Fight 'super fleas' with consistent treatment, vets say

Posted February 12, 2013
Updated February 13, 2013

— It's time for Smokey the dog’s annual check-up at Care First Animal Hospital in Raleigh.

Owner Susan Everett made the decision early to put Smokey on monthly medication to prevent fleas, and she said neither Smokey nor her cat has ever had a flea problem.

“It's good preventive maintenance,” she said. “I think of it like my car, like my own health.”

Everett and her pets may be among the lucky ones. Some pet owners say they're dealing with what they call "super fleas," insects that have become resistant to treatment methods.

Smokey's veterinarian, Dr. Lisa Mendise, says there's a simpler explanation.

flea Fight 'super fleas' with consistent treatment, vets say

“A lot of things that people are saying are 'super fleas' or flea resistance are mainly people who aren't using their prevention through wintertime.”

She said fleas don't go away in cold weather, and pet owners should use prevention products year-round.

Wes Watson, an entomologist at North Carolina State University, said modern flea prevention generally works when it's used properly. But insects do develop resistance.

“Biology's going to win eventually,” he said. “We just change products and do a patch that works for a while.”

Bayer, the company that makes Advantage and K9 Advantix flea treatments, said eight years of study and sampling that concluded in 2010 showed no evidence of resistance to the chemical used in the products.

A spokeswoman said the data is being updated for release later this year, and she said the company acknowledges that mild winters have extended flea and tick season across the country.

"The normal seasonal cycle of tick and flea pressure is no longer as visible; it now seems to be a constant pressure year-round," Bayer's Lauren Dorsch said.

Finding the best flea prevention for your pet might take some trial and error, but Mendise says it's the best solution to keep the pests off your pet and out of your home.

“I say stay on the prevention, give it once a month,” she said. “Whatever prevention you feel is working for you, stay on that one.”


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  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Feb 14, 2013

    I consistently used Frontline Plus on my beagle on the 5th day of every month. After 6 years of success with Frontline, he finally got a case of the fleas. He is now on Trifexis (a combined flea/heartworm pill that is similar to Comfortis), and it's been successful for the 3 months he has been on it.

    I miss the fact that Trifexis doesn't cover ticks, but the vet said in the winter, ticks aren't a problem.

  • Rebelyell55 Feb 13, 2013

    Forget the dogs and cats, keep putting their medicine on and then hang flea collars on your belt. Alos watch our for the cheap stuff, it's not regulated and can make you animals sick.

  • davidgnews Feb 13, 2013

    We alternate treatment types with our cats, but I also get Termidor and use that since it has one of the active ingredients in Frontline. We got them the fleas to near zero.

  • orangemoonlite Feb 13, 2013

    We had the same problem with our 3 dogs! Beginning October 2011 through January 2012 - NOTHING worked! We had properly & continuously used the same medication as in the past 10+ years, but all of a sudden they got fleas & we couldn't get rid of them...until they just went away again - 3 months of misery for the whole house! The fleas were much bigger than we had ever seen before & we used at least 5 different products over that period. I felt so bad for our pups having to have medicine baths a few times a week on top of topical treatments - it was awful!

  • Hatchcover Feb 13, 2013

    Dog Squat !!Been treating my 4 dogs for 12 years monthly and I also treat the yard 4 times a year. This past year NOTHING worked. I'm throwing down $80 plus a month on the so-called best vet approved flea medicine and Bayer lawn treatment and that cost another $60 plus every 3 months! Why after 11 good years the treatment worked and the last year nothing?

  • asn0307 Feb 13, 2013

    Comfortis was a heaven send when I got my puppy. Fleas everywhere, gave him the Comfortis and they were DEAD in an hour. Definitely a good product!

  • bubbasu1 Feb 13, 2013

    I have to disagree. I work in a Veterinary Hospital , both our vets changed their flea prevention products because it was no longer working well and their animals got the product every month (Spring,Ssummer,Fall,Winter). I too have used the same product for severl years,12 months a year and have experienced the same problem.I agree some of the problem is how the product is administered ( it may be topical or an oral prevention) and consistency is important ( same goes for Heatworm Prevention).In a discussion with a rep for one of the flea prevenatives I asked specifically if the fles and ticks can become resistent to the products and his reply was yes! It also helps if pet owners treat their yards and homes .

  • BigSteamnTurd Feb 12, 2013

    It's probably at Pandemic levels.