Whole Dog Journal's Blog August 9, 2011

A Bad Year for Fleas?

Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:00AM - Comments: (30)

Is it just us, or is this the worst year for fleas in a long a time? Or should we say, “best” year for the fleas, and worst year for cats and dogs?

Just about everyone we know is suddenly battling flea infestations, and several dogs we know have been tortured by enough bites that they’ve chewed or scratched themselves raw, instigating some awful secondary infections or “hot spots.” And this is in an area not usually plagued by that many fleas.

We’ve been quizzing our friends about what they use for protection from fleas, and the answers have included every spot-on topical we’ve ever heard of, and some low-budget knock-offs we haven’t. Almost everyone who has complained of a flea problem has mentioned that sometime between week 2 and week three after application, the fleas seem able to return to the dogs (and cats) with impunity.

We’re fighting the battle, too. We’ve been attempting to introduce our two new kittens to our old cat slowly. Shadow is 14 or 15 years old, and has never had to live with another cat; she’s not taking it that well. The kittens are the last two of the litter of former fosters, who are now part of the family. We’ve been keeping them at our office building, but want to move them home with us full-time. To keep from sending the old cat off the deep end, we’ve been bringing them home in a carrier for short visits – and I think we’ve been unwittingly transmitting fleas around the neighborhood this way, too! We’ve used a monthly spot-on product on Otto for the past three months, and other products for cats on all the rest of the gang – plus we vacuum constantly, but we’re still seeing fleas.

In our youth, it was common to see dogs whose teeth were worn down from near-constant chewing – self-mutilation due to severe flea bites and flea allergies. As adults, we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security that the flea problem has been solved by modern chemistry. Intellectually, we know better; no insect can be controlled forever by a handful of chemicals alone. It takes a true, multi-faceted integrated pest management program, including indoor and outdoor treatments, as well as constant cleaning and vigilance, to control fleas – especially if you have cats (feral or not) who come and go, wildlife vectors (rats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, etc.) in close proximity, or lots of visiting dogs.

We have to ask again: Is it just here in Northern California where the flea population seems to have exploded this year?

Comments (29)

We're also in NorCal & having trouble with fleas again this month after years of getting by on "Neem Protective Spray" for our Lab (& an aging parent's older Golden too). Capstar is great but, as our vet warned us, only works for about a day which is why the insert says "you can safely give another dose as often as once per day". Our vet recommends using it with "Program" (as Capstar also states) so we're doing both. So far so good!

Posted by: didalpf | September 4, 2011 11:56 AM    Report this comment

I just ordered Best Yet cedar oil spray from cedarcide website.

To those of you who use cedarcide product, are you still having success with no fleas on your pets? I can't wait for the spray to be delivered. I walk my dog every day and unfortunately with all the stuff I've been doing with him he still picks up a flea or two. He's highly allergic to flea bites so it breaks my heart when I see him suffer. I feed him granulated garlic with his food and also use anibio tic clip on his collar and i flea comb him daily.

Posted by: Sprocket | August 29, 2011 4:56 PM    Report this comment

Maybe I should knock on wood or something but I have seen no fleas this year. With my 5 pit bulls it used to be terrible. A few years back, my dogs had 100 fleas a day on them so I used a topical flea killer, sprayed house and yard. One dog nearly died and was covered with pus/blood filled lumps for a few weeks. I decided fleas were better than dead dogs and changed their DIET. First I added human food, then switched to raw. They get garlic in their food too. For two years I used Borax on the carpets. This year I've used nothing but healthy food. How great is that? Oh, by the way, I'm in Georgia.

Posted by: Andrea P. | August 24, 2011 8:13 PM    Report this comment

I live in southeast Iowa and have a yellow Lab, who has been tick and flea-free this year. I sprinkle Bug Check on my dog's food from the www.thenaturalvet.net. She also wears an Only Natural Pet EasyDefense Flea and Tick Tag from www.onlynaturalpet.com. When we walk at night, I spray Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Spray on her, and I shampoo her with Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Shampoo. This is our third summer in Iowa and she has never had a flea, but she did get ticks until I started using the Bug Check this spring. My dog eats a high quality kibble in the morning and a dehydrated raw mix in the evening along with salmon oil, enzymes and probiotics.

