Not a Single Flea… Ever

Flea Closeup

Disgusting, is it not?

Fleas… they are perhaps one of the most disgusting creatures upon planet Earth.  Just look at one. →

When I was growing up, I remember our dogs having to contend with many fleas.  And because they had to contend with fleas, we had to contend with fleas.  Back then, we didn’t have all the flea prevention products that are available now.  We had flea “treatments”, which were nothing more than a temporary fix at best, if a fix at all.  And we tried everything on the market at the time: flea shampoos, flea powders, flea sprays, flea collars… you name it.  I remember being bitten quite often by fleas, since we allowed the dogs on the couches and beds, which further spread the infestation.  As a note, when dining on humans, fleas seem to love legs.  Not much else, just legs.

As a dog-owning dog-owned adult, I do allow my dogs on the couches now, but I wouldn’t if they had fleas.

Which they don’t.

And never have.

Not a single one.

Ever.

I could credit their lack of fleas to the almost overwhelming variety of flea prevention products available in the modern dog era.  But I can’t.  Because we haven’t used or even tried a variety of products.  I could credit it to their good health, as I’ve heard that parasites, fleas and otherwise, are more attracted to sickly/weak/unhealthy animals.  But that would be speculating, as we have no way to know for certain.  We’ve only used one flea prevention product… and it has worked successfully… perfectly even… for nine thirteen years.

In 2004, when my husband and I adopted our first dog together (LittleBear), we wanted to do everything right.  Vaccinating on schedule, heartworm prevention, flea prevention, good quality food, and of course, most importantly… tons and tons (and tons) of love.  LittleBear made that last part very easy.

LittleBear - Right After Dinner

Right after dinner – still food on the bowl.

The other stuff, we knew we’d have to research to make good decisions.  We weren’t as educated on vaccinations as we are now (and I’m still learning all the time as the protocols change), so we just went with the vet’s recommendations at the time: rabies and DA2PP; bordetella if he needed to be boarded or be around other dogs.  Boarded?  Yeah, right.  We didn’t go anywhere without him… but that’s another story.  For heartworm prevention, we chose Interceptor because it protected against more parasites than its competitors.  The other products promised to prevent heartworm, hookworm, and roundworm infections… but Interceptor covered all three of those plus whipworm… so it seemed like the obvious choice.  For flea prevention, we looked at all the topical products (there are even more on the market now than there were back then), but we really didn’t want to apply anything to his skin.  So what else?

And that’s when we found Program.  Hmm… a pill that you give once a month and your dog would magically have no fleas?  It sounded way too good to be true.  Program works by preventing flea eggs and larvae from developing, controlling the population by interrupting the life cycle.  Still though, we had a hard time believing that it would be that effective, especially for a whole month at a time.  But we gave it a shot.  And we never looked back.  Month after month, no fleas whatsoever.  We were crazy about checking him thoroughly too, lifting up little portions of fur at a time, all over his body.  No fleas.  No “flea dirt” to show evidence of fleas.

Flea Dirt

Flea Dirt = Gross.
Poor baby, but not one of ours.

In 2009, we adopted Li’l Girl.  Two dogs now.  Would more dogs increase the likelihood of fleas?  We continued using Program on both of them with complete success.  Still no fleas!  LittleBear left us to make his way to the Rainbow Bridge in October 2012.  To say that we were devastated by his passing is to put it very, very, very mildly.  We we inconsolable for weeks.  Some days, I still am.  But again, another story for another day.  We didn’t plan on adopting anyone else for quite a long time, but as fate would have it, we ended up adopting Austin in December 2012, just two short months after LittleBear passed.  So again, two dogs.  [Added later: we adopted Ginger in November 2013,  so now… three dogs.] And still no fleas!  I want to add here that even though we keep them on heartworm prevention year-round, we only use flea prevention during the warmer months.  I am very cautious about what goes in their mouths.  Everything must be natural, absolutely nothing artificial, no chemicals, no preservatives, etc.  Their heartworm and flea preventives are the only exception to this. 

