Fleas are some of the most persistent and truly irritating ectoparasites known to bring disease to man’s best friend. And while there are numerous medications that have been formulated over the years, these pesky creatures have somehow learned to adapt. Additionally, the ever-increasing number of side effects brought about by the prolonged use of these products underscores the growing need for an effective yet safe treatment to administer. That is why we’re sharing with you the 10 best flea treatment for dogs in the hope that you’ll be more empowered to care for your pooches and protect them against these critters.
Dog Flea and Tick Treatment Buyer’s Guide
If you go to your favorite pet supplies store you can easily understand why a lot of dog owners, especially first-timers, are at a loss as to which product they should use for their pets. You are essentially bombarded with a variety of options from the more traditional spot-on topical applications to the newer yet equally controversial tablet preparations as well as other types of flea meds for dogs. We understand how you feel. That’s why we’ve prepared this buyer’s guide to help you make better-informed decisions related to the control and management of flea infestation, not only in your dog, but also in your home.
Why Does My Dog Need Flea Treatment?
One of the questions that most dog owners ask themselves is whether or not their pooches really need flea treatment. The answer can be a very straightforward ‘yes’ or it can also be answered as ‘it depends’. The best way to help you decide whether your dog needs flea treatment is by understanding what fleas are especially the life cycle of fleas.
Fleas are very resilient and hardy critters. These creatures live outdoors and can survive for up to 5 days in temperatures as low as 33OF. Within this period, it can easily catch a ride on your dog’s fur. They don’t fly, but they are mighty jumpers, able to propel their bodies up to distances that are 50 times the length of their bodies. So when Fido enters your house, these creatures will already have access to the warmth of your living room.
The adult flea can then lay eggs on your mutt’s skin. Throughout the life of a female adult flea, it can lay up to 5,000 eggs, possibly even more. Since flea eggs don’t have legs to latch onto your pet’s skin or hair, they fall to the ground. These can fall on your carpet, your floor, or any other surface the Fido likes to frequent.
Within 2 weeks, these eggs hatch and become larvae. These juvenile fleas are particularly averse to sunlight so they are mostly found in dark and humid places such as cracks and crevices on your floor. They also love to hide under your pet’s bedding as well as under your carpets and rugs. And if they get in touch with your pet’s food, they naturally grow into pupae.
The pupa actually just waits for the right trigger for it to come out from its cocoon. These can include vibrations, heat, and increased carbon dioxide levels. All of these actually indicate the presence of a suitable host nearby. When this is triggered, it transforms into an adult flea. All of these can occur within just 4 days although it may take some time for it to transform into its adult version if adverse conditions are present.
So, why does your dog need flea treatment?
Well, fleas are very hardy critters. You may think your pet doesn’t have them but they may already be hatching and developing into larvae and pupae just waiting for the right moment for them to come out into the open. Given that there’s no way of telling how many fleas may have latched onto Fido when it ventured in your backyard, it would be safe to assume that your pooch has at least one.
Once fleas bite, they can introduce microorganisms into your pooch’s bloodstream and cause a variety of health conditions and diseases. The following are some of the more common diseases caused by fleas.
- Flea bite dermatitis – This is one of the most common issues pooches have whenever there is flea on their skin. It develops because of the inflammatory changes that occur secondary to tissue injury related to the flea bite. The skin becomes reddish and sometimes swollen. And because inflammatory chemicals are released, primarily histamine, these produce severe itching which, when vigorously scratched by your pet, can lead to loss of skin integrity. Cuts occur on the skin and these can become entry points for other microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and other parasites which can then lead to other health problems.
- Typhus – Fleas are known carriers of several species of the bacteria Rickettsia which is the principal causative agent of typhus. While the primary target is rats, dogs and humans alike are not immune to its infectious nature. This can lead to fever, joint pain, vomiting, and even muscle pain. All of these can make your pooch sick, will not want to eat, or become depressed.
- Plague – The causative agent of plague, Yersinia pestis, is basically transmitted by fleas to rats and other mammals. While the incidence of plague has been significantly reduced, there are still thousands of cases reported every year. Some of the symptoms of plague include fever and severely swollen lymph nodes. The problem is that death often ensues without warning. It is for this reason that pets that are suspected of having plague should be brought immediately to the vet for management. Also, strict isolation must be observed to prevent the spread of the disease.
- Tapeworm – The tapeworm Hymenolepis nana has been shown to be carried by fleas, although direct human-to-human transmission also occurs. Dogs can ingest adult fleas when they lick their fur or surfaces that contain tapeworm-infected fleas. Children are especially vulnerable as they can accidentally swallow an infected critter. The good thing is that, this infection can be easily treated.
