No Foolin' Fall Is Prime Flea Season

No Foolin' Fall Is Prime Flea Season
No one is happier showing off fleas than veterinary parisitologist Dr. Michael Dryden. He likes easy to use products which are fast acting, and most of all products suggested by your veterinarain

By Steve Dale

Flea season is here! No, this is not a column that should have appeared in April or May. In fact, particularly in northern states, most critters carry more fleas in the fall than in the spring.

As we move into autumn, there's more potential for our pets to pick up these buggers at a time when many owners stop using flea products.

Dr. Michael Dryden, professor of Veterinary Parasitology in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan, labels the phenomenon "the fall flea surge."

Dryden has counted fleas on wild animals in the fall, and compared to the number of fleas found on animals in the spring, he discovered a 70 percent hike at exactly this time of the year. The champion was an opossum, who carried 1,009 fleas. (Dryden and his team laboriously picked fleas off sedated wild animals, then tallied them.)

Dryden theorizes that the fall flea surge occurs because there's generally an increase in precipitation (which fleas like), followed by a chain of events which favor fleas. As fleas become more abundant and animals' winter coats grow in, fleas are more difficult to groom off. Because fleas reproduce so efficiently, more fleas beget more fleas.

Dryden says home infestations occurring in the fall may exceed those in spring. While it's possible to bring an errant flea in on our clothing, unprotected pets are most likely to deliver them; often several at a time hitch a free ride. "This is another reminder that cats who go outdoors at all also require protection," Dryden notes.

Most flea eggs are laid on pets, but they may also be laid in carpet, all within 24 hours of a flea finding a cozy resting place. A flea can lay 40 to 50 eggs daily. Eggs not laid in the rug roll off pets and land in the carpet; larvae hatch there within 10 days. After a few days, the flea larvae cocoon transforms into the pupae state for anywhere from about 24-hours to many months. When the time is right, adult fleas appear.

Taking blood meals isn't only "gross," but fleas can also spread diseases, as well as tapeworm.

While fall is peak flea season in northern climates and the mid-central U.S., Dryden says he sees some of the worst infestations in the South in January and February. "I realize this is completely illogical," he admits. "And it's only because people stop using products when fleas are more or less as abundant as in the spring and summer."

In the North, once a few heavy frosts occur, most pets won't be meeting fleas outdoors. However, Dryden still suggests year-round protection. "You might as well, since there's only really December through February that you're safe in the North outdoors. But then our homes don't freeze. Also, people travel south (from the north) with pets, and forget to use products, or even when it warms up in March, they may forget." In the South, year-round use of products is required if you want to be flea-free.

The flea control product of choice may vary, depending on where you live and your pet's lifestyle. "Just don't take a guess at a big box store," implores Dryden, who's even called Dr. Flea by fellow veterinarians. "It's very important to ask your veterinarian about the right product."

Some products may work best for your specific needs. For example, Dryden likes products that kill both fleas and ticks.

Some products are difficult to use, particularly for seniors or people with impaired mobility. "Vectra 3D has the best and easiest to use applicator on the market today," Dryden says.

Several flea products are now being touted as not only killing fleas but also repelling them. Dryden says he'd like to see data to demonstrate that repellency really occurs, and that fleas don't even get close enough to bite. Certainly, products that kill fast are especially effective, Dryden adds. Since not all products are the same, Dryden strongly suggests consulting a veterinarian for guidance.

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

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  • Vectra 3D was actually created by Hartz. Here is the patent for it:

    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2005/0245582.html

    If veterinarians knew that Vectra 3D was created by Hartz, I wonder if they would still recommend it and sell it to their clients?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to hamishdad:

    That's the great thing about veterinarians - they are taught to evaluate the product based on studies, compare it to other products, discuss it with their colleagues, and base recommendations off of their experiences. It doesn't matter who makes it (or who talks crap on it) if the product has been found to be safe, effective and consistent, they will not discourage clients from using it if that's what they want.

  • In reply to Jess Bradford:

    I think you would be hard-pressed to find a veterinarian who would recommend using Hartz flea products. Their opinion of Hartz often comes from their own experiences treating pets that have been harmed by Hartz flea products (they're not just talking crap about it).

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    In reply to hamishdad:

    You are correct, many veterinarians have a bad taste when it comes to Hartz products. However, owner compliance is typically one of the greatest difficulties in veterinary medicine. Dr. Dryden states "Vectra 3D has the best and easiest to use applicator" and I stated "if the product has been found to be safe, effective and consistent, they will not discourage clients from using it if that's what they want." That's not recommending. That's encouraging owner compliance. I also guarantee you that if you ask Dr. Dryden what product you should buy, he will tell you that no one product is the best for flea and tick control because that is what his numerous studies have shown. Every geographical area has a unique flea population that responds differently, as there is variability within populations and within species of flea. That's what makes medicine fun (and drives us crazy.)

  • I wonder if Dr. Michael Dryden is equally happy showing off his 2010 Veterinarian of the Year Award from Ceva Animal Health (maker of Vectra 3D)?

    http://www.vet.k-state.edu/depts/development/lifelines/1102.htm

  • wow - Dr. Dryden is extremely well respected and speaks around the world. I have asked him, and the response is exactly what Jess said is his answer....
    - There are many excellent products - talk to your veterinarian about your pet's lifestyle, and depending also on geography and the household, he/she will make an appropriate recommendation.

