Choosing a proper flea medication for kittens is crucial for their health. The wrong medication can kill them, but so can the fleas. Kittens are delicate, have a limited blood supply and easily lose too much blood, causing potentially fatal anemia. In fact, anemia from fleas is the leading cause of death for kittens. There are safe methods of treatment, however, for these young animals.
Kittens Under 8 Weeks
The recommended way to rid kittens eight weeks and younger of fleas is by using dish soap or baby shampoo. Kittens this young are in danger of suffering toxic or deadly overdoses from the chemicals in commercial flea products, so bathing is the safest method. VetInfo instructs caregivers of a flea-ridden kittens to bathe her in a few inches of warm water, wetting the fur before applying the soap or shampoo. Thoroughly massage the soap into the fur, picking off fleas that run for the eyes, ears and nose regions by using a pair of tweezers, crushing them and drowning the parasites in the bath water. Dry the kitten with a warm towel and pick off any remaining fleas with a flea comb. Follow up by combing the kitten's fur daily and and bathing her every few days until the fleas are gone.
Kittens older than eight weeks can use standard commercial flea medications. Frontline Plus is the most common flea medication prescribed by vets and kills both fleas and ticks. Its active ingredient is fipronil, which eliminates 100 percent of fleas in 12 hours, according to VetInfo. Frontline Plus comes in one dosage for cats and is applied once a month to the skin between the shoulder blades. This medication can be purchased at your vet's office in packets of three to six doses. Severe side effects are rare.
Advantage for Cats
Other commercial flea medications can be used for kittens eight weeks and older. Advantage is made by Bayer and comes in a package of one monthly dose or in packages of four to six monthly doses. Its active ingredient is imidacloprid, which attacks the nervous system of the flea, paralyzing and killing it. It stops biting fleas within five minutes, and in 20 minutes, 99 percent of flea larvae are dead, according to VetInfo. Advantage comes in two different dosages depending on the kitten's weight and is applied to the skin at the base of the skull. Severe side effects are rare.
Revolution is another option for kittens older than eight weeks. Revolution is made by Pfizer Animal Health and comes in a single monthly dose or in packs of three to six monthly doses. Its active ingredient is selamectin, which kills heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, ear mites and fleas. The medication is applied to the skin above the shoulder blades, where it then enters the blood stream to distribute to the skin and other tissues. Within 36 hours, 98 percent of fleas are dead, according to VetInfo. Revolution comes in two different dosages based on the cat's weight. Approximately 1 percent of animals given Revolution get an upset stomach; 1 percent might also have hair loss at the application site. Clumping hair and white residue where the medication is applied is fairly common and is temporary.
Flea Dips and Shampoos
Flea dips and flea shampoos cannot be used on kittens younger than eight weeks. After eight weeks of age, flea shampoos and dips should be fine for kittens.
If you visit your veterinarian, he might be able to prescribe a diluted version of a flea shampoo, but dilutions should only be used under a vet's instructions.