Help, we're breeding super-fleas!
July 27, 2010 3:48 PM   Subscribe

Frontline applications seem to have suddenly stopped working on our cats. Help, before I'm eaten alive by fleas!

We started using Frontline with great success about six months ago. We missed one application by about two weeks, fleas came back with a vengeance and now they won't go away. It's been over eight weeks since the missed application, so there have been two on-time applications since then. I find several large adults every time I inspect the cats and I see eggs on the cat's bedding. Bedding is being washed every three days, Roomba does the floors daily and I follow up with the nozzle attachment on a regular vacuum around the baseboards a couple times a week. We are seeing even more fleas despite these measures, probably because the weather is humid.

1) I see alot of hearsay on the internets about fleas developing a resistance to Frontline. Is it really possible, or is it user error? They say that Frontline kills adults before they can lay eggs, but I'm finding new eggs every day so that can't be true if we did it right and the stuff works.
2) Could we be tracking in new fleas from outside? There is grass outside our apartment that we rarely walk through. We're on the second floor and cats are indoor only.
3) Are the cats ruining the Frontline by trying to lick? They seem to get at some of it every time, but not all. We're applying between the shoulders as directed. Do we need to get head cones or something?
posted by slow graffiti to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about Frontline resistance, but yes, the outdoor area might be infested. Sounds like it isn't yours to treat, since it's an apartment complex. Or could you?

Did you put a flea collar inside your vacuum cleaner? They can hatch in there, too.
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:56 PM on July 27, 2010

I have a friend in Alabama who has to rotate flea preventatives in order for them to be effective. Even though the research has yet to prove it, I believe that the fleas do become resistant. Just use a different product (Advantage, Revolution, Promeris, Advocate, Stronghold) each time. Make sure the product gets on their skin and not the fur. They probably aren't licking it off, but make sure it's out of reach.

It's not very likely that you are tracking fleas in. Keep up with the vacuuming. Vacuum absolutely everything. And here's the important part (don't know if you are doing this or not):
When you are done vacuuming, take the bag out/empty the vacuum immediately and take it outside to the dumpster! The fleas can crawl out of the vacuum bag/garbage.

I don't know if Roomba does a good enough job or not. Make sure you vacuum all upholstery, drapes, bedding (including yours), and anything else that fleas could hide in. Doing these things and rotating treatments should help. Good luck!
posted by bolognius maximus at 4:01 PM on July 27, 2010

I was in my local pet store just an hour ago asking the very same thing!

The owner advised me to rotate between Frontline and Advantage, because she'd been hearing that fleas were getting resistant to one or the other if you use them consistently.

She said that there's no real difference in the strength of the medication, but it's worth a try. She said she's seen a lot of this lately.

We last dosed our cats ten days ago with Advantage, and they still have fleas here and there. We put them outside and groom them, then vacuum and sweep the whole house, change bedding and cushion covers (ours and theirs), empty the vacuum cleaner, etc.

She told me to leave the cats alone for another 2 1/2 weeks, then dose them all over again with Frontline.
posted by vickyverky at 4:11 PM on July 27, 2010

Where I live in San Diego, fleas have apparently developed a resistance to Frontline. Our vet doesn't even carry it anymore because it's ineffective. We've moved to Comfortis for our dogs which is working fine, for now.
posted by mikesch at 4:13 PM on July 27, 2010

Mikesch - I'm in La Jolla, no wonder!! Does your vet say that based on research or her professional experience? Either way I think it's time for Advantage.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:17 PM on July 27, 2010

What you need to do is buy some Raid flea bombs. Use those right now, to get rid of the fleas in your house. You are under siege! Desperate times/desperate measures.

Then get Advantage or something else for the cats.
posted by ErikaB at 4:22 PM on July 27, 2010

As far as I know it's anecdotal. Enough of her clients have come in complaining about it not working that she strongly recommends against using it at this point.
posted by mikesch at 4:24 PM on July 27, 2010

Also just wanted to make sure you're using Frontline Plus, not just Frontline. The "Plus" is a medication that renders the adults infertile.
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:27 PM on July 27, 2010

Also just wanted to make sure you're using Frontline Plus, not just Frontline. The "Plus" is a medication that renders the adults infertile.

No, I'm wrong - it keeps the eggs and larvae from maturing.
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:29 PM on July 27, 2010

Has something similar with my dog several years ago, except not lots of fleas, just that he had any at all. My vet said she'd been hearing people say that Frontline wasn't working well in our area (Louisville, then) anymore, and we switched the dog to Advantage. So far so good.
posted by dilettante at 4:33 PM on July 27, 2010

My vet just recommended Vectra for flea control. It kills all stages of fleas, and stays active even on the dander that floats around your house (if you're like me, that is). Seems to be working, as I've had no fleas at all this summer. Good luck!
posted by killy willy at 4:36 PM on July 27, 2010

You definitely need to fleabomb the's a pain in the butt but it works.

While you're doing that, bring kitty to the vet and ask for Capstar. It's a pill that instantly kills all fleas on your pet. Then ask them about a new flea medication. There are a ton more out there besides Frontline and Advantage. I'm not super-familiar with the ones for cats, but I know that my vet gave me a bunch of choices when we got my dog. She takes Sentinel for fleas, and Comfortis for heartworms and also flea eggs.
posted by radioamy at 4:44 PM on July 27, 2010

I agree that attacking the house (full laundry mode, spraying carpets and vacuuming, etc.) to destroy the fleas is key at this point. Then I'd recommend Advantage. I love that stuff. It is easy to apply, and very, very effective.
posted by bearwife at 5:16 PM on July 27, 2010

Frontline stopped working for us a couple of years ago, but sadly Advantage isn't doing much better.