Program Flea Prevention

Our last box of Program 🙁 *sniffle*

When it came time to order some Program again, we noticed that it had become very hard to get.  Just a few months earlier, Interceptor went out of production and we had to choose a new heartworm preventive (we ended up going with Iverhart Plus, which seems to be working out well).  Now we learn that production of Program is halting as well.  As it turns out, both Interceptor and Program were manufactured at the same Novartis plant, and that particular plant was drastically scaling back operations due to a number of quality control concerns.  Fortunately, none of the problems seemed to be with animal products, but rather with certain over-the-counter medications for humans.  Sigh.  So both of my tried and true parasite prevention products are either no longer going to be available or will not be manufactured again for quite some time.  I looked high and low and was finally able to find a supplier that still had a small stock of Program left at the time.  The box we managed to get will likely be the last.

I was honest-to-goodness upset about saying goodbye to a product that had worked so well for us for so long.  We already had to start using a new heartworm preventive (which I wasn’t happy about because we liked the Interceptor)… I didn’t want to find a new flea prevention product too.  But like it or not, the hunt for a new solution is no longer on the horizon… it’s here.

The research begins.  Hmm….there are a lot more pill-form flea products on the market now.  When we first started using Program, there was only Program.  Here’s what we looked at:

  • Capstar:
    • Pros: Works fast.
    • Cons: Made to treat current infestations of adult fleas.  Does not work to break the flea life cycle and prevent flea reproduction like Program does.
    • Verdict:  Seems to be a great product for its intended use.  Must be loved by shelters everywhere.  But it’s a no-go for our purpose.  We want monthly prevention, not just a one-time killing spree.
  • Comfortis:
    • Pros: Works fast. Effectively kills adult fleas (like Capstar) AND works to prevent fleas all month (like Program).  Sounds good!
    • Cons: Significantly more expensive than Program.  Contains ingredient the wieners have never been exposed to before.  We’ve covered that I don’t love giving my sweet ones chemicals in the first place, but at least I know that our familiar products don’t cause them any side effects.  The ingredient in Comfortis (spinosad) is known to cause side effects such as itching and/or vomiting.  Not good.
    • Verdict: After reading many reviews where people complain of side effects, even if only temporary, I am wary of giving this product to my sweet little sausages.  The hefty price tag didn’t help its case, either.  I’m not paying extra to make my dogs vomit or give them the itchies (the two primary complaints of other users).  Another no-go.
  • Trifexis:
    • Pros:  Effectively kills adult fleas, works to prevent fleas all month, AND prevents heartworm, roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm infections.  Wow!  Truly the trifecta, it is named appropriately.  An all-in-one product to do the jobs of the other products combined.
    • Cons:  Expensive, but it does the job of two products, so it’s at least a little justifiable.  Contains milbemycin oxime – this is the active ingredient in Interceptor, my old heartworm product – so the wieners are familiar with this.  BUT, it also contains spinosad, the ingredient in Comfortis that I’m umm… not too comfortable with.  No word play intended there, I swearsies.
    • Verdict: Since one of its ingredients is the same ingredient in Comfortis, reviewers seemed to complain of the exact same side effects.  And again, a high price tag (even higher than Comfortis) to make my dogs unhappy for a day (or three).  Combo product or not, it’s a no-go.  Next.
  • Sentinel:
    • Pros: Works to prevent flea population, as well as prevents heartworm, roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm.  Another all-in-one product.  Sounding good so far!  Contains lufenuron (the active ingredient in Program) and milbemycin oxime (the active ingredient in Interceptor).  Wait.  This is just a combo of my two old preferred parasite preventives!  And… and… the price is comparable (if not cheaper) than Program!  We may just have a winner here!
    • Cons: We’ve always preferred spreading out their heartworm preventive and flea preventive, giving them at least a week, if not two weeks apart.  We are wary of giving the two medications at one time… after all, they are chemicals.  Plus, giving them separately means we can choose to give them seasonally if we want (which we do, as I mentioned earlier).  On the upside, Sentinel gets great reviews across all retailers and no one really seems to mention side effects, so that makes me feel a little better about giving a combo product year-round.
    • Verdict:  Assuming Novartis continues producing it, this may be our go-to product when we run out of our current supplies of Program and Iverhart Plus.  Sentinel has actually been on the market for quite a long time, and I’ve always known about it.  But, I never paid attention to it before because a) we were already using something that worked, so we stuck to it; and b) I never looked at it closely enough to realize that it was a combo product of flea prevention and internal parasite prevention.  Thought it was just the latter.  Edited to add: Sentinel is now produced by VirbacPets.
    • Later edit (since this was first posted in 2013):  We have indeed been using Sentinel for quite a while now and have been very happy with it.  All parasites fully prevented/controlled and zero side effects for the dogs!  We are now over 12 years flea-free and counting!