Posted by: Christina V | August 10, 2011 8:58 AM    Report this comment

I stopped using Frontline several years ago because it stopped working. Since then I've found I have few problems. I did a little research and found that eggs are next to impossible to kill. They can survive intact for years and hatch when they sense body heat. I decided to stop treating fleas like the enemy and accept that there are going to be a few around when you have dogs and cats... I vacuum, have few carpets I can't machine wash, and feed the best diet I can. My two, black standard poodles almost never have trouble. My mini and toy poodles are light colored and struggle in the Summer. I use Capstar when they get bad, bathe, flea comb, and wash bedding. Anyone know if fleas are attracted to light colors?

Heidi in Nashville TN

Posted by: Heidi D | August 9, 2011 8:23 PM    Report this comment

Flea N' Tick Begone is all I've ever used on my dogs. Our latest rescue came home with Stick-Tite fleas - like miniature ticks. I bathed him and our other dog with Flea N'Tick Begone, treated the house and furniture with an herbal powder I found (we had wall-to-wall carpet then that is now all gone) - don't remember what it was but got it at Petco. We used Beneficial Nematodes in our yard the one year we had a tick infestation. If we ever get fleas and/or ticks again (nothing in 5 years now!) I will use the same things as they worked and are non-toxic. There are two types of beneficial nematodes and you should be able to find them at a local garden store or you can order them online from Arbico Organics, which is where I got mine and the Flea N' Tick Begone.

Posted by: Rainbear | August 9, 2011 7:50 PM    Report this comment

I live in rural north central Kentucky and the fleas have been aweful this year. Lots of woods close to the house (along with deer, squirrels, rabbits, mice, chipmunks, etc.). I have used Frontline Plus for years which seemed to work OK until this year. It seemed to be losing its effectiveness even though my vet swore that they weren't seeing any resistance to the product. I was having to comb my dogs (both dogs are allergic to them) and cats for fleas every time them went outside. I finally switched to Advantix and saw results within a day. Suddenly I wasn't finding any fleas on the dogs or cats and the dogs weren't itching. The ticks, too, have been aweful for the last couple of years--not so much in the yard but along the rural road where we go for walks. The Advantix seems to take care of the ones I miss but I still go over them everytime we've been out walking. I even take a pair of tweezers and a small bottle of alcohol along to dispatch ones I find along the way (easier & quicker than trying to squish them).

Posted by: PJKutscher | August 9, 2011 5:52 PM    Report this comment

I use Frontline Plus every 30 days, live in a grassy area in Arkansas and have no issues with my 2 (long-haired) terriers. Perhaps I'm just lucky?

I have one suggestion. Google the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) sheets for the products you're considering. For example, compare the OSHA/NIOSH/ACGIH PELs (permissible exposure levels) or TLVs (threshold limit value often combined with TWA or time weighted average for an 8-hr workday) under "exposure controls and personal protection" section. This speaks to workplace exposure safety, standards which are higher than for the general public. The standards are designed to keep workplace exposures under a safe level. They are often listed in ppm (parts/million) or mg/kg. Compare this info between products you're considering. You want to choose a product with a higher ppm (meaning it takes more of a product to produce toxicity).

Then look under the "Toxicological Information" section for LD-50 (dose at which half the population --often a rat or other lab animal--consuming the product dies). The higher the LD-50 number the safer the product. The LD-50 and toxicity information included in MSDS sheets usually tells you many other scientific facts such as oral/inhalation/skin dangers, flammability, environmental toxicity, etc.)that may help you to make the safest decision for your pet.

Sometimes "natural" doesn't necessarily mean safer. For example, the ACGIH TLV for Frontline Plus is 1000ppm, while the equivalent data for Cedarcide's two components are each 200ppm--meaning the safety buffer for FL Plus is five times higher! There are other factors to consider when comparing these two products and I urge you to do the comparisons yourself. By accessing the MSDS to compare, you become highly informed using science, and do not have to rely solely on anecdotal evidence/biased advertising/sometimes biased news reports. It also has useful information on safe disposal of leftover products. You don't have to be a chemist to understand an MSDS--so try it!

