Tiny, hopping, blood-sucking parasites: fleas are a dog owner’s worst nightmare. But if your dog leads a fairly active lifestyle, fleas are not an uncommon occurrence. Fleas can jump horizontal distances of up to 20 centimetres, and can easily spread to your dog even if it does not come in contact with other animals.
If your dog does get fleas, there are many treatment options available on the market, depending on your budget and your pet, and it can be difficult to choose. Plus, choosing the wrong option might pose a serious health risk for your furry friend! To find the best flea treatment for your dog, as with any other health issue, here are a number of things you should keep in mind:
Know Your Enemy
If you suspect your dogs has fleas, you should try to address the issue as quickly as possible. But, to choose the right treatment, you’ve got to know a little bout fleas themselves. While a couple of fleas won’t do too much damage to older or larger dogs, they can quickly turn into a fully blown infestation that poses a serious health risk for puppies and smaller dogs.
You needn’t worry about them spreading to you, as the fleas that are attracted to your dog are unlikely to try to suck your blood as well. Unfortunately, only adult fleas are visible to the naked eye, but make up a relatively small percent of flea population. An infested dog likely sports a huge number of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae that are completely invisible. Any flea solution has to address all stages of the flea life cycle.
Know Your Options
Depending on your dog’s needs and the severity of their flea problem, there are many different kinds of flea treatment options to choose from. When choosing the optimal treatment, consider both your budget and schedule. Treatment options can range from around USD$10 to more than USD$40, and can last between a month and eight months. The following are the most common options on the market, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:
- Flea Combs
Small combs with thinly spaced metal teeth are ideal for longer haired dogs with minor flea issues. This is a good chemical-free option, especially if your dog is allergy prone.
- Flea Collars
Flea collars are good long-term preventative option, as they can be worn up to eight months. They work either by spreading a topical solution that is absorbed through your dog’s skin or by emitting a toxic odor that kills or repels fleas.
- Topical Treatments
Topical, or spot-on treatments refer to any number of medications that are applied to your dog’s skin. This could be in the form of sprays, which can be used as a preventative measure on surfaces and furniture as well, and dips or topical solutions applied directly to your dog’s skin. Anti-flea shampoos also count as topical treatments.
- Oral Treatments
Oral medicine typically comes in a chewable form. This helps avoid the mess of topical treatments and can be disguised as a treat!
Know Your Dog
As with any health issue, what works for a tiny, short-haired pug won’t necessarily work for a long-haired husky, and vice-versa. Deciding what treatment to opt for requires you to know your pet’s needs and work with them. The following are the main factors that can help you determine what your dog needs:
Your dog’s size and weight dramatically affect how your dog will respond to any kind of medication, with larger dogs often requiring a dosage that could be poisonous to smaller dogs. Fortunately, most oral treatments are marketed specifically for certain weight ranges.
Apart from size considerations, different breeds have different medical sensitivities. For topical treatments especially, skin thickness will play a big role in how effective treatments are. Your dog’s coat will also be an important factor. Flea combs work better for long-haired dogs while topical medication may not, as its greasy texture is better suited for short-hair breeds.
Older dogs might be sensitive to certain treatments because of their medical history, and may be taking medication that flea treatments can interfere with. Similarly, younger dogs will typically require age-specific medication. The label on the treatment you choose will tell you if it is suitable for puppies or not.
- Medical History
Before starting any kind of treatment, consult your vet to make sure that you’ve made the right choice. Fortunately, most effective treatments will require a vet’s approval before you can purchase them. Some chemicals present in flea treatments, such as spinosad, can have harmful side-effects when combined with heartworm prevention medication. Ensure that the treatment won’t interfere with any preexisting medical conditions or put your dog’s life in danger. Dogs with sensitive skin should also not be given harsh topical treatments. An organic option or a non-chemical solution might be your best bet.
An active lifestyle makes for a happy, healthy dog—and is probably what got your dog fleas in the first place. Not to worry, however. When choosing treatment, try to select an option that’s least likely to interfere with your dog’s habits and happiness. Topical treatments may not be the best option for dogs that like to groom, or dogs that love to swim. Likewise, while flea collars can remain effective for a long time, they might interfere with your dog’s comfort and routine.
- Other Furry Friends
While your dog’s fleas may not be interested in hitching a ride on you, if you have other pets you should take them into consideration. If you have multiple dogs but only one has fleas, try to keep them away from the other dogs as much as possible to keep the fleas from spreading. You might also want to shy away from harsher treatments if you have other pets, especially if they like to groom each other. Some topical flea treatments contain chemicals such as pyrethin, which is toxic to cats. Similarly, parents should check the chemical composition of their chosen flea treatment to make sure there’s nothing that could be harmful to a small child.
Keep It Regular
Most treatment options, whether oral or topical, require regularity to be effective. Whatever option you choose, check its effectiveness window to make sure it’s actively working to protect your dog. Some treatment services come with handy calendar stickers or even mail reminders to make sure your dog’s treatment is current.
Keep It Clean
While it may be difficult to stop your dog from picking up fleas at the park, it’s much easier to keep fleas from spreading in your own house. Even if you have not recently had issues with fleas, wash your dog regularly and clean the surfaces they like to spend time on. Even if you manage to treat your dog for fleas, a couple of adults hiding in their bed could start the problem all over again. Vacuum regularly and use anti-flea sprays to ensure your furry friend stays happy, healthy, and parasite free!