Leap over clients' flea control barriers

April 15, 2016
Ciera Sallese, CVT, VTS

Ciera Sallese is a CVT, VTS (Clinical practice), at Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pennsylvania.

Are your veterinary clients not buying flea preventives to protect their pets? You don't have to buy their excuses.

(Getty Images)“We don't have fleas in our neighborhood.”

“Fluffy is an inside dog.”

“I've never seen a flea on him.”

“I don't like using chemicals on myself or my pet.”

Most veterinary team members probably have a top 100 list of reasons owners have given them for not needing flea prevention for their pets. But what can we do? We can't force them to use it, and we know Fluffy won't be stopping in the office to buy it on his own. This is the roadblock most of us face when recommending products to an uninterested pet owner. Let's start with a few things we can let clients know that might just change their minds.

1. Not a commentary on your cleanliness

When we mention fleas, some pet owners think we mean that their house is less-than-clean and that can make them defensive. But even the cleanest home can be the target of a flea infestation. In fact, infestations usually start because the fleas were picked up outside of the home and brought inside unknowingly. If a pet has access to a yard, dog parks, nature areas or kennels, he is at risk of picking up these pesky hitchhikers who make the owner's home their next bed and breakfast.

2. The false protection of the home bubble

Many owners say their pets stay indoors and, therefore, are not at any risk of having a parasitic infection. We can laugh at the “indoor dog” claim, but many pet owners honestly believe it. Unless a dog strictly uses pee pads and never goes on a single trip outside a client's home, he really isn't an “inside” dog. And even if this is the case, an indoor pet (whether dog or cat), is still at risk for a flea infestation. The chance is obviously lower, but there's no such thing as zero risk.

3. “See no” does not mean “no worries”

Pet owners not seeing a flea on their pets is often a major contributor to their thinking flea products are not necessary. This is where it becomes very important for veterinary staff to refer to these products as flea prevention, not flea treatment. This distinction stresses the fact that these products should be used before a flea infestation is seen so that it stays that way. Unfortunately, a flea problem can manifest before a single flea is even seen on a pet.

In the case of cats, which are notorious for their fastidious grooming, fleas might never be seen at all. However, this doesn't change the statistics. A single adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, so it's easy to see how fast an infestation can start. Once an infestation is present, each pet must be treated along with the home and yard. A huge eye-opener for many pet owners is just knowing how much easier preventing fleas is than dealing with their consequences.

4. We can find a perfect match

Even though there are several choices available, pet owners can have one bad experience that turns them off all flea products in general. It's up to us to let them know the advantages and disadvantages of each product and find the one that is best for a pet.

For your clients who don't want to use a “greasy” topical, you can recommend an oral product instead. Many of these products are good for several months, so that's an upside for people who have a hard time remembering to apply the preventive monthly. Pets with sensitive stomachs would probably do better with the topical option. There are even products with active ingredients that affect only the parasites themselves and are never absorbed by the pet. In most situations, at least one product can fit the individual needs of the pet and their owner.

Ciera Miller is a CVT at Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pennsylvania.