Retreat, Fleas!

We're better armed than ever for the Battle of the Bug. Learn how to keep your pet—and your home—free of fleas.

By Eve Adamson | Posted: Sun Jan 16 00:00:00 PST 2000

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How can you keep fleas out of your house and off your dog? Luckily, flea control has advanced in recent years, making it easier than ever.

The most effective course of action: Treat your dog with one of the newer, spot-on adulticides, such as imidacloprid or fipronil, and treat either the dog or its environment with an insect growth regulator, such as lufenuron or pyriproxyfen, Richman said. "Adulticides and insect growth regulators target different life stages of the flea. Using an insect growth regulator in conjunction with the adulticide causes those females that survive the adulticide long enough to breed, to lay nonviable eggs. That would be the perfect plan."

Your Weapons
The newer adulticides, most commonly applied on your dog's skin between the shoulder blades, last about a month. Because they spread over the skin but aren't absorbed into the bloodstream, they are consi dered less toxic than other products. They also last for three to four weeks, sometimes much longer. Dr. Noxen said the newer adulticides are safer than the organophosphates and carbamates contained in many other products, and insect growth regulators are the safest of all, although they don't kill adult fleas. "Some studies have shown that when IGRs are used alone, you won't see any change at all for up to 12 weeks," he said. But used with an adulticide, they can leave a dog flea-free nearly immediately.

Insect growth regulators come in many forms but can be categorized into two classes of compounds: chitin synthesis inhibitors, or CSIs, and juvenile hormone analogues, or JHAs. "CSIs disrupt molting, killing the insect during the process," Richman said. Also, eggs exposed to a CSI won't hatch. JHAs prevent the insect from reaching adulthoodimportant because adult fleas are the pest stage."

Insect growth regulators can be used to treat carpets, dog beds and the yard. Although they're safe for pets and homes, use as little as possible. "If you are treating your home with an IGR, you may only need to treat your pet with an adulticide," Richman said. "And only treat your home and yard in the areas your pet frequents. Spraying pesticide everywhere is irresponsible."

Also consider some of the new combination products. One combines the lufenuron and heartworm preventive. Another, a spot-on treatment, combines pyriproxyfen, one of the most effect and long-lasting insect growth regulators, with a pyrethrin-based adulticide. Both products make life with a dog a little simpler.

"The only reason to use other products like flea collars, for example, is cost," said Kenneth Weigel, DVM, a veterinarian at Palo Alto, California. Monthly use of adulticides and IGRs can get expensive, he said. For mild flea problems, if a less expensive product works and isn't too toxic, you have no reason to spend more money.

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