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Capstar Flea Control for Dogs and Cats

Updated on September 12, 2009

Capstar is probably the most under-rated flea control product on the market. Chances are, if you're like most pet owners you've never even heard of it. Capstar is not quite as popular as other flea control products such as Frontline Plus, Advantage, and Revolution. However, Capstar can be a valuable weapon in your arsenal of tools when trying to get rid of fleas on your dog or cat.

Unlike topical and spot-on flea products, Capstar is a tiny pill which is administered orally. Capstar can be given to dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens as long as they are 4 weeks or older and weigh more than 2 pounds. Capstar is also safe for pregnant or nursing animals. One of the greatest benefits of using Capstar over other flea control products is its quick reaction time. It begins to kill adult fleas in 30 minutes. This can provide great relief to an animal that is suffering from a severe flea infestation. In fact, whenever we have a lost or stray animal come into our clinic or see a pet with fleas during an exam, the first thing we reach for is Capstar. Many veterinarians also use Capstar to treat maggot infestations but the product has not be labeled for such use by the manufacturer (at least not yet).

Have You Ever Used Capstar?

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How Does Capstar Kill Fleas?

The main ingredient in Capstar is nitenpyram which belongs to the chemical class of neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids work by blocking the ability of messages to transmit through the central nervous system of insects, causing death. Unlike some ingredients found in over-the-counter flea medications, nitenpyram is not toxic to mammals. There are two sizes of Capstar available for purchase: one for pets between 2 and 25 pounds and another for pets between 25 and 125 pounds.

Although Capstar is very effective at killing adult fleas, it doesn't last very long. While most studies indicate that over 90% of adult fleas are killed within 4-6 hours of administration, there is a high chance for re-infestation. One of the reasons why fleas are such a problem is because of their ability to reproduce so quickly. While Capstar can safely be given as often as once per day, this can soon become expensive. For long term flea control and prevention, it's usually best to use Capstar in combination with other flea preventatives such as Fronline Plus or Program which target other stages of the flea life cycle.

In effective way to kill adult fleas and prevent future flea populations from emerging is to use Capstar in combination with Program or Sentinel. Program (lufenuron) is basically birth control medication for fleas. While it does not kill adult fleas, it prevents them from reproducing. This makes it a good product to use in conjunction with Capstar which kills adult fleas. Sentinel is a product that contains lufenuron as well as another active ingredient, milbemycin oxime, which is used as a heartworm preventative.

Because of their tough cocoons, flea pupae are nearly indestructible. They will only emerge if a host is detected via vibrations or CO2 emissions.
Because of their tough cocoons, flea pupae are nearly indestructible. They will only emerge if a host is detected via vibrations or CO2 emissions.

Beware of Pupae!

THERE IS NO PRODUCT ON THE MARKET THAT KILLS FLEA PUPAE. Because of their protective cocoons, flea pupae are nearly indestructible. They are completely unaffected by household insecticides. One study that came out of Ohio State University found that vacuuming kills 100% of pupae. However, getting 100% of the pupae into your vacuum is a different story. You will never get all of them.

In addition to pupae there are other stages of the flea life cycle living in your pet's environment (your home) including eggs and larvae. Therefore, it can take up to 3 months to get rid of a severe flea infestation. Since flea pupae are protected by their cocoons, unless you successfully suck them up in your vacuum eventually they will all hatch out as adults and land on your pet. Depending on environmental conditions, it can take several weeks for all pupae to hatch!



Why Use Capstar Instead of Frontline Plus?

You might be asking why someone would want to use Capstar when Frontline Plus is available which kills adult fleas and also prevents fleas from reproducing. When it comes to killing adult fleas, Capstar works more quickly. While it can take 12 hours to kill 100% of fleas with Frontline, Capstar can do the same thing in half the time. Also, Capstar can be used on puppies and kittens 4 weeks of age, while Frontline is only approved for puppies and kittens 8 weeks of age and older. There are also some pet owners who have concerns about using topical and spot-on flea products.

Does Capstar Have Any Side Effects?

Owners may notice an increase in scratching and grooming behavior shortly following treatment with Capstar. This is actually a sign that the product is working. Shortly before dying and falling off the pet, the fleas become agitated and exhibit a heightened level of activity. Usually this will subside within a period of an hour or less, and the pet will become more at ease and comfortable.

