Some dog and cat owners across the country have been noticing something strange the past few years: Their pets flea and tick medicine doesn't seem to be working as well.
And fleas seem to be showing up on their pets even during the winter.
Is it their pet? New "super fleas?" Warmer weather? How they're applying the medicine? Or something else?
Nothing Seems to Work
Dean Carroll loves his two terriers, Fred and Ginger, as in the famous dancers. But the only dancing going on in his home is the constant dance of fleas, for the past two years.
"Fleas have been absolutely terrible," he said. "They were scratching constantly. We were using a brush, and every day we would get eight or nine fleas off each of them, and it didn't seem to work."
Carroll tried a spray in addition to capsules, and tried switching from Frontline Plus to K9 Advantix. No change.
So he searched Google for the problem, and found dozens of other pet owners complaining, some wondering if fleas are developing a resistance to flea medicine.
"I am not a scientist, I am not a doctor, but you hear about a lot of things developing resistance these days," Carroll said.
Pet Medical Mystery
So we went to a veterinary dermatologist Dr. Natalie Tabacca of the MedVet Medical and Cancer Centers for Pets.
Dr. Tabacca said several studies by manufactures and universities have found no evidence of resistance.
"We have not been able to demonstrate any fleas have become resistant to any product," she said.
So why are Carroll's dogs still scratching? Dr Tabacca said evidence points to 2012's record warmth, and longer growing seasons in recent years.
"We're getting more fleas earlier, and they are lasting longer, " she said. "Those eggs and pupa are hardy and can live outdoors as long as there is warm enough temperature."
Bayer, maker of K9 Advantix, agrees, telling us in a statement:
"Recent mild winters have extended flea and tick season across the country. It now seems to be a constant pressure year-round."
Merial, maker of Frontline Plus ®, told us:
"Perceived resistance to Frontline® plus has not been documented in any studies. When used according to the label, frontline products are highly effective."
3 Things You Can Do
So what can you do? Dr Tabacca suggests you:
- Always apply flea medicine to the pet's skin, not fur.
- Ask your vet if you should increase dosages (but don't do that without a vet's consent)
- Treat your lawn for insects in the spring, if pets spend time outdoors.
What this means is that pet owners like Dean Carroll are going to have to be extra vigilant all year long.
Bottom line: If you notice a flea or tick issue this spring and summer, see your vet.
A change in medication or change in the way you apply it may be all you need. That way your pet stays happy, your house stays clean, and you don't waste your money.
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