A Brief History of Flea Products

Early Days: Limited and Messy Options

When I first started in this wonderful profession of Veterinary care in the late ’80’s (very late 80’s so not to date myself) the choice of flea and parasite prevention was very limited. There were powders that were smelly and dusty that only killed the adult flea that was on the pet at that time with limited residual effect. Then there were sprays that were applied directly onto the pet that had an insecticide (and eventually a growth regulator that prevented flea eggs from hatching). Don’t get me going on the hassle of using a flea shampoo that would only kill the adult flea with zero residual effect. Good luck if you had a cat that needed a bath!! The advent of the flea growth regulator was a major breakthrough. Finally there was something that lasted longer than a few days that could help break the flea life cycle. Some of these products have been around in pill form for dogs and less popular, an oral paste for cats since the mid 90’s. There is an injection for cats that lasts 6 months to prevent flea eggs from hatching instead the monthly oral paste.

The Rise of Topical Treatments

Eventually the powders and shampoos gave way to the use of topical flea products. There has been a lot of research and development of safe and effective topical treatments. It needs to be understood that all topicals are not created equal. The products that are developed for use and sale through Veterinary hospitals have had extensive research and safety guidelines put in place to protect our pets from fleas and adverse reactions as well as extensive training for the Veterinary staff to know what is best for our best friends.

Some over the counter products have the research but the staff at department stores have not had the training to know what your pet would need to be most effective nor are they asked why you cannot put a dog product on a cat even though you get more product for less money. We see at least one or two cases per year of cats that have had topical dog flea products applied. They are presented with tremors/ seizures and if not treated quickly it can be life threatening.

New Developments: Oral Medications

In the past few years there has been development of oral tablets for dogs that will kill adult fleas and ticks. One that lasts for 12 weeks and others that are given every 28 days. These tablets have been very effective keeping fleas and ticks at bay and since ticks seem to be making more of a presence recently. Thankfully there are people developing products to protect our furry family members. There is now a product to protect our feline friends from ticks.

I am sure there will be more products available that will do more and do it faster. It is an evolving market that deals with evolving parasites. When that time comes, check with your Veterinary staff who will direct you to the best and safest choice for your pet.

Written by Connie B, Veterinary Assistant