Hot weather, barbecues and beach days are here in full force—and so are ticks on dogs and fleas on cats! Don’t let all the summer fun distract you from ramping up your plan to fight flea bites on dogs (and flea bites on cats). A dog with fleas is not a happy dog, so we asked Bethany Howe, a veterinarian at Hawkins Animal Hospital and Wellness Center in Ronkonkoma, NY, for her advice on the best ways to keep your dog or cat bite-free.
“Flea baths and powders and dips are antiquated, as they rely on chemicals that most animals just don’t do well with,” notes Dr. Howe. “We have better options now than we did even 5 years ago.” Read on for ways to prevent fleas and ticks on dogs and cats—we’ll explore the best flea treatment for cats and dogs from flea sprays to flea collars and more, as well as smart advice on keeping your pet happy and healthy, not only in the summer, but all year round.
Prevention is key. Keeping fleas and ticks at bay has become an all-year job in most parts of the country. Even in New York, where Dr. Howe practices, fleas and ticks have been surviving the recent relatively mild winters. “Last year, there was not a single month, not even January, where I did not see dogs and cats coming in with fleas or ticks,” reports Dr. Howe. So it’s important not to think of the pests as a summer-only concern. Prevention for cats and dogs can come in the forms of topical treatments, or chews, explains Dr. Howe. It’s important to see your vet before beginning a course of preventative treatment to make sure you’re using the best product for your pet, stresses Dr. Howe. Among the top preventatives your vet may suggest are K9 Advantix II Flea & Tick Treatment or Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Treatment (or, in the case of fleas on cats, Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Treatment for Cats).
Keep age in mind. If you have a newborn kitten or puppy who has fleas, a good thing to do is give him a warm bath mixed with a bit of Dawn dish soap, and use a flea comb to manually get the buggers out. “Original Dawn, for some reason, disables the fleas, and is safe for a one-time bath like this,” says Dr. Howe. In the case of a senior animal with fleas, Dr. Howe uses Capstar Flea Tablets for Dogs and Cats, which kills the live fleas currently on the pet. From that point, a preventative can be started safely.
No pet left behind. The most important thing to remember, says Dr. Howe, is to treat every single animal in your home, whether or not they go outside. “From what I’ve seen, fleas and ticks, due to the change in climate, are getting hardier,” she says. “I’ve had house cats who live with no other animals come in full of fleas, which presumably got in through screens or on shoes,” says Dr. Howe. So if you have a dog and house cat—or a dog and a ferret or rabbit, for that matter—all of them need to be treated, whether you see fleas on all of them or not.
Be choosy about a flea collar. Most of those you see in supermarkets are ineffective at best and potentially harmful at worst, says Dr. Howe. She makes one exception, though: “The only collar I really like is Seresto. This dog flea collar lasts 8 months and is safe, plus it has a breakaway feature in case the pet gets caught on something.” There is also a flea collar for cats.
Consider natural alternatives as backup. Dr. Howe does like some holistic tick and flea treatments for dogs, such as essential oils. But she emphasizes that, while they’re great as an extra layer of protection against coming home with a dog with fleas when, say, you’re going camping, she doesn’t suggest them as the only line of defense against the more tenacious fleas and ticks she’s seeing. If you’d like to consider a natural flea spray, you may want to look at the peppermint and clove oil-infused Vet’s Best Flea + Tick Spray for Dogs, which kills not only fleas, ticks and eggs, but mosquitos as well. If your pupper is scratching, Vet’s Best Itch Relief Dog Shampoo could be worth a try. It uses oatmeal and tea tree oil to calm skin irritation and moisturize skin, and it won’t “wash away” any topical flea treatment for dogs you might have used beforehand.
Keep your pet flea- and tick-free by taking just a few precautions and keeping his best health in mind.