Which flea treatment is best for my dog?

Our vets know that there is a baffling variety of flea treatments available, and choosing the best one for your dog can be confusing. In today's post we examine flea treatments from powders and shampoos to monthly medications, to help you to figure which flea treatment is best for your pooch. 


The Trouble With Fleas

Fleas are an external parasite that depend upon a host animal for survival. Once one of these troublesome critters lands on your pet they can make themselves at home and begin multiplying at an alarming rate! Some estimates calculate that for every adult flea you find on your dog, there can be 100 or more immature fleas hiding in your pets coat. Not only that, if your pet has fleas, there is a good chance that they are also invading your home, hiding in carpets and soft furnishings.

More Than Just an Itchy Nuisance

Most pet parents begin to suspect that fleas are present on their pooch when their pet begins itching and scratching. Dogs that are allergic to the protein which is present in flea saliva, will begin scratching as soon as a flea bites their skin. Just one bite can cause some dogs to scratch excessively, causing hair loss, and lesions that can easily become infected. 

Fleas can also transmit tapeworms, an internal parasite that can live in your dog's intestines, and even infect humans. 

The Flea Lifecycle

Flea treatments are designed in different ways to either interrupt the lifecycle of the fleas, and/or kill them outright. In order to decide which flea treatment is best for your pup, it's good to know a little bit about how fleas live and multiply.

  • Adult fleas live comfortably on your dog, nestled into their warm fur where they lay their eggs. 1 female flea can lay 40 - 50 eggs every day and may produce as many as 2000 eggs in her short lifetime!
  • Flea eggs are spread throughout your home and garden each time your pooch begins feverishly scratching at the bites.
  • The eggs can then settle into your home and your garden where they hatch and become larvae. 
  • Flea larvae burrow deeper into the fabrics they land upon, then hatch and suddenly there are more fleas jumping around, ready to hop onto your pet to have a nice meal and begin laying eggs of their own.

Flea Prevention - Easier Than Treatment

When it comes to parasites, especially fleas, it is far easier and typically cheaper to prevent an infestation than to treat your pet and home once fleas have moved in. Here are a few ways that you can help to keep fleas from invading your pet and your home.

Topical Flea Treatments for Dogs

Spot Treatments

Topical spot treatments typically come in small signal dose tubes that, when opened, allow pet owners to drip a pre-measured amount of medication directly onto their pet's skin behind the shoulder blades (to prevent your pet from licking off the medication). 

The efficacy of topical treatments varies and depends upon a number of factors including how early treatment begins (how many fleas are present), and whether the pet owner is using the product correctly. When used as directed these products are estimated to be about 88% effective.

Spot treatments are largely designed to kill adult fleas, but some topical treatments also include ingredients that can inhibit larva development. While many of these products are available in stores it is a good idea to speak to your vet to find out which spot treatments they recommend for your pooch.

Flea Collars

Flea collars are thin plastic collars that are coated in chemicals designed to repel or kill fleas. Collars that emit a gas that is said to repel fleas may not be very effective since fleas quickly learn to avoid the dog's neck area and make their home further back. Other collars are coated in chemicals designed to be absorbed by your pet's skin and kill fleas when they bite.

Both the effectiveness and safety of flea collars are hotly contested. If you are considering a flea collar for your pup it's a good idea to speak to your vet to find out which collar is best for your pup.

Flea Shampoos

Bathing your dog using a good quality flea shampoo can be an effective way to kill any adult fleas that are present on your pet, but will not prevent eggs and larvae from continuing to hatch and thrive. The medications in flea shampoos tend only to work for a day or less, so using shampoo to fight an infestation is going to be an ongoing battle. 

Flea Sprays & Powders

Flea sprays and powders can offer some short term protection for your dog, however many of these products only kill adult fleas. If you are planning to use a spray or powder on your pet to fight fleas, be sure to look for products that will inhibit flea egg and larval development as well as kill adult fleas. These treatments can be relatively effective however you will likely need to reapply the product repeatedly over a period of time. Speak to your vet before using these products and be sure to follow product directions carefully in order to protect your pet's health.

Oral Treatments to Prevent & Kill Fleas

Tablets & Chews for Dogs

Keeping your pup on a parasite protection medication whenever fleas and ticks are active, can be an easy and very effective way to keep parasites from making your pet uncomfortable or ill. It is estimated that oral treatments can be 99.9% effective at killing and preventing fleas.

Oral flea treatments come in the form of tasty tablets and chews that your dog can enjoy as a once a month treat. Once ingested the medication remains active and is transmitted to the fleas when they bite your pet.

Different oral treatments work in different ways, some will kill the adult fleas while others are designed to prevent larvae from hatching.

Oral treatments containing Nitenpyram are designed for short term use, to kill fleas quickly when there is an infestation evident. Medications containing Nitenpyram can actively begin killing fleas in as little as 30 minutes after being administered.

Another key benefit of oral treatments is that many of these medications can also protect your pooch against a host of other parasites including ticks, heartworms, and more. Speak to your vet to learn more about oral parasite prevention and treatment options.

Preventive Care & Parasite Protection for Pets

Many pet parents feel that the cost of prescription quality parasite prevention is beyond their budget, that's why many vets offer parasite prevention as part of their Annual Wellness Plans. Wellness Plans offer pet parents a discounted price on their pet's annual exams, vaccinations, and parasite protection, then spreads the cost across 12 easy payments. 

At Animal Hospital of Clemmons we offer a range of Wellness Plans designed to help pet owners give their pets the preventive care they deserve, at an affordable price. Checkout our Wellness Plans page, or speak to your vet to learn more.

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

    Wondering which flea treatment is best for your dog? Contact our Winston-Salem vets to book an appointment for your pet. At Animal Hospital of Clemmons our Wellness Plans include annual flea and tick prevention.

    Best Flea Treatments for Dogs | Clemmons Vet

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