Flea control for Kittens - A Guide to Treating Fleas on Kittens.



There are a range of flea control products available for treating fleas on kittens. This page provides a basic overview of the flea control products available for the different kitten age groups and is supplementary to my more detailed pages on individual flea control products (e.g. Program, Capstar, Advantage, Revolution) and my very detailed page on flea control and prevention. I recommend you read my flea control page if your kittens have a flea problem as just treating the kittens themselves may not be enough (you may have to treat the home environment and other pets in the household if you are to completely eradicate your house flea problem).

This 'treating fleas on kittens' page features only the safest and most effective of the commercially-available flea control products marketed for use in felines. I am not paid by any drug company to promote any of the flea control products mentioned below. I just know them to be safe and, for the most part, effective when used correctly and according to label directions.

Be aware that my site is Australia-based so certain overseas product formulations may not be mentioned even if they are wonderful at treating fleas on kittens.

In the interest of providing you with safe, effective flea control, you will not find mention of flea collars, flea rinses, flea soaps, flea powders or flea shampoos on this 'fleas on kittens' page. Whilst certain individual brands may be quite effective at killing fleas on kittens and providing flea prevention (when used correctly), some products may provide incomplete and non-continuous flea control (i.e. they may only kill fleas during the wash, but not in the days afterwards, necessitating frequent, repeated treatment) and some may contain ingredients that are highly toxic to cats and kittens (accidental, incorrect use of a dog flea collar on a cat, for example, could result in the paralysis and death of the cat). These products are also easily misused resulting in, at best, poor flea control, and, at worst, toxic side effects. As a vet, I don't tend to recommend them for treating fleas on kittens.



Fleas on Kittens



Treating fleas on kittens - Contents:

Flea Control For Kittens Product 1 - Advantage flea control (active ingredient - Imidacloprid).

Flea Treatment For Kittens Product 2 - Advocate flea control (active ingredients - Imidacloprid and Moxidectin).

Flea Control For Kittens Product 3 - Frontline flea spray and Frontline Plus spot-on (active ingredient is Fipronil +/- S-methoprene).

Controlling Fleas on Kittens Product 4 - Program flea control (active ingredient - Lufenuron).

Flea Treatment For Kittens Product 5 - Revolution flea control (active ingredient - Selamectin).

Flea Control For Kittens Product 6 - Capstar flea medication (active ingredient - Nitenpyram).

Case examples - What can I treat this kitten with!?

When buying a kitten - don't bring fleas home with you.

READ LABELS CAREFULLY. Do not accidentally poison your kitten with the wrong flea control product!



Fleas on Kittens



Flea Control For Kittens Product 1 - Advantage flea control (active ingredient - Imidacloprid).

Advantage is a spot-on flea control product designed to kill adult fleas and their larvae for a full month after application.

According to the manufacturer, Advantage flea control can be used to treat fleas on kittens from the time of weaning (6 weeks) onwards. The product is given monthly as a spot-on (topical) treatment.

Advantage flea control is apparently safe to administer to kittens (tiny doses) from only a few days old, however, because kittens this age are normally still feeding on their mother, the manufacturer recommends not treating the unweaned kittens individually (since accidental overdose could potentially result in toxicity), but instead treating the mother cat (queen) only. The Advantage flea control solution will distribute from the coat of the mother to her unweaned kittens, thereby protecting them from flea infestation.

To go from this treating fleas on kittens page to my complete page on Imidacloprid (with emphasis on Advantage flea control), click here.



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Flea Treatment For Kittens Product 2 - Advocate flea control (active ingredients - Imidacloprid and Moxidectin).

Advocate flea control contains the same active ingredient as Advantage flea control: Imidacloprid. It also contains another potent antiparasitic drug (Moxidectin), which is designed to protect cats, both young and old, against a range of mites (including ear mites) and worms (including heartworms and various gastrointestinal nematodes). Advocate can be used to treat fleas on kittens from 9 weeks of age.

Advocate is a spot-on flea control product designed to kill adult fleas and their larvae for a full month after application. It is given monthly for ongoing flea control.



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Flea Control For Kittens Product 3 - Frontline flea spray and Frontline Plus spot-on (active ingredient is Fipronil +/- S-methoprene).

Frontline is a topical flea control product (applied to the coat) designed to kill adult fleas for a full month after application.

There are two fipronil-based products marketed for use against fleas on kittens. These are Frontline Plus Spot-on and Frontline Spray. Aside from killing adult fleas, the Frontline Plus spot-on also contains an insect growth inhibitor called S-methoprene which is designed to prevent flea eggs from hatching and flea larvae from developing. Depending on which product you choose, the age of the kittens that can be treated varies somewhat.

