Fido and Fluffy love spending balmy days with you. During this era of COVID-19, outdoor time with pets has increased. Unfortunately, you’re in good company with pesky critters, as fleas thrive in this weather, too.

The trick is to take advantage of these glorious days while leaving unwanted visitors behind. Fido and Fluffy will feel better if they’re not hosting parasite parties, and you’ll rest knowing that blood-sucking hitchhikers haven’t invaded your home.

There have been a lot of advances in flea control in recent years. In fact, the spectrum of available flea products is mind-boggling. How does a pet owner know which product is best to use on their pet and in their home?

Flea shampoos, dips, and “bombs” for the home are still used by some people. The problem with these products is that they do not stop the flea life cycle and do not protect your pet from re-infestation. You may see temporary relief from your flea infestation, but before you know it, you’re back at square one and fleas are looking you in the eye.

That’s because adult fleas on your pet are just the tip of the iceberg. The culprit lies in all the juvenile fleas – possibly millions of them – which are hiding in your environment. Carpets, furniture, bedding, or other comfy places inside or outside your home are perfect host sites for fleas to set up camp. These juvenile fleas go through several stages, some of which are very resistant to destruction by “bombs” or other chemicals. You may fumigate your house, but shortly thereafter, fleas will continue to hatch and will quickly hop on your pet for a blood meal.

The key to successful flea control is to stop the flea’s life cycle. This modern approach is achieved by using long-acting products that transform your pet into a 24/7 walking exterminator. As fleas hatch and seek the comfort of Fido or Fluffy, they are killed and cannot reproduce. The life cycle is interrupted and the flea infestation eventually runs its course.

Topical “spot-on” products have become popular methods of flea control in recent years. Some of these products work very well, while others are less effective. There are numerous reasons for this. The chemicals in these spot-ons vary; some simply provide a weaker flea kill than others. Different brands can use the same chemicals but their formulations are different, and this can affect how well the product works. Some products provide better water resistance, which is important if Fido is a swimmer.

Another factor to consider when choosing flea control for your pet is how comfortable you are with pesticide use. When you use topical pesticides on your pet, not only are Fido and Fluffy targeted, but your entire family is exposed as well.

Fortunately, there are safe and effective alternatives to pesticides for your dog and cat. The Food and Drug Administration has approved several medicines for flea control in pets. Most are oral medications; however there are also some prescription medications that are applied topically on Fido or Fluffy, and get absorbed through the skin. These FDA-approved medicines are safe and effective when used as directed by your veterinarian, and do not expose family members to pesticide residues.

The most recent advances in flea control are pills that are given by mouth on a regular but infrequent schedule, such as once per month. They provide continuous protection from fleas, so that if one happens to hop on your dog, it is stopped dead in its tracks and cannot lay eggs or lead to an infestation. Other advantages of oral flea control are that the product does not wash off with bathing or swimming, and there is no residual exposure to family members.

As an added bonus, some of the new FDA-approved prescription flea medicines are also effective against ticks. These revolutionary medications are a fantastic contribution to parasite prevention, as all prior methods of tick control involved topical pesticide use.

One word of caution is to avoid all dog flea or tick products on cats. Fluffy is not a little Fido; feline bodies metabolize products differently. Some that are safe to use with canines can kill a cat within hours.

Be aware, also, that fleas may spread other diseases to your pets. This should be addressed as appropriate by your veterinarian.

Your veterinary team is there to answer your questions about which flea product is best for your situation. If you are battling fleas in your home, your veterinarian can help identify the loophole in your system that is allowing the fleas to survive.