By Steve Dale
The question isn't so much, should you protect your pets from fleas
and ticks, but instead, where should you buy flea and products, and how do you
decide what to buy?
Generic versions of quality flea prevention products which had been
available for many years primarily through veterinary clinics have joined an
ever-growing list of new flea-busters available everywhere, from
over-the-counter to online.
There are plenty of choices, "but all those choices aren't the
same," notes veterinary parisitologist Dr. Michael Dryden, a professor at
Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan. So, how can
the consumer know which product is best for their pet?
"It may be impossible for consumers to understand all the
differences, sometimes subtle nuances, between the various products,"
Dryden admits. Therefore, he advises that pet owners buy flea and tick products
only through a veterinarian.
Dryden begins to rattle off a long list of considerations when
suggesting specific flea or tick prevention products. For starters, what types
of pets are in the household? (Is it an all-cat home, or dogs and cats?). Are
there any young puppies or kittens? What are the lifestyles of the pets? (Are
cats indoor/outdoor?) Do people in the household travel with the pets? And if
so, where do they go?
Additional considerations include pregnant pets, the general health
of the pets, and any specific medical conditions such as idiopathic epilepsy
(seizures). Are any pets in the home on anti-anxiety medication? If pet owners
are seeking a tick product, what flea product are they currently using?
Another key question: (click continue reading)
What's a better choice, a chewable product or a spot-on (squeezed
between the shoulder blades)? Along those lines, Dryden points out that specific
considerations may matter for the pet owner. For example, some products can be
challenging for the elderly or people with arthritic hands to dispense.
"Another factor is the speed of kill," says Dryden,
"And equally important is what we call the residual speed of kill over
several weeks to not only protect the animal, but also to limit
Your veterinarian will know all the choices for effective flea
prevention. At a retail store, you'll only see what that specific store happens
to carry; the same is true for online stores.
Dryden concedes that in this still-faltering economy, cost is a huge
driver. Still, to assume products available over the counter or online are less
expensive is a mistake, particularly if a website charges for shipping. In any
case, the cost difference between buying at a veterinary clinic, a retail
store, or online isn't huge.
If you pick the wrong product for your pet by buying over-the-counter
or online, or if you use the product incorrectly, Dryden is also concerned
about adverse reactions. Of course, treating any adverse response may be
costly, not to mention the pet's suffering.
In addition, there's the significant cost of eradicating fleas if the
product you buy doesn't perform as promised. Dryden points out that some
products purchased over-the-counter can work great, others not so much. Fleas
are stubborn little buggers who excel at reproduction. If you have an
infestation, Dryden adds, you need to deal with fleas on your pet, as well as
in the environment. Simply put, buying products that don't work is a waste of
Dryden also worries that people may skip a vet visit because they
bought a flea or tick product at the store and feel no need for an exam because
the pet appears healthy (this is particularly true for cats who are adept at
"Sometimes, people discover there are fleas when a pet
itches," says Dryden. "Well, that pet may likely have allergy flea
dermatitis (a flea allergy response), and while getting rid of those fleas is
important, so is treatment for the condition. Also, when veterinarians get
their hands on pets, they (may) discover disease, and may do a blood test to
find tick-borne disease. If clients choose going to the store over a veterinary
exam, the pet losses big time. I am very serious about this, and very
Also, in an effort to save money, many owners are increasingly
treating only one or two pets with a flea product, leaving others untreated
because they don't go outdoors as often, or never leave the house (such as an
indoor cat). "I can't tell you how often infestations occur when consumers
do everything right, except that they don't treat each pet in the
household," Dryden says.
If you are interested in saving money, one way is to use a
veterinary-recommended product before there's an infestation, and before pets
might need treatment for a flea allergy. Use the product regularly; skipping
doses allows fleas to literally jump in the window. Also, depending on your
pets' lifestyles, ask your vet about two-in-one products that combat both fleas
and ticks. Dryden notes that Vectra 3D and Frontline Plus can be purchased
through veterinary clinics to deal with both fleas and ticks.
(c) 2011 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA
SERVICES, INC., Steve Dale
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