Sentinel is doing a great job, though. You can get the flea prevention in Sentinel for cats (Lufenuron); it's called "Program" by itself. It does not work immediately, though, so you have to keep up active flea fighting until it starts working.

Capstar (as mentioned above) is VERY helpful when you have an active infestation and is available for cats. If your cats will let you, bathing with Dawn can help you get rid of any live fleas too--I don't know if this is safe for cats, since they have different tolerances, but it works really well for dogs.

My vet says this stuff works well but I never got around to trying it (she told me about it just as the Sentinel was finally starting to work).

You're already vacuuming and washing--but be aware, it may be necessary to wash more than just the cats' bedding. Anything they or even you touch may have flea eggs. But I spent one summer washing EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE every few days and not making any progress until the Sentinel started working.

FWIW, part of the reason some vets have stopped carrying Frontline is also because it went OTC.
posted by galadriel at 5:17 PM on July 27, 2010

Frontline stopped working for fleas on my two cat. I am in the deep South. I switched to Advantage with great success, along with some other measures. I battled a flea infestation for several months, hate those little bastards.

Try sprinkling 20 Mule Team Borax all over the house; the floors, carpets, rugs cat's bedding, under sofa and chair cushions. Wait a few days , then vacuum the hard surfaces. It seems like the deeper it gets into the carpets, you won't get the gritty feeling, yet remain effective. It made a huge difference combined with shaving a Persian cat in December.

The theory behind this is that the borax pierces the flea's exoskeleton and the eggs causing them to dehydrate and die.
posted by JujuB at 5:49 PM on July 27, 2010

My parents have used boric acid in the carpets while the cats were sequestered in another part of the house. They left it overnight and then did a thorough vacuum with a good vacuum cleaner. I don't think you want the cats to get it on them.

I've also used pyrethrin dips to control fleas and cat lice. Conventional flea collars / powders make me itch but the pyrethrin does not. Perhaps you could try this to treat them and then follow up with frontline when they are dry?
posted by oneear at 6:06 PM on July 27, 2010

Here in New Orleans I have had three vets tell me that Frontline just doesn't work anymore (in this area). I have great success with Advantage.
posted by komara at 6:16 PM on July 27, 2010

Contact Merial, they will help you. I hear a lot of talk about resistance, but there is no evidence that this is the case.
posted by biscotti at 6:24 PM on July 27, 2010

I work with the local city shelter and a cat/dog rescue and the rumor among all the foster parents (and my own experience) is that Frontline didn't work last year. This year so far I've applied Advantage and it worked well enough -- though not as well as prior years, when I was able to get away with treating the big dogs and whatever jumped off them would kill the cats' fleas as well.

IANAV, but here's a 'pro tip' -- check ingredients from the dog versions to the cat versions and if they are IDENTICAL, in IDENTICAL concentrations -- many people buy the big dog version and calculate the amount down to a cat's weight. Have someone else double check your math.
posted by MeiraV at 6:29 PM on July 27, 2010

We have also had to rotate flea meds for our 2 cats & 1 dog. Capstar is amazing! I wish they made it to last all month.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 6:52 PM on July 27, 2010

Fleabomb the house, but you can look into Revolution for the fleas. It does the same stuff as Frontline but we (my vet-tech girlfriend and I, that is,) find it works better.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:55 PM on July 27, 2010

"For the fleas on the cat"
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:55 PM on July 27, 2010

Capstar is amazing! I wish they made it to last all month.

Check out Comfortis; same action as Capstar, lasts a month. It's not available for cats, though.
posted by galadriel at 7:04 PM on July 27, 2010

I had the same experience with Frontline no longer working. I switched to Revolution and the fleas were gone within a day. One thing I like about Revolution is that it also helps with ear mites and worms.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:01 PM on July 27, 2010

Advantage, seriously. Frontline did absolutely nothing for my cat in Florida. Advantage kept him relatively flea-free (though I applied it about once every three weeks rather than once a month)--if I found a flea after applying advantage it would be slow enough to kill it with my fingers (hardcore). With frontline, he was generally covered in sprightly, hopping fleas.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:05 PM on July 27, 2010

I have been very satisfied with Revolution for cats. My vet didn't even mention Frontline or Advantage.
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:02 PM on July 27, 2010

Frontline never, ever, not even a little bit, worked on my cats. I switched to Program and life changed for all of us.
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:55 AM on July 28, 2010

I posted a question about Revolution a couple of months ago and practically nobody answered. Nevertheless, we have been using it and I would say it is working.

Also my vet suggested that we shorten the cycle to three weeks in the event our problem was with some kind of mite. He contacted the Revolution people and they suggested that a three week cycle for a couple of months might work and that it's safe to do this.

Good Luck!
posted by AuntieRuth at 4:35 AM on July 28, 2010

I just called the manufacturer of Frontline and they pretty much bluffed their way through talking with me about possible issues of resistance to their product. When I asked why the adults were living long enough to lay eggs when they should be killed within a day, they said that some fleas 'break the mold' (lolz) but that doesn't matter because the growth inhibitor would prevent hatching. When asked point blank if they had investigated the issue of resistance, they said they had 'done testing and there is no conclusive evidence of resistance to the product.' I asked if they had done regional testing and the answer was basically no.
I smell major BS and I am pleased to learn that the EPA is investigating spot-on flea treatments more carefully. Thanks to galadriel for the tip about Fleabusters powder, which I tried. It is crazy expensive for what it is and messy, but hopefully a long-term, less toxic way of keeping the population down.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:32 PM on July 28, 2010

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