How old do kittens need to be for flea treatment?

Los Angeles veterinarian Dr. Barry Baum In Ask Dr. B column, discusses the relative safety of flea treatments for cats, in answering, 'How old do kittens need to be for flea treatment?'

Dear Dr. Baum —

Can small kittens (under 8 weeks) be bathed to get rid of fleas? We have an infestation and our kittens are miserable and too young to use flea products on. We bombed the affected part of the house but cats (2) are still crawling with the black fleas.

Is there a proper way to bathe cats? Do the same principals apply as to dogs? Thanks! Center Sinai has been our vet for our dog – the kittens are new arrivals.


Dear Kathleen —

Never hesitate to use a flea shampoo on young kittens. Any toxic potential of the shampoo is negated because there is only a brief contact between the shampoo and the kitten. When the shampoo is rinsed off, the insecticide is also removed. Thus, a flea shampoo has no residual effect for keeping fleas off. Avoid flea dips, sprays or powders as prolonged contact with these products can result in enough absorption to overwhelm a very young kitten’s ability to effectively remove it. I have used Advantage on kittens over four weeks when there are large infestations. Failure to control large flea infestations can result in enough blood loss in small kittens to necessitate therapeutic blood transfusions. I feel comfortable in using Advantage in kittens this young because this product is not absorbed in the body and thus does not need an exit strategy.

Dr. Baum


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