    He doesn't recommend specific products - but does talk about how certain products may be easier to use or certain products might be appropriate for flea and tick control in one, or fleas and heartworm in one.....etc. Most of all the message is to see your veterinarian - don't guess or choose product based on a sale or what is at your eye level. I SO SO SO much agree with that!

    Dryden is also a great collector of data on flea/tick products. I have ENORMOUS respect for him, and so does the profession.

    By the way, I won an award from the AKC one year for Community Service. The AKC (which I am sometimes a fan, sometimes not) had nothing to do with the naming of the recipient. Not sure if that is the case for vet of the year which you refer - but I bet it is.

  • I think it needs to be disclosed that Dr. Dryden has received financial benefits from Bayer Animal Health, Elanco, Merial, Novartis Animal Health, Pfizer Animal Health, and Summit VetPharm.

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.prod.vetlearn.com/mmah/b3/13d816bade43d7b81417b12db85cbb/filePV0610_Parasites101.pdf

    In 2010, he apparently received over $300,000, from Summit VetPharm (which was acquired by Ceva last year) for studies regarding the efficacy of Vectra 3D.

    http://www.k-state.edu/research/awards/fy2010/index.htm

    The 2010 Veterinarian of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Dryden by Ceva. I'm pretty sure they selected the recipient.

    This symbiotic relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and veterinary medicine is deeply troublesome.

  • Dr. Dryden has received financial benefits from Bayer Animal Health, Elanco, Merial, Novartis Animal Health, Pfizer Animal Health, and Summit VetPharm.

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.prod.vetlearn.com/mmah/b3/13d816bade43d7b81417b12db85cbb/filePV0610_Parasites101.pdf

    In 2010, he apparently received over $300,000, from Summit VetPharm (which was acquired by Ceva last year) for studies regarding the efficacy of Vectra 3D.

    http://www.k-state.edu/research/awards/fy2010/index.htm

    The 2010 Veterinarian of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Dryden by Ceva. I'm pretty sure they selected the recipient.

    This symbiotic relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and veterinary medicine is deeply troublesome.

  • I respect Dr. Dryden, but it's a little disconcerting to know that he was honored as Ceva's 2010 Veterinarian of the Year -- the same year that he received over $300K from Summit VetPharm (which was acquired by Ceva last year) to study the efficacy of Vectra 3D.

  • This symbiotic relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and veterinary medicine is deeply troublesome.

    Perhaps, that is true - your lines above hamishad - but it's equally as true in human medicine. Not here defending that system - just saying it is the system.

    And for pets, in particular, you are assuming veterinarians who work with industry only do so for dollars....I argue, sure, maybe...but often times it's a necessity for funding. And that funding goes into the work or university, not necessarily into personal accounts as you suggest.

    The Winn Feline Foundation, which is totally independent, and I am on their Board - for example, doesn't have enough to fund it all. I wish we did.

    Veterinary and human medicine depend on industry partnerships. Not sure that is all bad though. For starters independent veterinarians not employed by them can keep them 'honest,' if even that is necessary.

    Those I know who work in industry (relating to pets) do want to make money and care about the bottom line, but care more for pets. So to always assume the worst is far too broad a view.

    This isn't about Dryden - I can name (as can you) dozens who work with industry.

    In fact, you rattle lots of company's the fact that Dryden works with everyone speaks well of him and his work, which is an open book. Also, the vet school he works for has lots of rules which limits him in many ways.

    But most have excellent reputations for a reason.

    Also, industry has resources which makes things happen faster, better, etc. and to benefit pets.

    In fact, even with industry's help - we are very far from learning all we need to know.

    And as I said, not sure Ceva names the winner - but so what if they do? They work with many veterinarians. If Dryden is their choice as a best - what the heck? Besides, those who know Dryden (responsible for some much of what we know to put us where we are today fighting fleas, in particular) wouldn't argue any award he receives.

    I'm totally not sure what the 'controversy' is. I don't believe there's a Dryden issue here....only a broader one of industry involved in research...but as I said, right or wrong - true in human medicine as well.

  • And by the way, the topic of the story is about protection - and Dryden's messages:
    - Your pet needs protection against fleas in the fall too!
    - See your veterinarian for the right products for an individual's lifestyle and various pets they may have

    I would like to meet any veterinarian arguing those points - which I strongly agree.....If someone is out there saying that, why would anyone in the veterinary field complain. Dryden, in fact, is a huge friend to veterinary medicine - and truthfully not as great a friend to those who sell over-the-counter.

  • Thank you for your reply, Steve. I very much appreciate everything you said.

    I'm sorry for singling out Dr. Dryden. I really do respect the contribution that he has made to veterinary medicine. The only issue I had with your article was what I perceived as an endorsement for Vectra 3D -- a product that was created by Hartz, and in my opinion, is not any safer than other Hartz flea products. The fact that Vectra 3D has an easy to use applicator does not change my opinion of the product.

    I agree that industry's involvement in research is an issue that deserves greater scrutiny. Regulators and veterinarians rely upon corporate-sponsored research to evaluate the safety and efficacy of new products. If corporate funding is tainting that process, the health of pets is put in jeopardy.

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