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5 Reasons Why Your Flea Medications Aren't Working


This has been one of the worst flea seasons in history. I have people that call me almost daily and say that they have tried everything and even the stuff they are getting from the vet isn’t working. There are many reasons why a flea medication might not work for you. Here are the most common explanations as to why your pets are covered with fleas, and your wallet is empty:

 1. You’re Not Dosing the Medication Correctly

It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t follow instructions. When it comes to medications, you must follow the directions exactly. If the medication says to give one pill every 24 hours, it doesn’t mean that giving them more in that same period will make a difference. Additionally, many people are overdosing their pet. If you try the Hartz medicated flea drops from Walmart and they don’t work, you cannot give them another monthly supplement for 30 days! It clearly states this on the package. Even if you go from topical to oral, it makes no difference.

Some people think if their pet doesn’t show any adverse reactions to the drugs that they are in the clear. The problem is that when you throw many things at them that the fleas become immune. We are creating a “super flea.” I honestly believe some of the problem this year is that people are overmedicating their pets. When fleas are immune, you can throw anything you want at them, and it won’t make a difference. The clear option here is to use a fast-acting medication like Nitenpyram. It can be used in combination with monthly pills. Stop overmedicating your pets! Sometimes results are not instantaneous. It takes a few days or even a week or two to kick in. It all depends on the medication, so do some research before you buy.

 2. You Need to Treat More Than Your Pet

 Another big problem is treating a pet when the house and yard are infested. There is no miracle pill. Nothing will clear your pet and keep the fleas away if your home and yard are crawling. I sell a carpet and dusting powder that works wonders. It’s safe and has neem, yarrow root, and diatomaceous earth in it. That means you don’t have to leave home while treating it, and it’s safe for pets and children. Other things that work well to clear fleas from carpets are salt and baking soda. Flea bombs are tremendous but toxic.

When it comes to the yard, it can be hard to treat when there are so many fleas and ticks around. You must keep your yard trimmed close and made sure all the weed eating is done. Don’t create a breeding ground for them. Rural King has a great product I highly recommend. It’s Diatomaceous Earth in a 40 lb. bag. This is enough to do an average size yard. Now, if you live on many acres as I do, you won’t be able to do it all. Just do the familiar places where your pet uses the restroom and near your walkway. This product kills any insect, including spiders, from your yard.

So, if your pet is not getting any relief from the fleas and you are medicating, it’s time to turn your attention to the house and yard. And, if things still aren’t getting any better after you have done these things, then you need to call the Orkin man. Exterminating for fleas is expensive, but it works.

 3. You Still Have Eggs in Your Carpets

Most remedies kill live fleas, but there are very few that kill the eggs. Fleas love to populate, and one flea can reproduce 1,500 times in their life. Daily, that’s about 50 eggs. Your carpet and furniture may be full of eggs. You should vacuum often. However, did you know that it can take up to one year for those eggs to hatch? Your flea medications might be working, but your unforeseen egg farm is just waiting to dispense at any time. Find something that kills eggs while you vacuum like crazy.

 4. Your Medication Isn’t for The Type of Flea You’re Fighting

I am in Southern, Ohio. However, many of my customers are near the coastlines. I have a large following in Florida and California. There are more than 2,000 varieties of fleas, and the ones that we fight in the Midwest aren’t always the ones they fight down south. So, you need to know what type of flea you are dealing with. The cat flea seems to be the biggest enemy in Ohio as well as chiggers. However, in Florida, they seem to fight the sand flea. Many medications won’t kill all fleas. If you are having no luck, then you need to identify your pest and make sure you are treating it with the right stuff.

 5. You Waited too Long to Treat

Flea control is a year-round thing. If a house is on fire, throwing a bucket of water on the problem is going to do very little. When I started this business, it was because I was infested with fleas in December. Who has an infestation in Ohio in December? Well, we had a cat that would not stay in the house. I live in the woods, and we have ample places for fleas. It was an unusually warm winter and the rest is a nightmare that created my company.

