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Flea Preventative Medications: Oral vs. Topical

Flea Prevention and Your Veterinarian

Make sure to ask your veterinarian’s advice on which lea treatment products he or she recommends, and in what
quantities. The chance of an adverse reaction to a lea treatment may depend in part on the pet’s size and weight.
Veterinary research has noted that toy breeds tend to have more reported cases than larger animals. Additionally,
ind out whether your veterinary practitioner offers pet grooming and bathing with medicated shampoos. Periodic
grooming and bathing can not only keep lea problems at bay but also give the practitioner an opportunity to check
for allergic reactions to topical lea treatments.

Fleas are not only a source of irritation and frustration, but they also pose a serious health threat to animals. These
tiny external parasites can carry a variety of diseases, including bubonic plague, and severe infestations may cause
deadly levels of blood loss in very small or young pets, according to national animal welfare organizations. Owners
must therefore employ every preventative measure to keep these creatures off of their beloved pets, including the
use of topical or oral medications.

The irst line of defense is prevention. Prevention can be as simple as removing leas and their eggs from your
household by cleaning, vacuuming, and applying pet-safe pesticides to the yard. Keeping your grass mowed and re-
moving excess sources of shade can rob leas of their preferred environmental conditions, discouraging them from
breeding in the yard. But no matter how scrupulously you keep your indoor and outdoor environments under control,
at some point your pet is likely to need some form of lea treatment. These treatments may take topical ("spot-on")
or oral forms.

Topical Medications

Topical or "spot-on" flea treatments are readily accessible to pet owners. These products can be highly effective at eliminating
flea infestations or preventing new ones from occurring. Veterinary organizations point out, however, that while approved
flea preventatives are generally considered safe, owners must follow the instructions on the label with great care to prevent a
possible toxic or otherwise adverse reaction to the chemicals in the product. Animal welfare organizations also warn owners
never to give cat flea treatments to their dogs or vice versa, because the results could prove fatal.

Oral Medications

Oral flea medications also have their pros and cons. In addition to topical treatments widely available, veterinary clinics also
prescribe oral products such as Comfortis. Typically, regular monthly doses of such drugs aim to kill fleas before they have
a chance to lay eggs, stopping infestations before they start. You may find that the oral delivery method creates less of a mess
than the topical route, while also eliminating concerns over skin reactions to the active ingredients. But oral medications may
also cost more than topical treatments, and prescriptions will need to be refilled regularly to maintain constant protection.


AVMA, “Flea and Tick Treatments: EPA’s Investigation of Spot-On.”

Comfortis, “Controlling Fleas in Your Home.”

Cruz, Bernadine, DVM; Mesenhowski, Shannon, DVM, “Save Use of Flea and Tick Preventative Products.” AVMA, Dec 2012.

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