Frontline Plus Spot-on:
According to the manufacturer, Frontline Plus Spot-on flea control can be used to treat lice and fleas on kittens from 8 weeks of age onward. The product is given monthly as a spot-on (topical) treatment for the prevention of fleas on kittens and adult cats. It is also safe to use on breeding, pregnant and lactating queens (you can apply it to a queen even if she is nursing young kittens, just don't put it directly on the individual kittens - use Frontline Spray to treat the fleas on kittens instead).

Author's note: Do not use the Frontline Spot-on to treat or prevent ticks in cats. The manufacturer recommends the Frontline Spray be given at 3-weekly intervals to prevent ticks in cats (e.g. to prevent tick paralysis).



Frontline Spray:
According to the manufacturer, Frontline Spray can be used to treat fleas on kittens from 2 days of age onward. The product is given monthly to 8-weekly (the spray-on formulation is thought to exert its activity for up to 2 months in cats and 3 months in dogs) as a spray-on treatment for the prevention of fleas in cats. It is also safe to use on breeding, pregnant and lactating queens.

Although the spray-on product can be used on older kittens and adult cats, most people tend to use the spot-on product once a cat is over 8 weeks old. The spray is generally reserved for kittens under the age of 8 weeks and for cats needing tick prevention. The reason for this is that Frontline Spray can be a tad messy and unpleasant and fiddly to apply. The animal has to be coated all over with the spray product (5 separate body sites) and you have to calculate the number of sprays (dose rate) carefully and apply the product over the entire coat to the level of the skin (so that the whole animal is damp with it) and so on. It is far trickier to use than a simple, one-site, spot-on application. The product also needs to be applied in a well-ventilated area (you shouldn't breathe it in) and you need to wear gloves.

Merial (Frontline manufacturer) has a neat calculator to help you work out how much spray to put on your cat.
http://www.frontlineplus.com.au/kitten_smitten/cats_calculator.asp

Be aware that different size Frontline Spray bottles deliver a different dosage. The 100ml bottle delivers 0.5ml of flea solution per spray, whereas the 250ml and 500ml bottles deliver 1.5ml per spray. You need to work out the correct dose (number of sprays needed) based on the size of the bottle. With tiny kittens, most of my customers purchase the 100ml bottle which delivers smaller doses per spray and thus achieves more accuracy of dosing.

Merial also has a sheet on how to apply the spray - the five zones of the body that must be covered.
http://www.frontlineplus.com.au/media/pdf/fl_spray_app_guide.pdf

Another Merial guide to using Frontline Spray.
http://www.frontlineplus.com.au/kitten_smitten/cats_apply_frontline_spray.asp



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Controlling Fleas on Kittens Product 4 - Program flea control (active ingredient - Lufenuron).

Cats over 6 weeks of age can be treated with Program flea treatment (i.e. weaned kittens). Please be aware that Program (Lufenuron) is only designed to inhibit flea egg hatching and larval development in the home environment (by breaking the flea life cycle, total environmental flea control is eventually ensured). The product will not actively kill adult fleas running around on your kittens and so this product is often used in conjunction with one of the other products mentioned on this page to achieve an environmental flea control effect as well as an adult-flea-killing effect.

Program inhibits flea egg development for a full month after dosing. It is given monthly as an oral tablet to help in the control of fleas on kittens.

To go from this treating fleas on kittens page to my complete page on Program flea control, click here.



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Flea Treatment For Kittens Product 5 - Revolution flea control (active ingredient - Selamectin).

Revolution is a spot-on flea control product designed to kill adult fleas, their eggs and their larvae for a full month after application.

Revolution should only be used to treat fleas on kittens from 8 weeks of age.

The reason for this is safety. The blood-brain barrier is weaker in young animals than in juvenile and adult animals and less capable of excluding drugs like selamectin from the brain. If Revolution is given to such animals (animals under 8 weeks of age), the Selamectin active ingredient can accidentally cross into the brain of the treated baby animal, resulting in signs of toxicity. Pfizer's own literature gives an example of an underage kitten that died from the improper application of Revolution flea control: "A kitten, estimated to be 5-6 weeks old (0.3 kg), died 8.5 hours after receiving a single treatment of REVOLUTION at the recommended dosage. The kitten displayed clinical signs which included muscle spasms, salivation and neurological signs. The kitten was a stray with an unknown history and was malnourished and underweight." It should be noted that the underweight condition of the animal may have also contributed to its death, not just its age.

The manufacturer advises that the product not be used in debilitated, sick or badly underweight animals. Therefore, kittens severely debilitated by worms, malnutrition and severe flea-induced anaemia might not be best treated with this product until they are a bit stronger.

