Dog Flea Treatment: Oral Pills & Topical Medicines and Prevention

During summer, besides that hot weather that could scorch paw pads or lead to heatstroke, what dog owners dread the most is—fleas! Those little critters which make our dogs scratch like there’s no tomorrow are the worst pests for our pets.

Dog flea facts

Before we learn how to help our dogs, here are some dog flea facts:

An adult flea can lay hundreds of eggs and in as little as two weeks, these eggs can complete their life cycle (from egg to adult) if the surrounding conditions are just right. Think about it, if your dog becomes a host to just one or two fleas, it will only take two weeks for them to become infested with hundreds of pests.

  • Dog flea eggs can occupy tiny cracks, while the larva can eat just about anything. Cocoons can lie dormant through any type of weather. So, there is a very big chance that these eggs could live on to become adults.
  • A flea likes warm-blooded beings, so it will bite humans, too.
  • Fleas like warm areas with high levels of humidity, so summer is their favorite time of the year. Southern parts of the US are also prone to having fleas for the whole year because of their hot climate.
  • Fleas have very powerful legs, so they can jump from one dog to another or from the ground to a dog in a short time.
  • Fleas are as big as a pin’s head and copper in color, so you can easily see them scurrying or burrowing on your dog’s body, usually in the area that have a lot of fur or the belly and thighs, because these pests like dark places.
  • Flea dirt is the feces of fleas. These look like black pepper on your dog’s skin.
  • Usually, the bite of a flea causes itching to your dog. Furthermore, some dogs are super allergic or sensitive to fleas. These dogs develop severe reactions such as skin infections, swelling, and hair loss. Some also develop full-body allergic reactions from just one flea bite.

Dog flea treatments

There are many ways to treat your dog when fleas infest their body. As stated above, fleas like warm climates, so if you live in such areas, then you have to continuously treat your dog throughout the whole year. If you live in areas with four seasons, start your dog’s treatment in spring, thus shielding them against possible flea attacks.

Here are some of the bestselling products you can explore to help your dog:

1. Oral medicines for Dog flea

Dog flea pills and chewables contain insecticides that are absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream. When fleas bite your dog, the pests drink the insecticide. These pills can be bought in pet stores, but some require a vet’s prescription to be purchased. Consider your dog’s needs. Some medicines target adult fleas, while others target flea eggs. Some are also heartworm medicines. Many owners have noted that prescription medicines have a higher success rate when treating dog fleas.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the following dog flea pills can help your furry pal. The AKC, however, cautions that some dogs may have negative reactions to some of these medicines, so it is better to consult your vet before choosing the proper treatment for your dog.

  • Nexgard (Afoxolaner) targets adult fleas and its effects last for 30 days. Some dogs, however, have exhibited negative reactions to this medicine, like diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Bravecto (fluralaner) is a cost-effective choice because it can kill all fleas in as little as two hours and its effects last for up to three months. This product also doubles as a heartworm prevention medicine.
  • Capstar (nitenpyram) is a fast-relief medicine that can be bought over the counter and starts killing fleas 30 minutes after your dog has eaten it. Some dogs struggle with upset stomachs because of this medicine.
  • Comfortis (spinosad) is a chewable tablet that paralyzes and kills fleas in as little as 30 minutes. Some dogs have exhibited many negative reactions to this medicine.

2. Topical medicines for Dog flea

Topical medicines are usually put on your dog’s skin. These can include flea collars, flea combs, flea powders, flea shampoo, and spot-ons.

Since fleas like to live in furry parts like the necks of dogs, flea collars can help repel and kills the pests through the slow but continuous release of active ingredients from the neck to the whole body. Seresto flea and tick collar by Bayer is the bestselling product from this category. Its active ingredients are imidacloprid and flumethrin. It comes in several sizes and is supposed to last up to eight months.

Flea combs are fine-tooth combs that trap fleas as you pass them through the fur. Be careful not to tug your dog’s fur when you use this tool. Prepare a bowl of soapy water so you can quickly dunk the comb and kill fleas trapped in it. Safari Pet Products Dog Comb is the bestselling flea comb on Amazon. It has a double row of teeth, so you can be sure to trap many fleas with just one pass of the comb.

Flea powders contain a mixture of insecticides that get absorbed into your dog’s skin. Some owners use flea powders not just on their dogs, but on beddings and carpets as well. Zodiac Flea and Tick Powder can be used for dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. However, some animals have exhibited allergic reactions to this product.

Flea shampoos are specially formulated to clean your dog’s coat and kill egg to adult fleas. Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Advanced Strength Dog Shampoo contains plant extracts and essential oils, and does not contain harsh chemicals. It is even safe for puppies 12 weeks or older.

Spot-ons are liquid formulas that are usually applied on the neck of dogs, so there is little danger of the pets licking the spot. The liquid is absorbed into the skin and the insecticide spreads across the whole body of the dogs. The formulas usually have very potent insecticides, so you should make sure that your dog does not ingest them. Be careful with spot-ons that contain Tetrachlorvinphos and Pyrethroids. These are very toxic insecticides, known to cause nausea, numbness, itching, and even seizures.

The following spot-ons have insect-growth regulators (IGR) in addition to insecticides, so they have proved to be effective in killing not just adult fleas, but also eggs and larvae. They also come in various doses, depending on your dog’s weight.

  • Frontline Plus is one of the best and most recommended spot-on treatments. It kills fleas fast and lasts for 30 days. It has a very distinct odor, so be cautious if your dog has a very sensitive nose.
  • K9 Advantix II Flea, Tick and Mosquito Prevention is the top bestselling spot-on treatment on Amazon. One advantage of this product is that its ingredients are supposed to repel, not just kill fleas. Even though it contains permethrin, it is safe for dogs, but not for cats. Its effects also last for 30 days.

For best results when using topical treatments, you might want to cut your dog’s fur very short during flea season, especially if it has wiry, thick, or long fur.

Dog flea prevention

Now that you have treated your dog, you need to treat the environment your dog lives in, both indoors and outdoors. Making sure that your home and its surroundings do not serve as nesting grounds for fleas will go a long way to prevent future flea infestations. A note of warning: consult your vet before buying chemicals or insecticides that you will spray in areas where your dog sleeps or plays. 

1. Indoor treatment

To treat the inside of your house and make it flea-free, do the following:

  • wash all of your dog’s bedding thoroughly with hot water and soap; do this as often as possible;
  • vacuum thoroughly and steam clean carpets; throw the vacuum bag away immediately or empty the canister into a trash bag and throw it away immediately. If you can, try to treat your carpet with a chemical cleaner that contains chemicals like boric acid, methoprene, or sodium borate in order to dry out even the eggs and larvae.

Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Home Spray contains no harsh chemicals and can be applied on practically anything and anywhere, indoors and outdoors, so you can target even the smallest cracks where flea eggs might be hiding. It can even be sprayed directly on your dog.

2. Outdoors treatment

To treat the surroundings outside of your home, do the following:

  • clean your dog’s kennel;
  • clean out the debris from your yard, especially old leaves that fleas might be hiding under;
  • plant herbs like lavender, fennel, marigold, or citrus, because these are supposed to repel fleas;
  • get a chemical spray with pyriproxifen as an ingredient; do not get an insecticide which contains chlorpyrifos, because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agency has banned this chemical;
  • if you can afford it, hire the services of a professional exterminator to blast your whole house clean.

Regularly maintain your house and its surroundings, and your dog will likely thank you with big smiles and lots of kisses for an itchy-free summer.

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