More than 2,500 different species of fleas exist throughout the world, yet one is the most common among American dogs and cats. It’s called Ctenocephalides felis, or the cat flea. Dogs and cats not treated with flea and tick medication, either in the form of a topical treatment or a flea and tick pill, can suffer everything from flea allergy dermatitis (which causes your animal to bite and scratch himself and sometimes lose his hair) to tapeworms.
Since a single female flea can produce up to 2,000 eggs in her three-week lifespan, a dog can become infested quickly. Tick bites are even more dangerous. A single tick bite can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, ehrlichiosis and other diseases. Signs and symptoms of tick-borne illnesses may take anywhere from 7 to 21 or more days to appear, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Signs and Symptoms of Flea Infestation
The problem begins with some scratching here and there. Maybe you spot some tiny specks around the house that you might’ve missed before. Maybe that beautiful hair that was so thick is looking a tad thin these days. Before you know it … yep. It’s confirmed. Every pet owner should be aware of the signs of a possible flea infestation. They include:
Your dog (or cat) is scratching. Even if you don’t catch fleas red-handed, if you see your pet scratching or biting at its fur, fleas may well be the culprit. That’s because not only can fleas cause a sharp pain when they bite, their salivary glands give off a substance that’s irritating to many dogs and cats.
You can see them. Adult fleas are about an eighth of an inch long. They’re reddish-brown and very thin. It’s hard to really see what they look like without a microscope (though it’s easier on a light-colored fur), but they do have big back legs. They can jump, by some measurements, upward and outward at least 12 inches in a single leap. And one estimation finds that for every adult flea found on your pet, there are at least 100 immature ones hanging around.
You can see what they leave behind. It’s called “flea dirt,” and it looks a little like pepper. You can spot it on your pet’s skin, or your pet could leave it someplace, like:
- Its bedding
- The carpet
That favorite chair they have been sleeping on even though you’ve ushered them off it a thousand times. The specks are actually bits of dried blood that will turn from black, to brown, and finally back to red if you rehydrate them on a wet paper towel.
How Long Do Flea Pills Take to Start Working?
Giving your cat or dog a veterinary recommended flea pill is great, but you can’t exactly see it in action. A study published in Veterinary Parasitology seems to back up the veterinarians and flea product makers. The ninety-day study found that topicals were 88.4 percent effective, while oral treatments were 99.9 percent effective. There were 128 dogs from five states involved in the study. Some pet owners complain that flea and tick medications don’t work as well as advertised, but veterinarians and flea and tick medication producers told The New York Times that when the products are used correctly, they do work.
So, how long does it take to start working?
Based on cat or dog Size
Oral medication treatment how long until effective 30 minutes. Small cat or dog owners may think that the pill will kick in faster in tiny animals, just like big pet owners can think it’ll take longer to protect their pup.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter what size your pet is, as long as they’re getting the right dosage for their weigh. The vet will already decide that before you give your pet the flea pill.
Based on Activity Level
Cat or dog that are more active and spend more time outside will still be protected by the flea pill, even if they run out to the backyard right after taking their dose. Flea pill ingredients are meant to last the entire month or even the year, depending on the brand you buy. No amount of physical activity will work the ingredients out of your pets system.
For Fleas to Die
After your cat or dog swallows the flea pill, most pills will kill fleas after 30 minutes. After four hours, there should be no more sign of live fleas on your dog.
For pets to Stop Scratching/Itching
Animals scratch at fleas because the fleas are biting their skin, so after the flea pill successfully kills those fleas, the scratching and itching should stop.
Topical flea and tick medication, also called “spot on” medications, are generally applied between the pet’s shoulder blades so the pet can’t lick it off. Most topical medications last a month. Some topical medications not only kill fleas and ticks, they also repel them. The most common active chemicals in topical medications are:
Fipronil: Fipronil works by attacking the nervous system of the parasite to paralyze fleas and ticks to ultimately kill them. Fipronil spreads over the cat or dog through body oils in about a day. It releases over time — usually about a month. It is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use on cats and dogs.
Imidacloprid: This ingredient kills fleas by disrupting the nervous system. It kills both adult and larval stage fleas that come in contact with the pet. It is approved by the EPA for use on cats and dogs.
Pyrethroids: You may see pyrethroids on the list of active ingredients under a few different names. It is an organic compound derived from a flower, which makes it popular among pet owners who prefer all-natural products, though there are also synthetic pyrethroids that some manufacturers prefer because they are more stable and last longer. Pyrethroids are not approved for use on cats by the EPA, and should be used with caution on small dogs, and never in households with cats as it is extremely toxic to felines. Products with pyrethroids kill fleas, ticks and mites. SEE: Can You Use Fish Antibiotics On Dogs