When it comes to killing fleas on cats and dogs there certainly are a lot of products to choose from. Most people don’t want to spend hours researching which products work and which ones don’t. You just want to get rid of your pet’s fleas and you want to do it fast! There are several flea control medications available on the market and most veterinarians have developed a short list of favorites. Some products have been around longer than others.
If you’re trying to get rid of fleas and/or prevent future flea infestations here’s a list of my favorites:
Sentinel Flavor Tabs (milbemycin oxime + lufenuron)
Sentinel for dogs is a combination flea and heartworm medication. The tablet is given once every 30 days. An important thing to keep in mind when using Sentinel is that it does not kill adult fleas but instead prevents adult fleas from reproducing. This is important because only 5% of the flea population living in your home consists of adult fleas. The other 95% are baby fleas waiting for the day when they’re mature enough to feed off your pet. Breaking the flea life cycle is an essential part of a flea control program. You may still see adult fleas on your dog when using Sentinel but these fleas will be unable to reproduce. If you expect adult fleas to be a problem you can use a short-term adulticide like Capstar or a longer-lasting adulticide like Frontline Plus.
Cats can also take Sentinel but their dosage is much different than dogs. If for some reason you don’t want to give your cat heartworm medication (milbemycin oxime) you can give him the flea medication separately which is called Program (lufenuron).
If flea products were like cartoons, Sentinel and Capstar would be like Batman and Robin. The two go hand in hand and always complement the other. Capstar is an oral tablet that kills adult fleas very quickly (all within 4-6 hours). However it only lasts for 24 hours. If I knew someone that was dealing with a serious flea problem, I would recommend giving their pet(s) a Capstar tablet once every 3-4 days until adult fleas are no longer seen. Also, I would recommend giving Sentinel (or Program, which contains only lufenuron) once every 30 days for 3 consecutive months.
Program contains the active ingredient lufenuron which inhibits flea development. Lufenuron doesn’t kill adult fleas but inhibits flea reproduction. It is one of the two main ingredients contained in Sentinel tablets. So if you want the benefits of Sentinel without the heartworm preventative you can give your dog or cat a Program tablet instead. This medication will also last for 30 days.
Frontline Plus (fipronil + methoprene)
Frontline Plus contains two active ingredients for killing fleas. Fipronil, which kills the adult fleas, and methoprene, which is an insect growth regulator that inhibits flea development. You may also find a product called Frontline Top Spot. This product only contains the active ingredient fipronil (which explains why it’s cheaper). If your pet currently doesn’t have fleas you can apply Frontline Plus every 60 days. However, if you encounter a flea problem Frontline Plus should be applied every 30 days for 3 consecutive months.
Some people like Frontline Plus because it contains both weapons you need to win the battle against fleas: an adulticide and an insect growth regulator (IGR). You don’t have to worry about giving two different products. However, Frontline Plus is a topical product which some people don’t like to mess with. Also, some pets may not cooperate and some owners have problems applying the product correctly.
I prefer Sentinel, just because it’s easier for me to give my dogs a tablet. If I happen to find a flea or two I simply give them a Capstar tablet and that’s the end of it. However, if you have a cat, giving them pills may be a bit more difficult.
Revolution is another popular flea medication recommended by veterinarians. The active ingredient is a very broad spectrum parasiticide. In addition to killing fleas and preventing flea eggs from hatching, Revolution is a heartworm preventative and also protects against intestinal parasites in cats including roundworms and hookworms. Revolution can also be used to treat ear mites and sarcoptic mange in dogs. While it is only labeled for the control of the American dog tick, one might come to the conclusion that Revolution may also be effective for other tick species as well.
For the prevention and control of flea infestations in cats and dogs, Revolution should be applied once every 30 days.
There are some other “professional” flea products that recently came out on the market including Promeris, Comfortis, and Vectra. However, since I don’t have any direct experience with these products I can’t say that I recommend them.