Dog and cat Fleas
(last worked on: January 12th, 2017)

A poor stereomicrograph of a flea.

* Cats take sharp offense (and retribution) to the imposition of our tender mercies to "get rid"^ of fleas, but then again they manage their flea populations fairly well. As such, they're largely the genesis of fleas for dogs living on the same property.

^ Aye, there's the rub: no matter what you do, even if you're able to inflict flea medicine on your cat/s, and including the seeding all of your yard with nematodes (which we did --they crawl up a flea's ass and eat it from the inside out), one is never "rid" of fleas. We can only reduce the flea count.

If you've got a co-operative cat, the product "Revolution" has worked for us in the past. However, with the price drop, we tried a "Front Line" imitating "fipronil" product again. It seemed as ineffective as ever on our dog, but maybe it was simply overwhelmed by all our uncontrolled cat (sourced) fleas.

As to both dogs and cats: *There are $pendy pills and chewy ingestables which also work (I've heard), but (per recent feed-back on this web page from a respected source), I've been cautioned that some pets react badly. (Perhaps eating insecticide is intuitively a bad idea?) I've tried pills with "Capstar" content (on the advice of our dog groomer), but they had no lasting effect.

* It might be that the most cost effective (if low profile) approach is to note their favorite snoozing spots and keep changing out the bedding. Cats really like a big, plush, newly washed terry cloth towel --to the point of it being a fetish. When you've refolded the towel a few times and are ready to replace it with a fresh one --do a laundry load and wash the old one immediately --right? I shake it out off the back porch first to get rid of filth and cat fur, but that (of course) seeds more fleas and eggs into the soil. (arghhhh) (I really have to question living with cats.)

* Like the vast majority of dog owners, we sleep with our dog Sammy --who's on top of the spread, but often sharing our pillows. To the best of our knowledge, we've not been bitten by his (sometimes myriad) fleas. When I had inside house (and bed) cats (for over 60 years) --again: no flea bites. I've read that it's generally the case that fleas will not migrate to pet owners. On the other hand, I've heard accounts of individuals who do attract their pet's fleas, and accounts of flea infested carpets --from which hoards of fleas attack anyone who walks across. (Time to rent a carpet cleaner!)

* As to dogs: I'm here to tell you that department store and pet shop sourced "Advantage" and "Front Line", and a groomer sourced "Spot on" type product --did not work for us.

The product "Revolution" has worked^ well in the past. This time our dog's fleas were visually gone by the 4th day --and I don't think that had much to do with me (carefully!) vacuuming dozens of them off of his tummy.

I've several times heard that fleas can evolve and lose old defenses remarkably fast, so it might be that Advantage and/or Frontline would work once again.

The problem is in sourcing Revolution (about $25 for one milliliter --for a 35 pound dog). We got ours from a local spay and neuter clinic ("S/Nips"), but it's not otherwise available in this area. Also: for a first application, and then once per year, a test for heart worm is first required (another $40 to $50).

Good news: The patent on Frontline Plus' ingredients (sold by the Merial Limited corporation) has expired, so the price for competing products has fell, but then it went up again (in early 2018). I saw $18 for 3 one month doses, which is now up to about $25.  Look for "fipronil - 9% and (S)-methoprene - 8.8% (or something like what the Frontline Plus product contains).

^ What does "it works" mean? It only means fewer fleas --which might take a few days. I gather that the method of operation for most of these substances is: the flea jumps onto the dog, the flea bites the dog, the flea can no longer lay fertile eggs --and mama flea soon dies. So after the application, don't worry about keeping your dog clear of places he picks up fleas (like under the bed and behind the couch) because he's a walking death trap for them. Eventually, your dog critter would get them all --except that there's an infinite supply outside where he plays and where you-all go for dog walks --especially if you have cats. (When using "Revolution", we see only a few half dead fleas on our dog after a few days.)

* As to baths, sprays, "organic" and "natural" substances --I've had absolutely no luck --even after the great treatment our dog gets at the groomers --and it's suicidal to bathe or spray your cat. I've also got a great collection of useless health food store sourced oils here.

* I know a person who uses a "Natural Care Plus" cedar oil spray product from Walmart (the spray, not the shampoo) and reports good results. However, her technique is to spray it on --brush it in (rubber tipped brush bristles) --and leave it in (hmmnnnn). I recall reading about a cedar oil product, and that this is the way it's used (with reported good results) --but can it be a problem for your dog's skin? And what about your poor dog's sense of smell (4000 times more sensitive than ours). "But being pestered by fleas is far worse" --might be the response. (Best to Google this issue a bit and see what you think.)

* Flea combing, --really assiduous combing, it at least works initially. Get one of the new combs with a double row of dull tipped tines and work with a shallow-filled bowl of soapy water --so you can bang the comb on the bowl's edge to knock off the fleas. (Take care that your dog doesn't lap up the soap water.) My impression, however, is that you slowly but surely evolve newer generations of fleas which learn how to slip through the tines and not get caught.

* Empty the bowl and flush them down the toilet. The soap/detergent disables but doesn't seem to really kill them, so some will manage to crawl back out of a common sink drain. (Sort of a living-dead horror movie thing.)

* Here's another approach which "works":

That's a short length of fat (1/4") soda straw and duct tape to hold it. (*click* to enlarge)

--and at least gives you the satisfaction of nailing all the fleas you can see. Don't do this if the vacuum frightens your dog. (Ours doesn't mind noise at all and seems to like the attention --although he was wary at first.) Be very careful to avoid ears, eyes and sensitive areas. Do not let your kids do it.

I turn Sammy dog over, then go after the easily seen fleas on his lower chest, and tummy (tickles him a bit). This leaves many fleas elsewhere, but they'll in turn migrate to his warm tummy so I can get them next session. I caught a caboodle of fleas, eggs and flea poop this way, but didn't use this approach long enough to claim that it actually makes much long term progress. Our dog has such a dense crop of hair (other than on his tummy) that it's hard to see his skin at all --let alone hiding fleas.

Put your thumb on the big hole to generate ferocious vacuum and velocity through the straw, but otherwise keep your thumb off --so that the vacuum's motor doesn't overheat. Again: please stay well clear of your dog's face, eyes and ears! Keep your sessions short. Don't obsess about "getting them all" or "just one more".

* No: the vacuum's small brush attachment doesn't work. Sometimes the fat (1/4 inch diameter) soda straw seems barely up to the task --especially when going after wise old fleas.

On this page I speak from life (argghhhh!). It's been decades of fleas, dogs and cats here ("Flea Nation!"), but I held off fielding a web page until I at least had a couple of items to offer which "work/ed". (Some of my other pages about other problems can only offer a bit of sympathy and hand-holding.)