I know that some folks swear by all-natural flea control.  Garlic, essential oils, diatomaceous earth, herbs, etc.  Those may all work… heck, they may even work well.  Who knows?  In our case, maybe the wieners’ good health really is what’s keeping the fleas away.  But it would be trial-and-error for me to find out, and I’ll just be frank with you here, I don’t care to go through trial-and-error when it comes to a potential flea infestation.  Having lived with it as a child, I was one thousand percent positive that I didn’t want any part of it as an adult and I still don’t.  However, if my three were to ever show problems with receiving the oral flea products, we would obviously be re-thinking the natural route.  I want to be very clear and stress again that we don’t love giving our sweet babies chemicals of any kind, even only once a month.  But they are 100% flea-free, so it’s hard to walk away from something that works.

Your turn:  What’s your preferred method of flea prevention and control?  How well does it work for you?  Always thankful for any input, especially when it comes to health matters!

Disclosure:  This post was not intended as an endorsement of any of these particular products.  All of the opinions here are my own, based on actual product use or research.  There are no affiliate links in this post.  

Photo Credit – Flea: Nature’s Way Pest Control
Photo Credit – Flea Dirt: East Lincoln Animal Hospital

This post has been included in the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop,
hosted by Two Little Cavaliers, Life With Dogs, and Confessions of the Plume
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18 Responses to Not a Single Flea… Ever

  1. Ann Staub says:

    I just wrote about some of these products on my blog. While I have no experience with Trifexis, a lot of people left really great comments about it. Sentinel seems pretty comparable to the Program you’ve been using and it does also have heartworm prevention in it. I’ve heard great things about Comfortis too, but the biggest problem seemed to be that some small dogs would occasionally vomit once after taking it. There is so much debate out there about putting these “drugs and chemicals” in our dogs but if I had bugs on me or in me, I would use whatever was going to work lol…
    Ann Staub recently posted…Social Pet Saturday: Contest ResultsMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      There is so much debate out there about putting these “drugs and chemicals” in our dogs but if I had bugs on me or in me, I would use whatever was going to work lol…
      Ha! Exactly! That’s a great way to put it… I bet a lot of people don’t even consider it from their own perspective.
      I know you worked as a vet tech, so I’m glad to have you weigh in. I *think* I remember reading your post on heartworm preventives… will pop back over and read through the comments.

  2. We had a horrible flea infestation once when I was little. (Living in So Cal, fleas can be a big problem here, since it never gets cold enough to kill them off.) I was horribly allergic and I remember goingt to school with over one-hundred bites on my legs that had turned into water blisters because i was so allergic. Horrifying right? (It’s a wonder I had any friends…) So, I’m with you – I can’t bear the thought of risking an infestation while I sort out the trial & error of a natural product. I don’t like to put chems in/on my pups either, but I use Frontline. The thing is – we only use it once every 3 months. I figure at least that’s only 4/year. We started using it that way when our vet said the flea ingredient works for 3 months, but the tick ingredients are why you have to reapply every month. Since we don’t have a tick problem here, I’m okay with doing it every 3 mo, and our pups have never had a flea.

