Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world. The cat flea is the most common species in the UK and affects all mammals, not just cats. It likes warm, humid conditions – our centrally heated homes are great for this little beast. Fleas can jump 150 times their own height. They suck blood and can transmit a number of different diseases, from myxomatosis and plague through biting, to tapeworm when the dog ingests some fleas during grooming.
Fleas cause itching (although not all dogs are affected as badly as others) and irritation. Some dogs have a severe allergy to fleas which can lead to severe itching, with hair loss and scabs from the bites, and also from the dog’s own claws during scratching.
The majority of the flea life-cycle takes place away from the host animal, in the environment. Carpets and soft furnishings are particularly suitable for fleas. The flea eggs are laid on the dog and then fall off when it moves, the larvae then hatch and burrow down to somewhere dark and warm. They then become pupae which they can remain for 2 years, waiting for a new host animal to come by. When they are ready and sense a new host, they will hatch and then jump on, completing the cycle. In the presence of a flea infestation treatment must, therefore, include an environmental component. To prevent a flea infestation, you may be able to get away with breaking one part of the life-cycle, however if you have a dog with a flea allergy, regular treatment with a product that kills the adults is vital.
Treatments for dogs
Below is some information about the different products available from your vet or SQP (suitably qualified person). Most of the flea products available from supermarkets or pet shop shelves are not effective. Some of the combination products will also control worms and ticks – these are only available with a veterinary prescription. Speak to your vet for advice on which product is most suitable for your pet.
|Active ingredient||Brand names||Formulation||Life-cycle stage targeted||Veterinary prescription required|
|Alfaxolaner||NexGard, NexGard Spectra (combination product)||Tablet||Adults only||Yes|
|Deltamethrin||Scalibor, Canishield||Collar||Adults only||No|
|Dinotefuran||Vectra 3D (combination product)||Spot-on||Adults only||Yes|
|Fipronil||Frontline, Frontline Plus (combination product), Certifect (combination product), Effipro, Fiprospot, Flevox, Eliminall, …||Spot-on or Spray||Adults only||No|
|Imidacloprid||Advantage, Advocate (combination product), Advantix (combination product), Seresto (combination product), Prinovox (combination product)||Spot-on or Collar (Seresto)||Adults and larvae||Yes for combination products|
|Indoxacarb||Activyl, Activyl Tick Plus (combination product)||Spot-on||Adults and larvae||Yes|
|Lotilaner||Credelio||Chewable tablet||Adults only||Yes|
|Lufenuron||Program, Program Plus (combination product)||Tablet||Eggs, larvae, pupae||Yes for combination product|
|Nitenpyram||Capstar||Tablet||Adults (very fast acting but doesn't last)||No|
|Pyriproxyfen||Vectra 3D (combination product)||Spot-on||Eggs, larvae||Yes|
|S-methoprene||Frontline Plus (combination product), Certifect (combination product)||Spot-on||Eggs, larvae, pupae||No|
|Selamectin||Stronghold||Spot-on||Adults, eggs, larvae||Yes|
If you have a flea infestation, or you only use a product which kills adult fleas, you will need to treat the rest of the house with an environmental spray. The two best ones to use are Indorex and RIP Flea. These must not be applied to the animal. Always read the instructions carefully. Animals should be removed from the home during application of the product. These products are highly toxic to fish so great care should be taken if you have an aquarium.