my cat can't handle his insecticide
October 26, 2006 3:37 PM   Subscribe

My cat's flea medication makes him ill. I need some alternatives to it to discuss at my next vet appointment.

My cat has a terrible day after every dose of Frontline (the veterinary medicine, not the award-winning documentary show with the dashing and witty web developer.) Last night we gave him an application of Frontline Plus, following the directions to the letter (nape of his neck so he absolutely couldn't lick it, etc.) This morning, my wife found him very listless in the basement next to a pile of barf. His had similar (but less extreme) reactions to the previous few applications. He had perked up by 11 AM, but it's 6:30 now and he's not quite recovered.

He's getting a routine checkup in a couple of days, and I want to discuss altenatives with the vet. But I want to be able to have an actual discussion about it. The Internet suggests that most people are giving their cats Frontline-style flea meds, and Frontline seems more highly regarded than Advantage (Frontline works beautifully for our other cat.)

But I'm hoping there are effective treatments that don't involve dosing the cat with liquid chemicals because he doesn't seem to have the constitution for it. What are they?
posted by Mayor Curley to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
Our vet's office says that they're seeing fleas resistant to Frontline now - our dog apparently got to carry a nice example. Our vet has us using Advantage for the ferrets, and it seems to work okay. It doesn't work on ticks, though. Usually good exotics vets are more cautious with ferrets than with cats or dogs when it comes to medications, as the little guys are so much smaller than the animals the meds are intended for and then they have odd metabolisms. There are some of the liquid drops that are very much more dangerous than Frontline or Advantage, though, so (you're right to) be very careful about them. And all of them have trouble with counterfeits being sold online.

I've read about (and tried) feeding a little brewer's yeast, but didn't see much effect from that. You can also get a flea comb, and comb the little critters out (if the cat will let you). It's time consuming, and won't get all of them, though. And after he's fully recovered from the Frontline, you can always try a nice bath, if the cat will cooperate. It should help a little.

The good news is that if you can get rid of them from your house and your pets now, winter is coming and you'll probably be able to go several months without needing to do anything (unless you have flea-infested mice coming in to live in your walls).
posted by dilettante at 3:59 PM on October 26, 2006

Is he an indoor cat, indoor/outdoor, outdoor only? There's Program Flea Control which is an oral medication that breaks the flea life cycle; it won't kill adult fleas, but it will stop flea eggs and larvae from developing once it's in the food chain (ie your cat). But it only works if your cat is indoor-only and, thus, not bringing in fresh, unaffected fleas.
posted by Rubber Soul at 4:10 PM on October 26, 2006

Does he actually have fleas? Why do you need ongoing monthly treatments? I treat for fleas only when and if my pet actually have them, and it's pretty despicable that the veterinary pharmacutical companies have done such a good job of convincing people that they need to pour non-benign chemicals on their pets every month whether they need it or not, and making us think that there are no long-term problems with this. I have had good success with doing a four month course of Frontline on the two occasions my dog has picked up fleas.

Cats often have trouble with flea medications, and there is only minimal difference between the various topicals (in other words, odds are that you may well find the same problem with any ongoing treatment), could you try and work things so that you don't actually have to treat on an ongoing basis?

Barring that, try Advantage, but do not under any circumstances use the various kinds of stuff you can buy in pet stores.
posted by biscotti at 4:34 PM on October 26, 2006

While looking around for information about relative safety of Advantage and efficacy of brewer's yeast (beyond my own experience), I found several sites claiming you could use vinegar baths and add a little vinegar to their water dishes to get rid of fleas and prevent infestations. I've never tried that and have no idea whether it works any better than wrapping bacon in an old sock and burying in your yard during the full moon. But it's mentioned pretty often - you might want to google using vinegar fleas cats to see if it looks worth a shot. Or you could just ask your vet whether it would be harmful.
posted by dilettante at 5:31 PM on October 26, 2006

Does he actually have fleas? Why do you need ongoing monthly treatments?

He comes home with ticks when he's due for a new treatment. And we have a very old rabbit, so I have to make sure that the cats won't carry fleas into the house because the rabbit's so fragile.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:39 PM on October 26, 2006

Our cats are indoor-only, so it's not a problem for us, but I've had problems with the heavy chemical flea solutions in the past, and have found less chemical offerings. It's been a long time since I've tried any, so you would want to find reviews from people who've used them more recently.

Okay, from a quick google: Natural flea & tick solutions. More here. (also has eucalyptus oil, which may be what I was thinking of, originally.)

Of course, you could simply stop allowing any of your cats outside and see if this solved the problem. Good luck to you and your cat.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 7:49 PM on October 26, 2006

My previous cat also had problems with Frontline - made her foam at the mouth when she licked it. You're supposed to make sure it gets only on the skin, not on the fur, but I found this pretty much impossible, and even on the back of the neck they can rub their paws on it then lick their paws. My current cat had Program for about three years, which was really good - it's a vet-administered injection, six-monthly I think - not the cheapest option, but I thought it was worth it. He hasn't shown any sign of fleas for the last year, however, so we've let it lapse. Can't find much about it on the internet, but here's one link - search for Program - Pesticide News.
posted by paduasoy at 11:36 PM on October 26, 2006

Of course, you could simply stop allowing any of your cats outside and see if this solved the problem.

I appreciate the suggestion, lady, but he hates that. And I gotta live with him.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:48 AM on October 27, 2006

I second Biscotti's suggestion of trying Advantage instead of Frontline. I've found that cats who are intolerant to Frontline cope with Advantage much better. It comes in weight specific doses from the vet. Avoid pet store remedies, most are useless and often contain potentially harmful substances such as Tea Tree oil.

Steer well clear of all essential oils, these contain high note phenols which have terrible side effects on cats, and are often fatally toxic. Eucalyptus & Tea Tree oil have especially high concentrations.
posted by Arqa at 7:12 AM on October 27, 2006

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