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Ask the Vet with Dr. Marty Becker

Dr. Marty BeckerDr. Marty Becker
DrMartyBecker.com

Q. I have two dogs (Geronimo, 6, and Gracie, 4) and a cat (Frankie, 9). They are all active and in good health, but there is one recurring problem that we just can’t seem to kick: Fleas! We are very diligent about giving each pet a monthly preventative. And as soon as we find a flea on one of our animals (and let’s face it, by the time we find a flea the problem is usually not just on one of them), we go through the cycle of flea baths, flea sprays, flea combs, and washing every possible surface and piece of bedding we can. And still, a few days or months go by and we’ve got fleas again! We live in a warm climate with lots of vegetation, and our pets spend a good amount of time outdoors—are we just destined to be dealing with this forever?

A. Not at all. I suspect what’s going on is that you’re indeed cycling through various flea-control strategies, without ever actually breaking the life cycle of the fleas in your home. You need to start fresh, with a “shock-and-awe” approach to flea-control, and before you do, you need to talk to your veterinarian.

You probably don’t need flea baths (a plain bath with ordinary pet shampoo is pretty much as effective at washing fleas and flea eggs off your pet and down the drain), or flea sprays, which add a lot of chemicals you likewise don’t need to add to your environment. And flea combs catch adults, not immature fleas, leaving the next generation ready to pounce.

Instead of struggling with ineffective methods, get your vet’s advice on the flea control products that are working well in your area. Some new ones have come on to the market in recent years. While your vet will have her own opinions on what’s best for your individual pet, I like to recommend Revolution, Vectra 3D, or Trifexis—all available from your veterinarian, and all very effective against fleas and other parasites.

Once you have your pets on effective flea control, it’s time to attack the pests where they live when they’re not biting your pets—or you! Take up every pet bed and run it through the washer and dryer. If they won’t fit in your home machines, take them to the large commercial ones at your neighborhood laundromat, or toss them out and replace them with washable beds.

Then get your vacuum going. Vacuum every last inch of floor and furniture where your pets like to sleep, and make sure you get into the crevices as well. You can also get some diatomaceous earth and work it into your carpet as well as any gaps in the floors or under the cushions. This product works to kill flea larvae by drying them out. It’s non-toxic to pets and people, and is a good addition to your flea-control arsenal. After you’re done, don’t forget to toss the vacuum bag in the trash to get the eggs out of your home for good.

If you continue to use the product your veterinarian recommends and keep up with at least weekly vacuuming of pet areas and washing of pet bedding, you’re likely not going to see fleas anymore.

Don’t stop with the baths for your dogs. Although you won’t need those baths for flea-control, bathing weekly (or even more often) with shampoo recommended by your veterinarian will keep your pets more huggable, their skin less prone to allergy outbreaks, and everyone’s allergies in check.

ABOUT the Vet
Dr. Marty Becker is the author of the book, Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual: Hundreds of Secrets, Surprises, and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Cat (Grand Central Life & Style). For 16 years, Dr. Becker has been the popular veterinary contributor to ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. Currently he is a member of Core Team Oz on The Dr. Oz Show and is the veterinary spokesman for Vetstreet.com. His latest book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, is now available in paperback.

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4 Comments

  1. SirenaNovember 7, 2012 at 9:57 amReply

    I tend to take the natural approach as much as possible. While I think many of the things written here is good information, I feel the immune system & the yard needs to be addressed.

  2. chloeNovember 7, 2012 at 9:00 amReply

    I am very surprised that you recommend bathing dogs every week because it makes them ‘more huggable’. Dog’s fur and skin are not meant to be subjected to soap so often. It really dries their skin and make them itch a great deal more! A good diet and brushing everyday, a quick hose down when muddy, does the trick. We can all see that after walking the dog in a good downpour, the fur repelled water and the skin is still dry.

  3. Ann BallardNovember 7, 2012 at 7:28 amReply

    We have had breakthroughs with one or two fleas this year, too. Our pets have always been on Frontiline Plus and did fine, but we finally switched to Advantage II as our one dog got bit and had a reaction to the bite. Our new cat has been treated 3 times now for roundworms and we have switched her to Revolution to try and get those under control as the larvae are probably encased in her tissues. We are afraid to switch the dogs to Revolution or Trifexis or Comfortis because I heard if your dog has seizures it could exacerbate them and my one dog has had a few seizures before. The vet told us not to bathe our dogs more than once a month(they are papillons) so as not to dry out their skin. I also just read about that diatomaceous earth and now that you are mentioning it as well, I know it’s not a hoax and how it works. Thanks for the advice Dr. Becker!

  4. Jeannie BeachOctober 29, 2012 at 10:07 amReply

    The advice about how to get rid of fleas will be helpful. Thank you. As for seeing a vet for our three indoor cats, that is not possible because except for an emergency,I can not afford a vets because they are very expensive for people on limited incomes. I am very glad to hear about tails rescue group. I suppose some feel that people who can not afford vet bills should not have animals, but if that idea were followed, there would be even less pet owners and more unwanted animals. We love our kitties very dearly. They are for my daughter, who is disabled, and myself, like our children and grandchildren. I am an elderly widow on social security and we have no children in our family. The vets around here cost $60 or more just for a visit, not including xrays and medications. Unfortunately, most vets, like doctors are more interested in the money rather than helping the animal. Health insurance for pets, is also very expensive and usually does not cover much of the bill. I wish I knew of a good vet in my area of Fortuna CA, Humbolt County, that would makes allowances for pet owners who are on a limited income. My area code is 95540 incase you know of a vet up here that has a real love and willingness to help pet owners on a limited income. Thank you, Jeannie Beach 1715 Wood St. Apt A, Fortuna CA 95540. Email jeanniebeach7@gmail.com

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