The product is considered safe to use in breeding animals that are pregnant or lactating or that are about to be bred from. You can use Revolution flea control on a queen that has unweaned (<6 weeks old) offspring nursing off her. Just don't apply the product directly to those young, unweaned animals.

Safety studies (Pfizer literature) have been done giving 6-week old kittens a topical dose of Selamectin that was 10x the dose normally given to such animals (i.e. 60mg/kg instead of 6mg/kg). No adverse effects were noted.

A 2000 study published in Veterinary Parasitology in August looked at a wide range of safety aspects associated with the use of Selamectin in cats and kittens. The study looked at topical side effects, oral side effects (mimicking an ingestion event), Selamectin use on pregnant and lactating animals, Selamectin safety in animals already infested with heartworms and so on. Signs of toxicity were not just evaluated looking at external, clinical signs of poisoning (e.g. tremors, drooling, vomiting), but animals were also assessed using blood tests, histopathological examination of internal tissues (looking for microscopic evidence of damage) and, in breeding animals, by looking at reproductive indices (e.g. litter size, fertility and so on). With regard to age, cats were dosed from 6 weeks of age (though the recommendation is to start them on Revolution from 8 weeks) and the study abstract comments: "Cats received large doses of selamectin at the beginning of the margin of safety study when they were six weeks of age and at their lowest body weight, yet displayed no clinical or pathologic evidence of toxicosis" and concludes by saying: "Selamectin is a broad-spectrum avermectin endectocide that is safe for use in cats starting at six weeks of age, including heartworm-infected cats and cats of reproducing age, when administered topically to the skin monthly at the recommended dosage to deliver at least 6mgkg."

Another 2000 article in Veterinary Parasitology examined the effectiveness and safety of Revolution flea control when used against both fleas and heartworms. Study animals were dosed with Selamectin (Revolution for pets) as per the label dosing regimen (6mg/kg topically every 30 days) for 2 months (days 0, 30 and 60). Just over 1000 animals (dogs and cats) were studied in this test, ranging from 6 weeks to 19 years of age and no serious adverse reactions were seen.

To go from this treating fleas on kittens page to my complete page on Selamectin (Revolution flea control), click here.



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Flea Control For Kittens Product 6 - Capstar flea medication (active ingredient - Nitenpyram).

If you want a super fast flea knock-down product (all fleas dead within hours), Capstar is an excellent choice. The product doesn't exert its effect for long (24-48 hours maximum), making it a less common choice for ongoing flea control, but it will take care of large populations of fleas on kittens really fast (giving time for your monthly spot-on flea treatments to take effect). You will literally start to see fleas falling off your kittens within the hour.

Do pay close attention to the weight of your kittens if thinking of using Capstar as a fast-knockdown for their fleas. Although the product directions state that a cat must be over 4 weeks of age before it can be treated with Capstar flea control pills, the manufacturer also states that treated animals (dogs or cats) must be over 2 pounds (900g) in body-weight before the pills should be given. Most kittens do not achieve 2 pounds in bodyweight until they are at least 8-9 weeks of age, so, even though the label says the tablets can be given from 4 weeks of age, you wouldn't be likely to dose kittens with Capstar flea control pills until they were around 8-9 weeks of age (and even then, only if they had attained over 900g in weight).

Basically, make sure you weigh any kitten to ensure that it is over 2 pounds or 900g in bodyweight before giving it Capstar.

Super important note: The Capstar flea control packet and information sheets state that Capstar flea control pills are "safe for use in dogs and cats, puppies and kittens 2 pounds of body weight or greater and 4 weeks of age and older." Over the years, reports by owners of adverse effects have shown that this may no longer be quite the case and Novartis, as a responsible company, has since issued an update on the safety of Capstar flea control pills. The information can be found at: http://www.capstarpet.com/pdf/Dear_Doctor.pdf

I would advise you to read it before giving your pet Capstar flea medication.

The adverse effects information contained in the above link states that serious side effects, including seizures, neurological signs and even death, are most commonly seen in animals below 2 pounds of weight and in those animals less than 8 weeks old and/or those in poor condition (e.g. thin, sickly animals).

Many of the adverse effects reported in dogs and cats following the administration of Capstar flea medication are excitatory effects including: hyperactivity, panting, nervousness, fever, vocalisation and an increased heart rate. In extreme cases, these excitatory effects have tipped over into marked gastrointestinal effects (vomiting, decreased appetite, diarrhea, salivation) and moderate to severe neurological signs (difficulty breathing, incoordination, seizures, trembling, pupil dilation), some of which have the potential to result in death (e.g. seizures). Allergic reactions have also been described, manifesting as: hypersalivation, fever, hives, swollen or puffy eyes, itching and redness. In seeming contrast, some animals have shown signs of depression and lethargy, rather than excitation, when given Capstar flea medication.

