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Flea Preventative Medications: Oral vs. Topical

Flea Prevention Medications for Cats and Dogs
Flea Prevention and Your Veterinarian

Make sure to ask your veterinarian’s advice on which flea treatment products he or she recommends, and in what quantities. The chance of an adverse reaction to a flea treatment may depend in part on the pet’s size and weight. Veterinary research has noted that toy breeds tend to have more reported cases than larger animals. Additionally, find out whether your veterinary practitioner offers pet grooming and bathing with medicated shampoos. Periodic grooming and bathing can not only keep flea problems at bay but also give the practitioner an opportunity to check for allergic reactions to topical flea treatments.

Fleas are not only a source of irritation and frustration, but they also pose a serious health threat to animals. These tiny external parasites can carry a variety of diseases, including bubonic plague, and severe infestations may cause deadly levels of blood loss in very small or young pets, according to national animal welfare organizations. Owners must therefore employ every preventative measure to keep these creatures off of their beloved pets, including the use of topical or oral medications.

The first line of defense is prevention. Prevention can be as simple as removing fleas and their eggs from your household by cleaning, vacuuming, and applying pet-safe pesticides to the yard. Keeping your grass mowed and removing excess sources of shade can rob fleas of their preferred environmental conditions, discouraging them from breeding in the yard. But no matter how scrupulously you keep your indoor and outdoor environments under control, at some point your pet is likely to need some form of flea treatment. These treatments may take topical ("spot-on") or oral forms.

Topical Medications

Topical or "spot-on" flea treatments are readily accessible to pet owners. These products can be highly effective at eliminating flea infestations or preventing new ones from occurring. Veterinary organizations point out, however, that while approved flea preventatives are generally considered safe, owners must follow the instructions on the label with great care to prevent a possible toxic or otherwise adverse reaction to the chemicals in the product. Animal welfare organizations also warn owners never to give cat flea treatments to their dogs or vice versa, because the results could prove fatal.

Oral Medications

Oral flea medications also have their pros and cons. In addition to topical treatments widely available, veterinary clinics also prescribe oral products such as Comfortis. Typically, regular monthly doses of such drugs aim to kill fleas before they have a chance to lay eggs, stopping infestations before they start. You may find that the oral delivery method creates less of a mess than the topical route, while also eliminating concerns over skin reactions to the active ingredients. But oral medications may also cost more than topical treatments, and prescriptions will need to be refilled regularly to maintain constant protection.

Sources:

AVMA, “Flea and Tick Treatments: EPA’s Investigation of Spot-On.”

Comfortis, “Controlling Fleas in Your Home.”

Cruz, Bernadine, DVM; Mesenhowski, Shannon, DVM, “Save Use of Flea and Tick Preventative Products.” AVMA, Dec 2012.

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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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