It is also safe to use Capstar in combination with any other medications your veterinary may prescribe such as heartworm preventative, antibiotics, dewormers, and anti-inflammatories. If you're not sure about using Capstar or have additional concerns you should consult with your veterinarian.

Below is a video that demonstrates what your pet might experience. The owner states, "Somehow Moose managed to get fleas. The vet recommended Capstar. Within 30 minutes the fleas started running to the surface of his fur and abandoning ship. During this time Moose was going crazy and trying to groom himself as the fleas ran across his body. After about 25 minutes of that he passed out and has been more relaxed than he has been all weekend. Capstar is a solid product and I would highly recommend it."

Use Capstar to kill adult fleas and Program to prevent the development of flea eggs and larvae to break the life cycle.
Use Capstar to kill adult fleas and Program to prevent the development of flea eggs and larvae to break the life cycle.

Where Can I Purchase Capstar?

You don't need a prescription to purchase Capstar. However, the manufacturer, Novartis, states that they only sell their products to licensed veterinarians. If you choose to purchase Capstar from an online retailer you should be aware that any product warranties or guarantees will be null and void. Novartis will only stand behind their products if they are purchased through approved veterinary channels. There is no control over how the products are stored or shipped. Many pet owners also receive expired products.

If you want to save some money, many veterinarians will match prices of some of the larger online retailers, such as PetMeds. I have a feeling that the longer consumers continue to shop for cheap flea medication online that the majority of veterinarians will respond accordingly and lower their prices. Either way, veterinarians are certainly more knowledgeable about fleas and flea control products than online retailers and I hope consumers are willing to pay at least a little extra to have access to this large body of knowledge and higher level of customer service.

Are You Dealing With a Severe Flea Infestation?

If you're dealing with a serious flea problem I would recommend giving all the pets in your household a Capstar tablet twice per week (every 3-4 days) until adult fleas are no longer seen. In addition to Capstar, I would also recommend using either Frontline Plus or lufenuron (in the form of Program or Sentinel) every 30 days for 3 consecutive months. For extra protection, vacuum all carpets, bedding, and flooring every 2 days for at least a month.

Follow this advice and you won't need to bother with chemical foggers and flea bombs or hire expensive companies to come out and treat your home. Also, be sure to check with a veterinarian before beginning treatment. This article shouldn't be used as a substitute for their professional opinion.


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      Nancy ferguson 3 years ago

      My Pom has recently been diagnosed with seizure disorder, and on zonisamide mess. Is it safe to use capstar combined with sentinel. As sentinel is the only flea treatment the vet approves for him?

    • profile image

      Matt M. 5 years ago

      The only concern i have now is if any flea eggs got into my carpet, hopefully they come out with a CapCarpet product soon =P

    • profile image

      Matt M. 5 years ago

      Hey guys, i accidentally came across this product when i was desperately searching for a "cure for flees" for my cat and dog. I have bought so far 1 pack of Capstar for my cat for a test for only $20.

      I have to admit i have never seen anything work so fast. The cat was laying on our couch, only for me to be disgusted when i seen all the dead fleas that have fell off her on that spot. I cleaned it up of course, but holy sh!t i love this product. Nuff said.

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      Jo Mills 5 years ago

      Advantage nearly killed my dog. All you really need to know is what's in these 'treatments'. They are poison. The labels tell you to NEVER TOUCH the liquid they have you pour on your dog or cats neck. The same cat or dog you sleep with and kiss and hug. That poison is not only toxic to your animal, it's toxic to you and your family. Use all natural products such as dietematious earth and vacuuming often.

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      Mary 5 years ago

      There have been some adverse reactions post-approval of Capstar. Check Novartis page for the information. There are things to watch for in using this product. Nothing is completely safe when it comes right down to it. This product may be safer than others, but there are still some issues.

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      Ron 5 years ago

      Great hub, looking forward to come back and fascinted by your posts. Thank you.

      Ron from Fitness

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      lisa 5 years ago

      I had a problem with using topical flea agents on my cat. She became ill from an application once and cost me over $800 at an animal emergency room. I was told by the Emergency vet that dawn dish liquid is the safest thing to use on cats. I've been bathing my cat in it ever since that unfortunate event and she has never had any skin sensitivity or reaction. It is very safe for cats.