Birth defects and the loss of unborn puppies and kittens have been reported following the administration of Capstar flea medication to pregnant animals. Newborn puppies and kittens (neonates) have also been reported to die following the administration of Capstar flea medication to lactating animals. Although these effects are not guaranteed to have been caused by Capstar (many factors can cause pregnancy loss and the death of delicate neonatal animals), the company recommends exercising caution with the product in pregnant and lactating animals.

Novartis, like all responsible drug companies, wants to know about any observed side effects. Pet owners are encouraged to report suspected side effects (most drug side effects are never known about because most pet owners never report them).

If you suspect a Capstar related side effect or adverse drug event, you can call Novartis Animal Health on 1-800-637-0281 or the FDA on 1-800-FDA-VETS.

You can also report issues with Capstar flea medication online at http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm055305.htm

To go from this treating fleas on kittens page to my complete page on Nitenpyram (Capstar flea control), click here.



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Case examples - What can I treat this kitten with!?

1) I just found a tiny kitten all on its own! It is only a few days old and covered in fleas. What should I use?
This is a kitten you will probably have to take to a vet first to see if it is healthy and viable and to get advice on bottle-feeding, however, with regard to the fleas, this is a job for Frontline Spray (probably the 100ml bottle). It can be used from 2 days of age. Follow the label directions carefully to ensure you dose the kitten correctly and reach all the places on the body where fleas could hide.




2) I just got given a handsome kitten straight off its mother. It's only just weaned. It has fleas though. What should I use?
Generally, kittens are weaned at around 6 weeks of age, though some people allow their kittens to stay with their mother until they are 8 weeks of age. If you are at all unsure of the birth date of your newly-weaned kitten, it is safer to assume the kitten is younger rather than older and choose a product that can be used in 6 week old kittens. Advantage spot-on would be fine as would Frontline Spray (but not Frontline Spot-on). You could also start the pet on Program flea control at this point too, since it is also safe at 6 weeks (it won't kill adult fleas though so you will still need to give the Advantage or Frontline Spray).

I wouldn't use Capstar in such a kitten until it is 900g or more in weight. Most weaned kittens aren't this heavy, even though they are more than 4 weeks old.


3) I just got given an 8 week old kitten. What should I use to prevent fleas?
Weigh the kitten. If it is over 900g and already has fleas, you can give the animal a dose of Capstar for its fast flea-kill effect and then follow up with a monthly spot-on product that kills adult fleas. Advantage spot-on would be fine as would Frontline Spray, Frontline Spot-on and Revolution (but not Advocate). You could also start the pet on Program flea control at this point too, since it is also safe from 6 weeks (it won't kill adult fleas though so you will still need to give a product that kills adult fleas.

If the kitten does not actually have fleas yet and you are just after a preventative, skip the Capstar and just give the kitten a monthly spot-on product that prevents/kills adult fleas. Advantage spot-on would be fine as would Frontline Spray, Frontline Spot-on and Revolution (but not Advocate). You could also start the pet on Program flea control at this point too.


4) What about a kitten that is 9 weeks and older?
Weigh the kitten. If it is over 900g and already has fleas, you can give the animal a dose of Capstar for its fast flea-kill effect and then follow up with a monthly spot-on product that kills adult fleas. Advantage spot-on would be fine as would Advocate, Frontline Spray, Frontline Spot-on and Revolution. You could also start the pet on Program flea control at this point too, since it is also safe from 6 weeks (it won't kill adult fleas though so you will still need to give a product that kills adult fleas).

If the kitten does not actually have fleas yet and you are just after a preventative, skip the Capstar and just give the kitten a monthly spot-on product that prevents/kills adult fleas. Advantage spot-on would be fine as would Advocate, Frontline Spray, Frontline Spot-on and Revolution. You could also start the pet on Program flea control at this point too.


5) I have a queen with nursing babies. All of them have fleas. What do I use?
If the fleas are not too severe (just the occasional one running through the coat and very minor flea dirt), you could simply apply Advantage to the mother cat's coat. The product will diffuse to her kittens and kill the fleas on them also. You would need to keep an eye on the kittens' coats though to check the fleas are actually being killed (apply Frontline Spray to the kittens if the fleas are continuing to survive on them).

Alternatively, you could apply Advantage or Frontline spot-on or Frontline Spray to the mother cat's coat and then treat the babies individually with Frontline Spray. This is certainly what I would do if the kittens were severely flea-infested.