Q: What if the flea medication I'm using is not effective? I’ve noticed fleas on my dog and around my house. What can I do? And should I be worried about ticks, too?
A: To start, I recommend using an approved flea prevention product purchased through your licensed veterinarian. (Quality control can be an issue with ordering online, since some sellers cannot be verified.) Ideally, you should use these products monthly and year-round. That’s something pet owners new to living in the South are often surprised to hear, but our warm climate means fleas are not just a summer problem.
Occasionally seeing one or two fleas is normal and usually not a problem. But if you notice more than that, it’s important to act quickly. All pets in the household need to be treated with appropriate flea medication. In addition to monthly preventative, we also offer a product called Capstar. It's a tablet that's given by mouth and kills all adult fleas within 30 minutes. So that’s helpful in breaking the life cycle of the fleas that are on your pet. But the problem with fleas is that you can see the flea, but are three other parts to the flea life cycle that are microscopic that you cannot see: the egg, larva and pupa. The flea itself is just the tip of the iceberg. So the more thorough the treatment, the better chance you have of breaking the cycle and getting rid of the fleas.
That's why I also recommend consulting a professional exterminator. It’s really worth the cost, because the only way the fleas are going to die is if they jump on your pet or if they jump to the area where exterminator has sprayed. But there is no product that will kill the pupa, and that’s why sometimes it can take a few months to get a severe flea infestation under control.
The question about ticks depends on your travel plans. For most places in New Orleans and Metairie, ticks are not a problem. But if you're going camping or hunting — maybe somewhere out West or in the Northeast — you should definitely let your veterinarian know, to get your pet on the appropriate tick preventative. Although not common, ticks can sometimes be found in certain more rural areas of Louisiana, so if you’re venturing out of the city, it's always a good idea to ask your vet if the product you're using covers ticks. If not, you might need an additional preventative product before your trip.
—Jessica Miller DVM