is easy and actually, in some cases, the normal dose that we give is really verging on the toxic dose. For these, the interval that's given, so that month interval in most cases, is because if you apply them any more frequently to do a better job, we're actually going to really be getting into toxic levels.

Most will have no action on the environment (and not all veterinary products have this action either). So they won't help prevent the eggs and larvae from developing. And then some are just really not very good at killing fleas. Maybe they were at one point but the fleas have actually developed resistance to that product.

Flea treatment side effects

Now if we move on to side effects and safety, all products (which work will have a risk of side effects. So there's no getting away from that. Those risks are really, really low and I can't stress that enough and I've actually spoken before about Bravecto, NexGard and Simparica side effects and safety because there was an FDA reminder about the potential for neurological signs. I’ve also spoken about Revolution and allergic reactions to topical products.

So there are potential side effects, and another side effect to know about is that really we should only apply cat products to cats. Never apply a dog product to your cat unless you've been specifically advised that it’s okay by your vet, because some dog products are really very dangerous if given to cats and can even kill.

The best product for your pet

Now, there are so many products out there that do a very good job. Many of them also have slight differences that might make all the difference to you. Advantage for example is a very effective flea-only product that lasts a month. A Seresto collar on the other hand lasts for 8 months and is also highly effective against ticks.

I simply can’t discuss all products, there are just too many and names also vary by country.

Now, like I said, we really want to make a decision based on local parasite risk and how well each product meets the requirements of the ideal flea treatment I've just discussed.

We also want to try and avoid doubling up on products with the same action. So it might be that you’re worming your pet with a certain product and you only need to kill or prevent fleas. You then don't need a flea product that also covers worms if you're giving a separate tablet.

I discuss some of the options I recommend in my post about the best cat flea treatment.

Why your vet stocks certain treatments

Now, the decision to stock different products by a vet is going to be based on what's safe, what best meets those ideal requirements, what is appropriate for the local parasite risk. But it's also a business decision as well, because ultimately vet surgeries need to make money to stay open. That's a reality.

Now, if they’re part of a big group of practices or corporate group, they might be instructed to preferentially stock certain products. If your veterinarian is an independent practice they might be part of a buying group. Just to try and help reduce prices to remain competitive with neighboring practices by getting preferential terms on specific products through the power of bulk buying.

Now the decision that's made with which one to buy is not going to be compromised by which product works. You're not going to get a product that doesn't work being stocked by your vet because ultimately that's going to really undermine their credibility and they're going to lose clients as a result. We're not in the business of selling things that don't work or are really dangerous

But there is also a business decision here, there’s just no way that a vet can stock everything on the shelf without products expiring and money being lost.

Discuss and order what’s best

The other thing to say is if you did have a specific product that you really wanted to try, then the vast majority of vets are going to be able to order something in for you specifically. That's generally not a problem. It might take a day or two to get that product in for you, but it's not something that needs to be ordered in as an emergency. You just need to ring them up a couple of weeks before you need to have a new supply, and get that ordered in for you.

So that's really my thoughts around that. There are a lot of products out there, like I say, and which one is going to be most appropriate for you depends on your pet, depends on their lifestyle, and depends where you live in the world.

So really just have a chat with your vet and also ask them to explain why they're recommending a certain product. It may be that actually it has additional benefits to the product that you're thinking of using on your dog or cat. Have that conversation as well. It's not just your vet that you can speak to. You can speak to the nursing team or the reception team as well, because they often have very good training about parasite risks and in which products work and which products are recommended.

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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