My Dog Has Fleas: How to Choose the Right Flea and Tick Treatment for Dogs
“My dog has fleas!”
Nobody wants to come to that conclusion.
If your dog has fleas, you can opt for spot-on medications, pills, flea collars and more. Prevention is the best approach, and luckily, many of the same products used to eliminate these infestations can be used to prevent future outbreaks.
So, how do you choose the best flea treatment for dogs? What do you need to know when considering topical vs. oral flea treatments? Let’s examine the various options. And remember: It’s always best to talk with your veterinarian before deciding which treatment to use for your dog and home.
Oral Medications to Treat Fleas and Ticks on Dogs
There are many oral dog flea and tick treatments on the market. Oral flea treatments come in pill form and chewable tablets.
While they use different main ingredients, they all work by entering your canine’s bloodstream and killing the flea and ticks that bite your pup. And because the medicine is in your pet’s bloodstream, there is no risk of it being washed off in a bath or if your dog goes for a swim.
Capstar flea tablets, for example, are formulated to efficiently knock out adult fleas residing on your dog. They contain a chemical called Nitenpyram that attacks a flea’s nervous system once it bites your pup. The tablets provide your pet relief within the first few hours of ingesting it and leaves your dog’s system within 24 hours, according to the company.
However, “the bug must actually bite the pet to die,” says Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York.
This means that oral medications are not as effective at killing the larvae and flea eggs, so veterinarians frequently recommend oral flea treatments for dogs as a preventive or as part of a multipronged flea infestation treatment plan.
Topical Tick and Flea Treatments for Dogs
Topical treatments for killing ticks and fleas on dogs are another option. There are few different types of topical treatments, including spot-on medications, shampoos, dips and powders.
Spot-on treatments are applied directory to your pet’s skin where they are then absorbed.
While you do need to avoid getting your pet wet after application, many of the topical flea and tick treatment options contain ingredients that kill both adult fleas and ticks on dogs and exterminate the larvae and eggs left by the fleas.
Topical treatments also are easy to apply; simply squeeze the solution from the plastic tube onto the skin between your pup’s shoulder blades once a month. It’s important to part the fur so the solution reaches your dog’s skin, not just the fur. Frontline and K9 Advantix II are popular choices in topical treatments.
Shampoos and Dips
Flea shampoos are specially medicated to kill fleas and/or ticks on dogs. Generally, they kill adult fleas and ticks on contact. They are not necessarily designed for lasting control against infestation. Some, like Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor, also kill eggs.
Flea dips are concentrated solutions that, in general, you massage into to your dog’s skin and don’t rinse off. Most commercial flea dips contain pyrethrin, an insecticide that comes from the flowers of chrysanthemum plants. Be sure to use only as directed for safety reasons.
Flea and Tick Powder
Flea and tick powder is a dry alternative to topical pest control products. You sprinkle the powder over your dog’s body and rub it into their hair. Some, like TropiClean’s Natural Flea & Tick powder, can also be used on carpeting and upholstery.
Other Flea and Tick Control Products
Flea and Tick Collars
Flea and tick collars are placed around the neck and work one of two ways:
- Emitting a toxic gas that kills or repels fleas around the neck area
- Releasing ingredients that are absorbed and spread through the skin, similar to how spot-ons work
Some collars last for up to eight months, like Bayer’s Seresto collar for large dogs. Some come with IGR, or Insect Growth Regulator, to prevent flea egg and flea larval development as well.
If you’re lucky enough to find the pests early, a flea comb can do the trick. A double row flea comb does double the work to make sure you get all the fleas hiding on your dog. Avoid spreading fleas inside your home by combing your dog outdoors. To ensure effectiveness, make sure the comb reaches your pup’s skin and comb down and then outward and away from the dog.
Once the flea comb starts pulling up fleas, use a small bowl of hot water (70 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit) and rinse the comb out in the water after each stroke. You can add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or dishwashing liquid in the water to immobilize and kill the fleas.
Prevent Future Flea and Tick Infestations in Your Home
Once you have cleared your pet (and home of the infestation), you’ll want to make sure to prevent future flea visits.
Keep yards clear of debris and put all leaf piles, grass and gardening refuse in bags. Animals love to roll in these piles and pick up a pest or two.
Humans also can bring fleas and ticks into the house after an outdoor jaunt or stint in the garden, so use caution with yourself, as well. Rinse your Wellies or gardening shoes with a hose before entering the house — or better yet, leave them on the porch or in the mudroom.
Wash your pet’s bedding frequently and be fastidious about vacuuming the carpets and furniture that your dogs lounge on.
Pet ownership brings us joy and love. And taking care of them is a responsibility we must take seriously. Prevention is the most important step in making flea and tick season manageable, and maintaining a clean home helps keeps fleas from returning and setting up residence on your beloved pup.
Jasmine Chang has been a New York City-based fashion editor and consultant for over 25 years. She adores dogs because of their authenticity and the fact that they never judge what people wear. She lives in Brooklyn with her very spoiled Frenchie, Harry.