    I know we should *try* the natural route, but with the flea problems in So Cal and my horrifying past experience, I’m too leary!
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Extra, Extra… Exercise & a Mess o’ Followin’ UpMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Oh, thank you for posting your own experience! So glad to hear I’m not the only one who went through some flea horrors as a child. People can be very… judgmental… ya know? “Like, ewww, your family must’ve been gross.” We weren’t. Things just happen. And knowing that they’ve happened to other people makes me feel less like a field rat.
      We don’t really have a tick problem, either… thankfully. This is going to sound a little crazy, but I have an extreme phobia of ticks. Just seeing a tick makes me want to get miles and miles away. I could present a photo here that would give everyone a tick phobia, but I’ll have mercy.
      That’s really awesome that the Frontline is working well for you and that you only have to apply it every three months or so. I know that some people have complained that their topical products have stopped working for some reason or another, or that it bothers their pets’ skin or whatever… so I’m glad that it works well for Rita and doesn’t cause her any problems.

  3. So many flea/tick and heartworm preventatives are failing down here (Florida) it’s scary. The only “fail proof” one is supposedly Advantage Multi, but since it is A) a topical and my girl gets in the water a good deal B) so expensive! and C) only something like 5 dogs were tested in their “fail proof” study, and IMO that’s not enough.
    For heartworm prev. I use Heartgard Plus, for now at least. I’m considering switching (to what I don’t know yet), since Nola’s yearly heartworm test is next month.

    For flea prev. I have tried every single topical on the market, and nothing works. Nola’s very healthy and clean, so that in itself keeps fleas down. I’ve used Cap Star for a quick fix, but I’m honestly not comfortable giving her anything internal for fleas.
    Nola’s Mom
    Dachshund Nola recently posted…Charlotte SaturdayMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      I hear ya! I don’t like giving them the internal products either, which is why I’m glad we can maintain our flea-free status with only 3-4 doses a year. We keep them healthy and clean too, so I know that helps. Probably also helps that they’re smooth-haired.
      But yeah, I don’t blame you for not wanting to give Nola anything internal for fleas. It’s scary giving them chemicals at all. We’ve considered testing out using nothing at all just to see what happens… just to see if good health and hygiene is enough to keep the fleas away, but just haven’t been brave enough to try it yet.

  4. We have both an all natural treatment and a topical treatment. Last year, our all natural treatment worked great (Bright Eyes Pet Wellness), but we had a harsh winter and shorter summer. This year, the winter barely hit our area and our summer started early. So I’m doing both. I went with a topical treatment that we’ve used in the past and the dogs deal well with; Pet Armor.
    Kimberly, The Fur Mom recently posted…3 Books About Dogs Every Dog Parent Should Purchase TodayMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Hmm… I haven’t heard of Bright Eyes products… I will have to look into those. I’m all about natural, as long as it works! I’ve heard about PetArmor – I believe it is similar to Frontline in ingredients, just less expensive. We’ve always been so nervous about using the topicals, but maybe at some point we’ll give it a shot. I really don’t love giving them the internal stuff, it’s just always worked so we’ve stuck with it.

      • There’s an article on Dr. Becker’s site that shares how we can detoxify our dogs to help make topical treatments safer for families that, for whatever reason, don’t have a choice and the natural stuff isn’t working. I’m going to look into it if we continue to use Pet Armor.

        It’s nice to read that someone has had continued success with natural products. It gives me a little more comfort in continuing with the Bright Eyes product.
        Kimberly, The Fur Mom recently posted…3 Tips for Dog Parents Who Feed Their Dogs Dry KibbleMy Profile

  5. So very lucky that I never had fleas and mom is so scared of it … we avoid certain places on our walks. We are not trying to be mean to some dogs but we are very picky socializing with other dogs. Never heard of the product/program you used. Mom just use Frontline and heartguard. Just have to be extra careful and regular grooming is very important. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar
    SUGAR: Golden Woofs recently posted…Girls Wear Bowtie Too: Black n White Father’s DayMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      No Sugar, I totally understand about being picky who you socialize with. We are that way too. We actually have a couple dog parks here, but we don’t go to them. So glad to hear you’ve never had fleas either! We’re very careful, but you have longer fur, so you have to be even more careful! Your mom takes great care of you, so you have nothing to worry about… she’ll never let you get those bothersome fleas!

