The most important thing to remember when shopping for flea medication is to STAY AWAY FROM ALL FLEA PRODUCTS SOLD OVER THE COUNTER. This includes ALL topical products as well as medicated shampoos, dips, collars, sprays, powders, etc. I don’t care how attractive the packaging is or what sales pitch you get from the kid working behind the counter–DON’T DO IT.
First of all, when it comes to the sprays, powders, collars, dips, etc. they just don’t work. Some of these products may be somewhat effective at killing adult fleas but they have no residual activity. That is, they only kill the fleas that happen to be on the pet at the time of application. So, you can give your dog a flea bath, dry him off, and 5 minutes later he walks into the living room where an adult flea just hatched from its cocoon proceeds to jump on your dog.
Flea collars are a huge waste of money. Not only do they smell terrible (how would you like that nasty thing hanging around your neck?). And they just don’t work. Fleas collars are pretty effective at keeping fleas off your pet’s head and neck. But that’s about it.
In addition, topical flea products sold over-the-counter contain ingredients that are toxic to insects as well as mammals. Why do you think they’re so cheap? Sure, you might save some money buying the cheap stuff but who’s going to pay the veterinary bill when your cat starts having seizures? Veterinarian recommended flea medications are only toxic to insects.
OK, OK–I know what you’re saying. “But Amanda, I see some of those veterinarian recommended flea products sold all over the place. That’s good stuff isn’t?”
Well, the thing is–I don’t know for sure. Some of it is probably OK. Some–not so much. It’s hard to say where these products are coming from exactly. If you visit their websites, the manufacturers usually state something like, “we only sell our products where a relationship exists between the veterinary and pet.”
Sure, and yesterday I saw pigs fly.
It seems likely that in order to reach a wider (we’re taking massive) market the manufacturers would be willing to go through a few loop holes in order to get their products sold online and in pet stores. The issue is really more complicated than anyone outside the veterinary world would imagine, but really–dealing with issues surrounding where flea medication can and can’t be sold is not something we enjoy dealing with.
Because thanks to these same loopholes, selling counterfeit pet products is big business. It’s all thanks to the “grey market”, and it’s driving us nuts.
Some veterinarians even refuse to stock the good stuff like Frontline Plus. Patty Khuly, a veterinarian practicing in Florida writes on her blog, “Don’t get me wrong, I think Frontline’s a great product. But plenty of veterinarians who happen to agree with me on this point refuse to stock it, nonetheless. After all, if you’re recommending a product with a high counterfeit potential, does it not stand to reason that your patients are at an increased risk should their owners buy it elsewhere? How can you recommend a product like that, they argue? And I can’t completely disagree.”
You should read through the post on her blog about counterfeit Frontline and Heartgard products. Who knew parasites had such great marketing potential?
Anyway, the main thing to keep in mind if you’re looking for the best product to get rid of fleas is to stay away from the pet store and your local Wally World, mega mart, or grocery store and yes, even our beloved Internet. Doing that, we’ve narrowed down the possibilities quite a bit.
And please, if you want the best, safest, most effective flea products for your pets, purchase it directly from your vet. And no, this isn’t a marketing pitch. We don’t enjoy being the exclusive distributor of these products as much as you’d think. But until manufacturers decide to take a stand against counterfeiters, it is what it is. And if you still have your heart set on cheap flea medication why not ask your vet to price match? You never know.