Most people wait until their animal is tearing out their hair, close to being anemic, and miserable before they get help. I get it; it’s a money thing. However, that’s why I started my business. I wanted to make sure that everyone could get relief for their pets at an affordable price. The vet’s office charges way too much, and now they want you to pay for a visit first. Many people cannot afford that, especially if they have many pets. 

If you cannot afford year-round flea treatments, then be sure to start treating around March of each year and carry it into November. However, with the way the fleas are now, it may be a battle that extends from 2018 into 2019 and doesn’t stop. If you live in warm and humid climates, you must treat all year long.

Food For Thought 

I am always a phone call, text, or email away. Do my pills work for everybody, No! There is nothing that works 100 percent of the time. However, if you have a real mess, then Nitenpyram is your answer. I swear by this stuff, and I recommend it to everyone. There have been very few infestations that it couldn’t clear in my years of being The Flea Queen. So, get out the vacuums, buy some diatomaceous earth and be prepared for battle. You’re fighting a flea war, and you need to make sure you come out the winner! 

The Ultimate Guide To Fleas

There are over 1600 species of fleas – 95% of them thrive off mammals. The cat flea accounts for most of the infestations found in North America that affect our pets. The cat flea is the most common and abundant flea species on Earth. Since more than three quarters of the fleas life cycle is spent somewhere other than on the host treating your dog only will usually not get rid of fleas. The environment has to be treated as well.

It takes more than just a simple flea collar or spray to emerge victorious and rid my home and dog of fleas for good. Getting rid of fleas takes a lot of persistence because you need to manage the fleas at each of their life cycles on both the host and the environment. Just getting rid of the active adult fleas on your dog isn’t enough. Flea eggs can lay dormant for as long as one year if their environment isn’t favorable.

Factors That Increase the Likelihood if Your Dog Getting Fleas

Dogs that live in hot, damp climates have a higher risk of getting fleas since fleas thrive in these warm environments. Dogs who live with other pets have a higher chance of becoming infected because they’re likely to jump from animal to another.

The more visitors you have in your yard the higher the chances of your dog running into a flea infestation. Squirrels, raccoons, feral cats, and small rodents are common carriers of fleas and ticks. Dogs are at the highest risk of getting fleas in the summer months, but they can be infested year round.

Health Complications of Flea Infestations On Your Dog

There are a few complications to look out for when you suspect your dog has fleas. Young puppies carry an increased risk of developing chronic blood loss due to anemia. Some dogs develop a severe allergy to the chemicals found in a fleas saliva.

Fleas On Your Puppy Can be Fatal

Puppies that get fleas have a high risk of developing anemia because of their small size. Anemia is chronic blood loss that’s often caused by fleas and hookworms in puppies. A puppies gums should be pink, if they’re pale or white it’s likely your puppy is anemic. Other symptoms of anemia are listlessness and a cold body temperature.

"Since fleas can consume 15 times their own body weight in blood, they can cause anemia or a significant amount of blood loss over time. This is especially problematic in young puppies, where an inadequate number of red blood cells can be life-threatening to some dogs. Signs of parasitic anemia include pale gums, cold body temperature and listlessness. – APSCA"

Puppies are at an increased risk of developing anemia when they get fleas. If you suspect your puppy has fleas a trip to the vet is highly recommended to keep the infestation under control. It doesn’t take long for a young dog or puppy to suffer severe damage from a flea infestation.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Some dogs and cats develop an itchy skin disease from their sensitivity to fleas. Affected animals develop an allergy to the chemicals found in flea saliva. What might appear as simple flea bites on your dog can quickly turn into a severe reaction if left untreated. Normal flea bites don’t get swollen and red. A normal flea infestation doesn’t cause hair loss in dogs. If your dog experiences some of these symptoms it’s time for a trip to the vet for treatment.

Symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) include:

  • Redness
  • Bumps
  • Pus filled Bumps (pustules)
  • Crusts and scabs
  • Hair loss if severe

The most common areas affected by Flea Allergy Dermatitis are the lower back, tail, neck, and the back of your pets legs. It’s the most common skin disease among domesticated dogs in the US. And secondary bacterial or yeast infections can complicate the treatment of FAD.

"Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats.  For the FAD patient, 100% flea control is essential for the pet to remain symptom-free. Regrettably, fleas in our homes may survive in low numbers year-round, making flea control maintenance ongoing." – Pet Allergies are Big Business Columbus CEO

The Symptoms of Fleas on Dogs

The most common symptom of fleas on your pets is itching. But itching alone doesn’t mean your dog has fleas, it’s a common symptom in many other conditions such as allergies. If you think your dog has fleas check for the following symptoms:

  • Itching & Scratching
  • Red bumps
  • Oozing sores
  • Hair loss
  • Flea dirt (flea poop)

Itching and scratching. Usually the first thing an owner will notice when their dog has fleas. It can be mild or severe. Flea bite dermatitis is a severe skin reaction to fleas; it occurs when a dog either has an allergic reaction to the fleas or becomes hypersensitive due to skin irritation.

Red bumps. These are often found on a dogs belly, hindquarters, or groin. They occur when the dogs skin becomes further irritated by the excessive scratching.  Left untreated these can develop into crusty lesions which can lead to secondary infections.

Pus oozing from sores. Commonly caused by a secondary bacterial infection due to the excessive skin mutilation of itching, scratching, licking, and biting. These infections are quite serious and can become life threatening.

Patchy areas of hair loss. Alopecia is often seen on a dogs skin where they’ve been repeatedly scratching.  The dog begins to lose hair in these areas due to the repeated irritation and the skin becomes increasingly dry.

Flea dirt. Adult flea feces appear as little specks of dirt on your dogs skin. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re seeing a flea or flea dirt. If you place one of the specks on a white towel and spray it with water and it turns dark reddish-brown it’s flea dirt.

How to Visually Check Your Dog for Fleas

Adult fleas although small (1/16 – 1/8 inch) are easy to spot with the human eye. They move very fast and can jump pretty high so you might only catch quick glimpses. They are flat bodied and brown, sometimes appearing almost black. The more blood they’ve ingested the lighter they will appear. Have your dog lay on it’s side. Fleas are often found in warm, protected areas such as the armpits, abdomen and groin.

A visual check alone can be challenging. When I suspected out dog had fleas I was doing a couple visual checks a day and wasn’t spotting anything. After five days I finally caught a glimpse of a flea – and it moved so fast I almost questioned whether I’d actually seen it or not. If you suspect your dog might have fleas I’d start with a white towel test or look for signs of flea dirt. If I hadn’t waited to get flea treatment until I saw an actual live flea our infestation would have been much milder.

Check For Fleas With a Flea Comb

You can purchase a flea comb at most pet supply stores. Run the comb along your dogs fur with just enough pressure to touch the skin. The comb’s teeth are designed to catch and pull fleas from your dogs coat where they are hiding. If you do catch any fleas with a comb you’ll want to have a bowl of soapy water on hand to drown any fleas you catch.

Use The White Towel Test to Check For Fleas on Your Dog

If you see little dark colored specks on your dogs skin and aren’t sure if they’re fleas or not use the white towel test. Brush or comb your dog while they’re laying on a white towel. When those specks fall off your dog onto the towel spray them with a spray bottle. If they turn a dark reddish-brown color you’re seeing flea feces, otherwise known as flea dirt.

The Life Cycle of Fleas Explained

The reason fleas are notoriously hard to get rid of is due to their life cycle. We use treatments that kill adult fleas, but not all of those options get rid of all the eggs, larva & pupae that they leave behind.

Even if you spot fleas on your dog you should realize that only a small proportion are on your dog at any given time. The eggs, larvae, and pupae are actually found on the ground, often embedded in carpet. On average fleas take about a month to from egg to adult. The female flea lays her eggs about 2 days after mating and the eggs take an additional 3-6 days to hatch into larvae.

The larvae feeds off of the mother’s flea dirt and in about a week they start spinning a cocoon. Under normal circumstances the cocooned larva, now called pupae, would remain in this state for about 2 weeks before it becomes an adult flea. If the environment is too cold this stage can be extended by up to one year.