Feature story: Woodside's Bailey is now flea-free


By Kate Daly | Special to the Almanac

This story started with a very itchy dog in Woodside named Bailey who scratched at hairless hotspots for years. After multiple visits to the vet, and two rounds of prednisone and antibiotics, the underlying issue became clear: fleas had built up immunity to her flea preventative medication.

Bailey suffered from the most common skin problem for pets – fleabite allergic dermatitis, an allergic reaction to flea saliva. The advised solution: Try a new generation of flea control products containing different ingredients.

The happy ending is that the lab mix, at age 10, is finally flea-free. Hopefully sharing her experience will help other pets find relief.

Bailey used to be on a monthly regimen of Frontline Plus, a topical treatment that claims, "Kills fleas, flea eggs and larvae, ticks, and chewing lice."

The liquid product is squirted on the back of the neck. Three applications retail for around $40 (that varies depending on the size of the dog).

When Dr. William St. Lawrence examined Bailey at Portola Valley Village Square Veterinary Hospital, he said he had observed some over-the-counter topicals not killing fleas any more.

He suggested switching to oral medications, either a chewable called Nexgard that lasts 30 days, or another one named Bravecto that lasts 90 days. Both medications require prescriptions and claim the same outcome, "Kills fleas and ticks.", the online animal supply website, lists Nexgard at $57.99 for three, and $39.99 for one dose of Bravecto.

For Bailey, Bravecto proved to be the winning formula.

For cats he recommended a prescription for Comfortis, a monthly chewable whose packaging claims, "Kills fleas and infestations." Prices start at $89.99 for a six-pack.

His colleague Dr. Jessica Christiansen, advises her cat clients to try Revolution, too. The topical prescription is designed to provide a month's protection against heartworm, roundworms, hookworms, fleas and ear mites. It runs $52.99 for a three-pack.

She also suggests using cat and dog Seresto collars for up to eight months of flea and tick protection. They are available over the counter for $44.99 each.

India Vannini, staff doctor at Peninsula Pet Hospital in Menlo Park, recommends using Revolution, as well, but cautions, "I don't think the collars ever worked."

"In flea wars we're finding a lot of resistance, more like desensitivity over time ... involving a mutation in the gene where the hearty ones are the only ones that have multiplied. I think it'll happen every decade or so in California," she said.

She believes this area's dry, warm weather has made the flea problem worse over the last two years because populations don't die off unless temperatures drop below freezing for a while.

"Frontline and Advantage are the ones we're seeing not working," she said, in addition to the "cheaper products" at Costco.

A spot check showed the latter are no longer on the shelves at the Redwood City store.

A nurse at Mid-Peninsula Animal Hospital in Menlo Park confirmed what the other practices have noticed. "We are finding the fleas more resistant to topicals," she said, and then she talked about "lots of new oral medications" on the market.

That hospital's blog warns fleas are a year-round problem on the Peninsula, and that one female flea can lay about 2,000 eggs in her lifetime.

Just one flea bite can lead to suffering such as Bailey has experienced. Lucky for her, her condition has vastly improved, but note this article is NOT a product endorsement.

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