A mistake seen all too often is the "more is better" approach that some people take when using flea products. More is NOT better when it comes to chemicals or medications! Following package directions is essential when using over the counter products and medications. Only buy products that are labelled for use on the species you will be using them on (dog, cat, etc.). Cats in particular are very sensitive to drugs and chemicals - be sure to read all labels carefully.
A shampoo, or "flea bath" is a good first attack on fleas for the pet that has large numbers of fleas visible on its body. Cats can be difficult to bathe. It is important to realize that a flea shampoo is not intended for lasting control. Many people are surprised when they see fleas and it was "only a week ago" that the pet had a flea bath. Shampoos are only effective for a day or less. They leave little residual chemical on the animal when properly used.
Flea collars work one of two ways - by emitting a toxic (to fleas, anyway) gas, and by being absorbed into the animal's subcutaneous fat layer. The toxic gas is usually only effective in the immediate area of the head and neck. This type of collar is best used in the vacuum cleaner bags to kill any fleas vacuumed up. The collars that absorb into the subcutaneous fat are much more effective, such as Seresto collars for cats and dogs.
Flea powders and sprays
Flea powders and sprays offer short term (2-3 day) protection from fleas, and with some products, ticks and mites too. Powders and sprays have fallen out of favour recently with the newer spot-on treatments that are available. Most flea powders and sprays are only effective for adult fleas, some offer additional flea protection by inhibiting flea egg and larval development.
Common brand names include: Advantage, Frontline , Broadline just to name a few. Please consult with your veterinarian for the best choice for your pet(s).
These products are applied between the shoulder blades of the pet, and typically last about one month. Spot-on treatments are effective for adult fleas. Some include ingredients to inhibit the larva from emerging from the flea egg and some are active against larval development as well.
There are also some that include a wormer to provide ongoing control of roundworms. These include Revolution and Advocate.
Please be aware that they do not control tapeworms.
Flea "pills", such as Comfortis work by stopping the larva from emerging from the flea egg. Fleas ingest the blood of animals on these medications, and the female fleas then lay eggs that are unable to hatch. They do NOT kill adult fleas. These medications are essential to break the flea life cycle and stop the flea problem when used in conjunction with flea adulticide treatments.
Flea control for your house and yard
Only about 10% of the flea population (mainly the adults) are on your pet. The flea eggs, larvae, pupa, and the few adults that reside in the carpeting, bedding, and living areas make up approximately 90% of the flea population. Neglecting this population of fleas will ensure that the flea problem will continue and worsen over time.
Daily vacuuming - this is very important for overall flea eradication. This will pick up (and get rid of) adults, eggs, larvae and pupae before they develop. Putting a flea collar in the vacuum bag and emptying the bag frequently are also important; otherwise, the fleas will hatch, develop, and leave the vacuum to re-infest the living quarters. Dispose of the vacuum bag properly and frequently.
Wash all bedding, clothing, and removable furniture covers regularly (weekly).
Apply insecticide to home and yard - There are many options, foggers and flea bombs, or treatments by a professional exterminator. Follow all instructions very carefully; remove all pets, people, and cover all food in the environment before applying insecticide. Make sure everything is dry and it is safe to return according to package directions. Take special precautions for pets and children - eating or putting items in their mouth, etc.