Every little helps? Not when it comes to fleas!

There are few things more satisfying, when faced with a itchy pet and an owner who is insistent that fleas can’t possibly be the problem because they have treated them with spot-ons, collars, shampoos AND tablets (all from the supermarket) than picking off a tiny wriggling beastie and holding it up for inspection.  Honestly, it can make my day!

flea jpeg

They aren’t this big in real life but are dead obvious when you find them!


Fleas are a fact of life if you have pets (and if you are one of these people whose animals have ‘never’ had fleas – they have, you have just been lucky enough not to have suffered an obvious infestation) and it is important to have some protection against them in place.  Not only do they cause itchy bites, which for sensitive pets can be a nightmare, they spread worm infestations and, in young pets, can cause life threatening anaemias.


These are the wriggling beasties!  Fleas  are small, brown and flat, which allows them to crawl easily through the hairs.

However, the place to buy flea products is not a supermarket or pet shop.  The majority of products they stock are, to be quite frank, useless.  As they are freely available for sale, they have to be proven to be very safe.  Unfortunately, as well as this being for the animals  and us, it is also true for the fleas.  The chemicals they contain are old and now very ineffective and if they do manage to kill the fleas, they usually do so very slowly. Which gives the insects ample time to feed, mate and, vitally, lay eggs.  This is why, even though all the fleas disappear and you think the problem is solved, they return again with a vengeance a couple of weeks later after those eggs have hatched.


If you have ever stood in the pet aisle of a supermarket and inspected the flea products available, the range is impressive but ultimately useless.

Collars? No fleas (but quite possibly a nasty chemical skin rash) around the neck but plenty at the tail end.

Shampoos? They might kill any fleas on your pet (probably more by drowning than chemically) but most of them are hiding out in the carpet anyway, laying more eggs.

Tablets? These can work but only for 24 hours, not much good for infestations.

Spot-ons?  OK, now A FEW of these will be useful but most are rubbish (and beware anything than is a ‘repellent’, even the best products have a minimal repellent effect.  Ditto anything ‘natural’) and some are actively dangerous.  If you use certain dog products on a cat, they could easily die.  The fleas, though, will be fine.


Now, there are some spot-ons available over-the-counter (OTC) which are worth the money because they contain active ingredients which actually work.  The best known brand names are Frontline, which contains Fipronil, and Advantage, which contains Imidoclopid.  They are also present in other products but finding this out involves carefully reading the back of the packet and deciphering all the jargon, which is why it is so easy to make a mistake.


The irony is the main reason most people buy their flea treatments from a shop rather than from a vet is because of the cost.  However, unless you buy the right product, you are chucking good money away and will spend more in the long run.  Ironically, with the stuff that actually does work, the price between the shops and your local practice isn’t usually that much at all.   Also, in your vet practice are people who really know what they are talking about, not some spotty under-paid youth who two minutes ago was stocking up the cheese aisle.  They will be able to answer any questions you have and work out exactly what would be best for your pet.  The veterinary product market is varied and as well as spot-on pipettes there are tablets, collars and injections available.

flea products

Your vet practice will have a wide range of flea products and will be able to advise you on the best ones for your pets!


The advantages of the veterinary standard products are huge. Firstly, not only will they have a 100% kill rate on the fleas, they kill them so quickly they can’t lay their eggs.  Some brands work even before they bite (vital for sensitive pets) and some have an effect on the environment as well, thus preventing that problematic next generation from developing.  Many vet spot-ons are multipurpose and as well as fleas will kill other parasites including scabies, ear mites, ticks and worms.


So, next time you are doing your shopping, do yourself and your animals a favour and skip the pets aisle completely.  Advice, which to be honest, counts for most things on there, including the food but that is a whole other blog!

These all came off a single cat!  And look at the amount of flea dirt, this poor cat could easily have been anaemic!


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