Safe Flea Prevention

Click to see video of cat with fleas

Hello Catvocates!  After thoroughly creeping you out with my last post on fleas and flea denial, I promised you I would explain how to get rid of fleas safely and effectively on your cats.  But, be aware, not all flea products are created equal.  Some flea products just don’t work at all.  Some flea products can be deadly to your cat.  I am going to explain the difference.

Let’s start with the scary stuff, shall we?  Flea medicines come in lots of different forms.  In the past, people most commonly used dips, powders and flea collars.  In the past 20 years or so, ‘spot-on’ products came onto the market.  It is important to understand that dips, powders, collars, sprays and spot-ons are delivery systems.  A delivery system is merely how the chemical or active ingredient gets onto your cat so it can do its job.  Each of these delivery systems can contain a variety of different chemicals.  THIS is the important part.  Some flea prevention chemicals are dangerous for cats.  

The chemical to watch out for is called pyrethrin.  Pyrethrins are natural organic compounds that are derived from the Chrysanthemum flower.  Just because pyrethrins are natural, does not mean they are safe for cats. There are synthetic versions of this chemical that go by different names that are even more dangerous for your cat.  You can look for the names pyrethrin, permethrin, other pyrethroids  and any ingredients that end in ‘thrin’.  This ingredient shows up in many over the counter flea prevention remedies.  Cats are very sensitive to this chemical.

Soon after application, regardless of delivery system, your cat may have a reaction to its flea treatment.  You may see excessive drooling, twitching, staggering, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, or death. If you see any of these symptoms, remove the treatment immediately.  Take off the flea collar or bathe your cat with a soap like Dawn ASAP, and seek immediate veterinary care.

Many of the safe over-the-counter flea preventions, simply don’t work.  They may use some of the same chemicals as the prescription flea preventions, but the formulations and delivery systems are not at does that make them effective.  While this may not harm your cat, it may harm your wallet!  I often see loving cat owners in my office who are experiencing failure of flea prevention from over-the-counter products.  

There are a wide variety of safe and effective flea preventions sold as prescription medications by your veterinarian.  I urge you to seek your veterinarian’s advice when choosing the right flea prevention for your cat.  Veterinarians know the difference between safe and unsafe chemicals for your cat. We know your cat’s age, weight and health and how those facts may impact safe choices for flea prevention. We know what will work and what is safe for your cat. We will explain how to apply the product and how often you need to re-dose to continue to prevent fleas.  We will explain that you need to treat all of the animals in the house to maintain adequate flea control (This includes animals coming to visit!).

There are safe ways to save money and still take good care of your cat, but flea prevention and control is not one of them.  I urge you to seek your veterinarian’s advice when choosing the right flea prevention for your cat.

In my next post, I will talk about fleas, flea eggs and flea pupae in your house.  I’ll explain how you clean up your indoor environment to prevent re-infestation. Read Part 3

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