Posted by: LESLEY E | August 9, 2011 4:42 PM    Report this comment

My 16 yr old dog had fleas around 10 years ago. Turned out she was allergic to the spot on flea control and almost died, so I cannot use that again. Prior to that she had tried Program and vomited it up every time so that's useless to her. I can't remember what I used at that time to get rid of the fleas but it was definitely something topical and holistic and we have been fortunate in not having them again since. I have a flea trap in my house and haven't seen any on it. I live in Washington state. Whenever we travel we bring our dogs and are always worried about picking up both fleas and ticks because we do a lot of hiking in the woods and we stay at vacation homes that are pet friendly (and probably flea friendly too!). We put rose geranium essential oil and rosemary essential oil, few drops of each, on their collars and harnesses (not on their skin!) before we go. When we get back from traveling, every item of clothing, bedding, etc. goes from the car/suitcase to the garage laundry and doesn't make it back in the house till it's washed. Bedding and towels in hot water and vinegar added to the rinse cycle. The dogs immediately get a bath with tea tree oil formula shampoo (Earth Bath). We have had no fleas and only 1 tick in 7 years of using this method and my younger dog used to pick up several ticks on each hike in the woods prior to doing this! They are on a good diet, partly raw, with salmon oil, and a supplement that contains garlic so maybe this has something to do with it as well. Good luck everyone!!

Posted by: Unknown | August 9, 2011 4:00 PM    Report this comment

I am afraid to say this..... but I live in New Orleans and have had No Fleas this year. Everyone else I know is complaining how awful the fleas are this year. I am not doing anything, no frontline, no comfortis, no cedar oil. I noticed my flea problem stopped in 2007. When I rebulit after Katrina I elevated my house 10 feet off the ground. And I blocked off cat sized every opening in my fence. Pre Katrina the feral cats would "hang out" under my house which was only 3 feet off the ground. I had to bomb, treat the dogs, vaccuum (and remember to double bag and throw away the vacuum bag after each vacuum) Also I used a flea trap. It was a low watt light that was suspended over a glue trap. I took personal pleasure in seeing those fleas stuck on the glue trap. I hope I have not just jinxed myself.

Posted by: NOLAhounds | August 9, 2011 2:52 PM    Report this comment

I'm in Northern Maryland and we definitely have fleas and ticks. I'm in the woods 3-4 times a week with my 2 dogs so I Frontline them regularly. What I discovered was that starting the Frontline EARLY (beginning of March for us) was the key to having it work. Waiting until flea season got rolling was too late and then I'd spend months battling them.

Also, warm spells in weather can bring fleas out, so I won't hesitate to treat them in February if I have to. I'm not fond of the 'chemicals' in these products, but it beats battling a flea infestation which is uncomfortable and unhealthy for all canines, felines, and humans involved.

Posted by: Susan B | August 9, 2011 2:36 PM    Report this comment

I'm almost afraid to say that I haven't found a flea or tick so far this year. Upstate NY We have two dogs and live in the country. They are out on the grass every day and walk along side a hedgerow. I discovered Natural Chemistry Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs last year. I have been using it weekly ever since. I also spray the yard, grass, bushes and as high up the tress as possible, with an all natural ECO Friendly Insect Spray every few weeks. In the summer I use a spot on product, usually Bio-Spot, about half as often as reccommeded. I also use Petz Life ProtectZ which is added to their food. I like the cedar oil thing and am going to investigate that. There is cedar oil in the spray I use.

Posted by: sdesantis | August 9, 2011 2:25 PM    Report this comment

I'm in Texas and have been using Comfortis for some time now and it really works!!! Once a month pill and I have see not one flea and that is with my dogs going to dog parks on a regular basis and walking every day!!

Posted by: Susan M | August 9, 2011 1:54 PM    Report this comment

I've been battling fleas for the past three years. Last year I had a professional exterminator come in. I took all dogs out of my kennel, gave them Confortis ( which killed every flea on every dog), kept them out of the kennel for nearly two months. My kennel was attacked with four different legal flea killing preparations on a weekly basis for four weeks and after a month of no flea activity, I put the dogs back in the kennel. Within a week, fleas were back too. Since then, I've tried diamatious earth, cedar bedding, topical flea stuff every three weeks on a schedule, and Confortis every month to every dog. I still have fleas!! I am at my wits' end. Any suggestions would be gratefully accepted and tried. I've read the other posts and I will try any I haven't already tried. Oh yes, I am also bombing my kennel every other week. I started that two weeks ago. I've been told that the government banned most of the products that were strong enough to eradicate the fleas. This was told to me by the professional exterminators who worked diligently for weeks to rid me of the fleas. The problem is not as bad as it was but it's endless vigilance and mucho bucks and time. I am in the east. It's been hot this year but it's been hot before.