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      Russ 5 years ago

      Do not use flippin DAWN DISH SOAP on your cats. Man I hate this thing with all of the internet users giving out stupida** information. Your cats' skin is extremely sensitive. Never use DOG products on a cat and - wow - never use DAWN - it is made to cut GREASE off of dishes. See your vet foe help - not the idiots online!

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      beaglelover 5 years ago

      Unfortunately comfortis is only available through the vet with a prescription - but it works great!

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      vikinggirl68 6 years ago

      It works just as it claims it does!! What a great product! My cat went crazy itching and grooming shortly after giving her the capstar...then she was calm and so much more comfortable!!

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      Serena Zehlius 6 years ago from Hanover, PA

      We use Capstar everyday at the emergency hospital! Great stuff. Thanks for sharing!

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      Misbjean 7 years ago

      Capstar is amazing!! I am currently dealing with a severe flea infestation,every time we use Capstar it gives our three cats a break from itching and biting for a day. It is a great way to provide relief to cats. Also, we bought BioSpot a month ago, and it DID NOT WORK, NO FLEAS DIED. We just bought Frontline from our vet so we will use that in conjuction with the Capstar! I highly recommend Capstar!

    • Vicki.Pierce profile image

      Susan Ungrey 7 years ago from Grand Rapids, Michigan

      Very informational! : )

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      cory 7 years ago

      just used capstar wathced the adult fleas fall off almost immediately but what do you do with the larve,and the eggs help please

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      Lisa  7 years ago

      Comfortis is also a great oral flea control. Thanks for raising the important issue of flea prevention! I don't like being bitten by parasites, so why should I allow my dog to be bitten.

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      Gardenwife 7 years ago

      Thanks for posting the ratio of Dawn to water. I've been vacuuming the bedding and furniture regularly, but this will help us further. We have four dogs and two cats...and lots of fleas. I have Knockout ES spray coming next week, but in the meantime, perhaps the Dawn will help a bit.

      By the way, my vet said fleas are building up immunity to some products, including Frontline. The company will not admit this, but the vet has talked to many clients who say it worked for years, but their pets are now crawling with fleas even with regular use of Frontline.

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      me  7 years ago

      use dawn dishsoap and water in a spray bottle, 1 part dawn 10 parts water.My Vet told me to do this and it works! Put in a new spray bottle, bottle not used with any other chemical. You can purchase spray bottle a store, home depo or Lowes. Spray everything, furniture carpet, bedding. The dawn eats the outter shell of the fleas and the flea dies. Bath your cat in dawn and warm water, use very little squirt as this dawn dishsoap in very very sudy. Just dont get in kittis eyes.. hope this helps

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      Lee 7 years ago

      Capstar is good and works. My Vet's wife told me that apparently there is to be a montly form of it released shortly(nor sure if it's by the makers of capstar though) I've been trying to get rid of fleas on my 2 cats for ONE YEAR now :-( I have spent hundereds of dollars on Frontline plus, Revolution, Advantage, Capstar, Carpet sprays and even bought a $700 Dyson Cyclonic vacuum...all to no avail. I really don't know what to do any more. While the capstar works, I then Frontline P them, but within days they're crawling in huge big fleas again (they are indoor cats and there is no carpet infestation. the only fleas to be seen are on the cat) There's only one thing left to do which I really don't want to and that's put them both down because they're at their wits end too. One cat is covered in sores.In the last 8 days I've fronlined them 3 times and capstared once. In the last year not 3 weeks has gone by without my treating them with frontline plus or program. All for nothing

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      johnstoc 7 years ago

      this stuff is amazing!!! within no more then 30 mins you could see the fleas dying, just like amandak says... I really wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes

    • amandakjones profile image

      amandakjones 8 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks EE! Yes it's really quite amazing to watch the fleas die and fall off the pet. It provides instant relief when an animal is really suffering!

    • Eternal Evolution profile image

      Eternal Evolution 8 years ago from kentucky

      I have heard of this before but not yet used it. It sounds worthy of a try. Great Hub!