Cats tend to lick the non-dried product after application, so these products are applied to the base of the head in an area
that cannot be groomed. Most animals that have adult active fleas on the coat are most likely exposed to an infested environment
thus overwhelming the adulticide product.
Frequent shampoo therapy (especially in dogs) with strong soaps or stripping ingredients may remove some of the product as
well. It is recommended to apply adulticides on a dry coat and delaying shampoo several days after application.
Treating the homeThe second objective is to apply treatment to the home environment. There are at least two insect growth regulators (methoprene
and pyriproxyfen) available on the market in the Unites States, and they are designed to interfere with egg hatchability and
larval development. These two stages can comprise more than 50 percent of the pre-adult population.
Most house sprays are water-based and contain an accompanying adulticide, such as permethrin or tetramethrin. The spray should
be applied to pet bedding, all carpets, hardwood floors, under furniture, under sofa cushions, closets, carpeted-based cat
condominiums, door-mats and carpeted areas in the automobile. These insecticides also demonstrated some ovicidal and larvicidal
properties but may not persist in the environment for long periods of time.
It is therefore recommended to treat the home with a second application two weeks later (pupal-window) thus achieving a quick
knockdown of newly emerging adult fleas. A third application is also advised three to six months later.
Finally, sodium polyborate powder has been shown to be effective in controlled indoor pre-adult stages. The powder acts as
a desiccant and, when ingested by larvae, acts as a toxin.
The third and final treatment focuses on the outdoor environment. This area may not be as important as the home due to the
extreme variations in temperature and humidity or to the pet's environment.
If dogs and cats frequent the yard of a home, it is advisable to treat these areas monthly with either malathion or diazinon.
Newer and safer products are also available and include biologics, such as a nematode spray. The nematode, Steinernema carpocapsa, preferentially parasitizes flea larvae and other destructive insects, such as cut worms and army worms.
The nematodes are reported to be safe for outdoor use but are effective only in moist-shade and part-shade areas and should
be applied every one to three months.
With the knowledge of flea reproduction and the proper use of adulticides and environmental treatments, one can deal swiftly
and adequately to control flea infestations and the associated flea allergy in pets.
Consistency with treatment is also critical and will enhance treatment success. Finally, client education is very important,
and an adequate flea-control program is not complete without the education of the owner and the monitoring of compliance.
Dr. Vitale received his veterinary degree from Mississippi State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. He completed
a residency in veterinary dermatology at the University of California, Davis and is a diplomate of the American College of
Veterinary Dermatology. He is a clinical instructor/lecturer at UC-Davis and a staff dermatologist at East Bay Veterinary
Specialists (formerly Encina Veterinary Hospital), Bay Area Veterinary Specialists and San Francisco Veterinary Specialists.