Posted by: CAROL B | August 9, 2011 1:53 PM    Report this comment

Someone on an Internet group that I'm on said she had gotten desperate for a solution until she discovered the Easy Defense Flea and Tick Tag which hangs on the collar and uses the petsown energy through a bio-magnetic field to repell pests. Since we were going to be bringing a 2 month old puppy to TX I thought I'd give it a try. We've been using it for 6 weeks now and I've never seen a flea on him. It lasts for up to three years too!

Posted by: Janet P | August 9, 2011 1:21 PM    Report this comment

I also give my dog granulated garlic from Springtime Inc., and also add apple cider vinegar to his water. He also wears Anibio Tic Clip on his collar. After his walks, I flea comb him and I find a flea on him every once in a while not as much as when he was on K9 Advantix. While on K9 Advantix I picked off 18 fleas off him after a morning walk. He walks 2-3 times a day so I flea comb him 2-3 times a day. When I used spot-on chemical treatments years ago he was lethargic for days after the application and after researching about how dangerous it is for them and as well as us I stopped that immediately and went to more natural route using garlic and spraying him with herbal mixture. It has worked way better than using spot-on poison on him. Good luck everyone!

Posted by: Sprocket | August 9, 2011 12:25 PM    Report this comment

The best natural flea/tick/bug stuff is Cedarcide! Kills instantly. Does not harm your pet, your carpet, your furniture, your yard! It is good for their coats, as it is cedar oil...smells just like grandma's cedar closet. best of all -- NO chemicals -- all natural. If your petstore does not carry it, you can get it at www.cedarcide.com! We have two goldens and a cat in South Florida. Now our holistic vet recommends it!

Posted by: DENISE L | August 9, 2011 12:24 PM    Report this comment

In our pet-sitting business, we occasionally run into flea infestations. For years, we have used Mule Team Borax on the carpets and upholstered furniture. We now recommend this to our clients with flea problems: Sprinkle borax (a flour sifter works great) over all carpeted areas. Let it sit for three days to work its way into the carpet. Vacuum. In two weeks do it again to get the ones that have hatched. A third time is usually not required. We have never had to do this more than twice a year here in Southern California.

Posted by: Andee R | August 9, 2011 12:11 PM    Report this comment

I use PETCOR flea spray, it is good for 63 days, relatively inexpensive as compared to the other products on the market. I have used this product for 22 yrs now and rarely get any fleas (usually brought into the kennel by another dog). This product is so safe and effective it can be used on newborn pups by spraying a towel and holding them in it. This yr has been a very very bad yr for fleas and ticks. Probably due to the wet spring most of us in the northeast experienced. You can also spray your grass with a flea product, as this is where they are reinfesting from. It does require deligence on your part but worth it to not have those little critters make their way into your house and on your pets. This product is good for both cats and dogs, as well as puppies and kittens.

Posted by: cindy lee o | August 9, 2011 11:52 AM    Report this comment

I give my dogs 1/2 clove each of fresh garlic daily (minced, on top of their food) to keep fleas off of them, and it works very well. The only time they get fleas is if I have forgotten to give them garlic for a few days. Once they're eating garlic again, the fleas disappear.

Before I learned about garlic, I was using a lemon and tea tree oil spray (and rosemary, I think), but I had to make it myself, and it had to be applied frequently. (I can look for the recipe, if someone wants it.)

For those whose dogs already have bites, swabbing the bites with witch hazel will stop the itching. One night my sheltie had a bunch of bites and was scratching incessantly, so I did this to her (she clearly didn't like the smell), and she was immediately able to settle down and sleep. She remembered this--months later, when she again had itchy bites, she woke me up at night and seemed to be asking for something, but it wasn't to be let out. I found some welts on her, put witch hazel on them, and she lay down and went to sleep.

Posted by: Unknown | August 9, 2011 11:39 AM    Report this comment

Why not move to NE Ohio? My goldens have never had fleas or ticks and we walk in the woods every day. My sons golden is in Columbus and picks up ticks.

