What to do about bugs on your cat….

Ok, so we know we live in the Pacific Northwest. Anyone whose been a pet owner here for at least a year can probably tell you that this is flea paradise.

Maybe this is something you don’t really have to think about because you have an indoor only cat who doesn’t come in contact with other pets who go outside, if so, that’s great! If not, read on.

Fighting fleas can be a never ending battle here, but how to do it without having to apply toxic pesticides to your precious felines all the time?

While flea control options are sometimes affected by your pet’s health conditions or lifestyle, here are some generalizations.

Please don’t apply flea control products every month year round! Even though fleas love it here, you shouldn’t have problems in the winter unless they’re in your house. If that’s the case, treat the house and the pet to eliminate the problem and eliminate the need to use products on your pet in the colder months. For treating the house we recommend using diatomaceous earth and a de-fleaing service that uses this product called Flea Busters. Diatomaceous earth is comprised of the fossilized silica skeletons of microscopic sea creatures. This substance works by literally slicing up the adult fleas as well as the immature life stages. It is non-chemical, non-toxic, and extremely safe while still being very effective.

Great, so your house is flea-free and it’s now summer. Your indoor/outdoor cat is about to start going outside again, what now?

Well, how about don’t treat until you find evidence of fleas?

I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for years and what I have found in my practice is that the pets who eat healthy (grain-free, meat based, generally canned or raw) diets and have low levels of inflammation generally do not become infested with fleas. They may pick up a flea here or there, but they do not usually have problems that require the use of chemicals. That said, we don’t want a small problem becoming a big one, so please comb your pet for fleas at least on a weekly basis looking for both live fleas and the approximately millimeter long, comma shaped dark pieces of flea dirt or droppings. Flea dirt can be distinguished from dirt by wetting it down. When flea dirt is moistened and rubbed on a paper towel, it will dissolve into the rust colored digested blood that composes it.

If you notice flea dirt or fleas, treat right away!

So let’s say your kitty has the misfortune of hanging out with a bad crowd and bringing a few unwanted friends home. Now what?

Well, for starters, please don’t use those flea products from the feed store or some pet stores (no Hartz or Biospot please). These products are not well regulated or tested and can have varying levels of chemicals in them that can range from being completely ineffective to very toxic for cats. If you need to use a chemical flea treatment, Comfortis or Advantage are usually the better choices depending on your pet’s needs. Advantage is a topical treatment that kills fleas when they contact the oils in your cat’s coat. Comfortis has a slightly safer chemical, but is a tablet that’s given orally. This means the fleas have to bite your kitty first in order to die.

Sound like a mild distinction? Well, it is unless your cat has a flea allergy as some cats do. Cats with flea allergies can have uncomfortable skin reactions from just one flea bite, so Comfortis is not the best option for them.

Once you’ve treated your fleas (and your cat will need three months of consecutive treatment to break the life cycle of any fleas that have started to set up shop in your home), don’t forget about deworming!

Fleas are the intermediate host for tapeworms, so any flea that is eaten in the course of your cat grooming herself has the potential to give her tapeworms. Be on the safe side and follow your flea treatment up with a deworming. We carry Drontal which is a safe and effective way to get rid of most intestinal parasites including tapeworms.

Want to know what’s new?

We just recently learned about a brand new flea collar technology on the market. Flea collars have a historical reputation for being full of terrible chemicals as well as having an unpleasant smell that your cat is unlikely to want to live with. These new collars promise to be nothing like that. We should be learning more about them soon, so keep your eyes peeled for an update on this new technology!

-Dr. Erika Raines

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