  6. emma says:

    Oh dear! Mom hates it when something she loves is no longer available, meds, jeans, you name it she goes nuts. We use heartguard for heartworm and frontline, not frontline plus for flea and tick prevention. Everyone pushes frontline plus but if you don’t already have fleas it is not necessary. We only use it max 6 months a year and we are flea free, so far never seen one! We do live in MN where it is frozen outside many months a year, so for that reason we don’t use it year round.
    emma recently posted…Beginner Counter Surfing 101 | GBGV | Monday MischiefMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      Yes, the weather makes a huge difference in the pest population, so that probably does help a lot. But glad to see that Frontline is still working well for you for those months that you feel you need it. Yay for the No Flea Club!

  7. Dee says:

    We’ve been trying a new topical this year named Activyl on one of our dogs–and the other is still on Advantage II. Activyl’s a bio-activated product and says this from its site:

    “Pets and people both want a flea treatment that’s really effective at killing fleas and preventing infestation!
    Activyl®, the latest innovation in monthly spot-on flea control, features indoxacarb and bioactivation—a mode of action that uses enzymes inside the flea to activate Activyl®’s full flea-killing power. ”

    We have to use the part one for ticks–you can’t use the tick formulation around cats (I would be happier if the tick solution in it was bio-activated too, but maybe soon. It uses the same thing as a lot of other topicals for ticks.)–because they’ll eat you up here in Middle TN.

    I wanted to try this new one b/c a vet’s assistant told me it was safer for people AND the dog–at least the flea part. Anything that’s safer sounds better to me–plus with it being brand-new, the fleas haven’t had a chance to get used to this formulation and develop resistance. Some complaints have been made b/c people want to just pour the whole vial on the dogs in on spot, and it will leave an oily spot, but I’ve not had that problem since I spread it out over his whole spine to the base of his tail.

    It IS a bit more expensive at the vet’s, but so far I’ve been really pleased. We live by a creek, and though it doesn’t advertise it, it seems to keep the mosquitoes and other biting flies away from him. We’ve actually watched them avoid our dog that’s wearing Activyl just the same as it does with the other dog wearing Advantage II. Activyl uses a permethrin for the ticks just like Advantage II does, so that’s probably what’s working on that.

    If you want to talk to a rep about it, they have a Twitter account as well as the Merck website, but I can tell you, as soon as Barkly runs out of Advantage II, he’s getting switched to Activyl Plus just like Vlad’s on b/c I’ve heard from several friends a lot of our fleas really are developing resistance to the older products. They’re still on Frontline Plus, and it’s not working any longer.

    I’ve also heard a lot of good things about the Seresto 8-month collar that you can ask your vet about. We discussed that one as well, but it seemed to be less of a good option for the dogs when our granddaughters are around. You can ask @PepperPom in Twitter about getting information on that one. She’s the one I know that’s been testing Seresto.

    • Pam says:

      Thank you so much for your detailed comment! I hadn’t heard of Activyl/Activyl Plus yet… hadn’t heard of the Seresto collar either. I will look into both of these products. At some point, we may choose to switch to a topical, so I’m glad to learn about a couple new products I was unfamiliar with. Even if we stick with our current plan, I still like to know about all the products/options that are out there.

  8. Flea says:

    When we lived in Florida, my dogs were on Frontline year round. They had to be. And I’m convinced that the chemicals in their bloodstream were what killed out first Aussie, cancer. Since moving to Tulsa more than six years ago, we’ve only used flea control in the summer, and that was only last year. It just hasn’t been a big issue. We’ll see what this summer brings. I’m looking into the diatomaceous earth, though.
    Flea recently posted…Boston Terrier, Breed of the WeekMy Profile

    • Pam says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your first Aussie! I do hate using the chemicals, whether internal or on the skin. Like you, we definitely only use flea control in the summer… so just 3-4 doses a year. And I do often wonder what would happen if we didn’t use anything at all. Perhaps they wouldn’t get them anyway. But after what misery I saw our dogs go through as a child, I’m just too paranoid to take the risk. Maybe in time, I’ll get brave enough to test out some natural methods or using nothing at all.

    • Mark says:

      I can totally recommend diatomaceous earth. Safe enough to use regularly and it’s more effective (in my experience) than most sprays or bombs on the market

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