Posted by: DWIGHT D | August 9, 2011 11:22 AM    Report this comment

For the first time this year I decided to use spot on flea/tick treatments only as a last resort. Instead I have been using a cedar oil product called Dr. Ben's Paws and Claws. I apply it every two to three days and so far both of my terriers have been flea free. I found a tick on one dog after a long walk in the woods (we're in East Tennessee) and that has been it so far. This product can also be applied to clothing, furniture, etc. It is organic and actually kills the fleas and ticks and their eggs on contact, yet it is non toxic. Because cedar oil is a natural anti-bacterial product it is useful to promote healing of hot spots and mange. I also have started using it on myself before heading out to garden and have been amazed at its effectiveness.

Posted by: Cynthia J | August 9, 2011 11:21 AM    Report this comment

In south Florida, it has been horrible this year. Frontline top spot and spray, Advantage, Advantix, etc. no longer work at all. I've also tried Adams and Zodiac sprays. When you first spray, the fleas die immediately; the next day they are back jumping all over the dogs and me without a care in the world. I'm bathing the dogs every week and just vacuuming and re-spraying constantly, it seems. My vet recommended I use Borax around the house. I used it years ago with good results, but had forgotten it's been so long since I'v had a problem, so I'm trying it again. Good luck everyone!

Posted by: jcanale | August 9, 2011 11:12 AM    Report this comment

Texas has seen a record high flea season as well. When my dog & home became infested (while he was on Frontline Plus), I did all the regular first lines of defense including a flea bath, vacuuming, bombing, etc. The fleas came back again and then I tried a new oral flea medication that was recommended to me by fellow dog owners and my vet. Comfortis worked within one day. Not trying to push meds, but it was miraculous in my situation.

Posted by: alexis | August 9, 2011 11:06 AM    Report this comment

We used to use Frontline Plus. A few years ago it just quit working. Our male Westie, McTavish, is allergic to flea bites and he was chewing his tail raw. It ended up that the fleas here in Arkansas became immune to the Frontline Plus. We haven't used it since. I read where the immunity happened in a number of states.

We hate using poison to counteract fleas and ticks. We tried different things that didn't work. I started giving all four dogs 1/4 tsp garlic once a day, in conjunction with Braggs ACV. It has worked. I have seen no fleas or ticks on any of them this season. We get the garlic from Springtime Inc.

Posted by: Becky W | August 9, 2011 11:04 AM    Report this comment

I am in Maine and have been having trouble with fleas this year. The funny thing is that this is the very first time I have had an issue (and, doing rescue brings in dogs with fleas, but not like this). The funny thing is, the infestation was not at my house - it was at my mother's house and two of my dogs brought the fleas home.

My dogs are Shetland Sheepdogs, so the long hair makes it very difficult for sprays and combs to get down to the skin.

After using diatomaceous earth, natural sprays, our normal Frontline Plus and washing all bedding (mine and the dogs') in very hot water weekly, I had to pull out the big guns and I went with Capstar and Program. The fleas were gone three days later, even though I cringed at using an internal, rather than a topical flea control product.

I had to go this route, though, since two of the dogs have severe flea allergies and I could not watch them scratching and licking anymore.

Posted by: Stephani M | August 9, 2011 11:04 AM    Report this comment

I use a spot-on every three/four months or so. Other than that I spray the dogs down once every ten days with Richard's Organics spray and so far: Not a single flea and only three or four ticks this year. You guys need to move east it seems ! :-))

Posted by: Sabine | August 9, 2011 11:01 AM    Report this comment

I'm in Texas and have never had a flea problem ever until this year. What you said about using the treatment and it lasting only 2-3 weeks, is exactly what I'm experiencing as well. Three weeks and my dogs are back to itching and scratching. It's not just in California. I have heard others here in Texas who are having the same problems.

Posted by: Linda K | August 9, 2011 10:58 AM    Report this comment

We just discovered a HUGE infestation (we're also in NorCal). After bathing, using Frontline, washing all the bedding, fogging every room, dusting every piece of carpeting and bedding and adding the pill CapStar, he STILL has them. What's a person to do? He's old and immune compromised; we can't risk any more chemicals.

Petaluma Frustrated

Posted by: Donna Forst | August 9, 2011 10:44 AM    Report this comment

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