Flea infestation is not only uncomfortable for your kitten, it can also cause severe health problems, ranging from open sores to anemia if left untreated. The challenge in treating a flea-bitten kitten is that most readily available topical flea treatments cannot be used until a kitten is eight weeks old.
Topical Flea Treatments
Topical flea treatments are drops or gels that are applied at the base of your kitten's neck. Because topical flea medications are pesticides, it's very important to follow the manufacturer's directions carefully and only use products labeled for use on kittens. Topical flea treatment meant for dogs can be toxic to cats.
Frontline and Advantage are two popular brands that can be used on kittens as least eight weeks old. Revolution is a newer product that can be used in kittens as young as six weeks.
Alternative Flea Treatments
If you can easily spot fleas on your kitten, it is likely she has a serious infestation. If your kitten weighs at least 2 pounds, you can give her a Capstar pill. These pills kill all living fleas on the kitten and can provide your kitten relief within the first few hours after the medication is administered. Capstar does not prevent re-infestation or kill eggs and larvae, but when used simultaneously with bathing, combing and treating the environment it can be an effective tool.
Flea shampoos and flea combs are effective for removing adult fleas from your kitten's fur, but they do not prevent re-infestation. If your kitten is too young to use a topical flea treatment or Capstar, consult your veterinarian before using any products that claim to kill fleas.
Treating the Environment
Removing flea infestations is a two-part commitment. Your kitten and the kitten's environment must be treated simultaneously to prevent re-infestation. A professional exterminator can treat your house and yard with pesticides that are safe for both humans and pets. Your kitten's bedding should be washed weekly, and the floors vacuumed after being treated to remove flea eggs. Remember to throw away the vacuum bag afterwards, or the flea eggs can hatch inside the vacuum cleaner and start the cycle over again.
Fleas live on their host and survive by drinking the host's blood. In large, healthy animals this may cause itching, but in small kittens it can cause flea anemia. A kitten is considered anemic when 25 percent of his red blood cells are depleted.
If your kitten is acting different, appears weak, loses his appetite and sleeps more than normal, he may be showing signs of anemia. In severe cases, his fur may look dull, he may lose weight and his gums may appear pale. If you notice any of these warning signs, let your veterinarian know right away. Flea anemia in kittens can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Avoid using any flea products that claim to be "all natural" unless they are recommended by your veterinarian. Many of these products are not regulated and can cause serious side-effects in kittens, ranging from drooling to seizures.
- University of Minnesota: Flea Control
- Cornell University College of Veterinarian Medicine Fleas: A Source of Torment for your Cat
- UC Davis: Veterinarian Medicine: Fleas
- Feline Insight: Flea-Related Ailments in Cats
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign- Study Raises Concerns About “Natural” Flea Products
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