- Hemobartonellosis – Bartonella henselae is most commonly found in ticks although it can also be found in fleas. The danger in hemobartonellosis is that the bacteria invade the red blood cells. This disrupts the cells’ ability to carry oxygen and deliver it to the tissues. This leads to anemia which can make your pet lose its appetite, lack energy, and lose weight.
These are just some of the more common health issues associated with fleas. There are plenty more. It is exactly for these reasons that many pet owners give only the best flea medicine for dogs. And you should, too.
Where Do Fleas Hide On Dogs?
Fleas are incredibly small that you would definitely want to part the hairs on your pet’s fur to really visualize them. These creatures can thrive on any part of your pet’s body. However, they do have the tendency to hide in areas where there is some degree of protection, especially from scratching by your pooch.
As such, you may want to start looking for these mini jumpers at the base of your pet’s tail as most dogs cannot scratch this part of their bodies. Additionally, the natural curvature of the tail bone gives these pests some degree of protection. Other areas where these pests can hide in your dog include the neck, the belly, and the chest. The space in between toes on your pooch’s paws can also be excellent habitats for these ectoparasites.
Can I Use Flea Treatments When My Dog is on Other Medication?
It is understandable that you may have reservations about using flea treatments while your mutt is on other medication. Generally speaking, you should never combine medications as there is no way of telling what effects will come out of the drug interactions. A safer way is to consult with your veterinarian what medications are contraindicated on your pooch if you do decide to give it flea treatment. You can also ask your vet if it is safe to give your mutt a certain brand of flea medication if it is already receiving other medications. Your veterinarian understands drug interactions in canines a lot better than other resources.
Nevertheless, here are some tips you can consider.
- When searching for the right combination, you may want to read the labels of each product and focus your attention on the drug interaction section.
- If you wish to combine pesticides for your pet, it is a lot better to combine a flea-only medication with a tick-only treatment.
- Never give to your mutt more than what is recommended.
- Do not double up on your treatments. For example, giving a flea medication on top of another flea medication.
How Often Do I Need to Give My Dog a Flea Tablet?
One of the most innovative solutions in the fight against flea infestation in pets is the development of a tablet form of these flea medications. There are many benefits of flea tablets, pills, and chewables that other forms of treatments simply cannot provide. For instance, these are considered to be more effective than traditional spray-on or topical preparations since there is no guaranteeing all of the active ingredients will be absorbed by the dog’s skin. Since tablets go directly to the digestive tract where these are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, there is a greater concentration of the active ingredient present in the blood. These medications are a lot more convenient to administer, too. Some actually come complete with all-in-one protection that helps protect pets against heartworms and intestinal parasites, not just ticks and fleas.
But the question most pet owners ask is related to the duration of action of these formulations. Most spot-on treatments require re-application within 30 days, some as short as 15 days while others promise a 90-day protection.
Similarly, the duration of effectiveness of flea tablets depends on the brand. For instance, Capstar is known to be a very potent anti-flea medication that can kill these pests within 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last that long. If your pet gets reinfested within the day, you can give another tablet of Capstar. Without additional effort on your part to control the environmental factors affecting flea growth, you’d end up with a more expensive treatment as you will need to give your mutt.
On the other hand, Bravecto’s 90-day protection is spectacular for a flea tablet. While it doesn’t work as fast as Capstar, it is still a lot faster than traditional spot-on medications. If you do use Bravecto, then you will have to give your pet at most 4 times a year.
This is dependent on where you live. If you live in areas where fleas thrive all year round, then you will have to treat your pet for the whole year. However, if you live in an area where these pests display seasonal patterns, then you will only give your mutt these tablets at most twice a year.
Again, depending on the product that you give to your mutt and the prevalence of flea infestation in your locality, the number of times you will give a flea tablet can range from as short as daily to about 3 months.
Tips on Preventing Fleas at Home
Regardless of how aggressive you are in your application or administration of the best flea medicine for dogs or how meticulous you are in removing these critters off of your pet if you are not going to do something about their natural habitat, then you will still face the same problem year in and year out. As we have already explained, there’s no way we can track the movement of these pests from the outside environment to our homes. We often only realize that they have invaded our homes when your pet begins to scratch. By then, many of these fleas would have already laid eggs. Some would already be in their larval and pupal stages. In a few more days, they will turn into adult fleas.
That is why it is imperative that you should also know how to prevent fleas at home. Here are some tips.
- Start cleaning your backyard. Since they love hiding in crevices and cracks where there is plenty of moisture, you may want to start spraying your backyard with an appropriate pesticide so that these pests are killed even before you or your pet has a chance to bring these inside your house. Covering crevices and cracks on the ground and keeping everything neat and tidy should also help minimize infestation. This also means you have to mow your lawn and to keep the shrubs well-trimmed.
- Safeguard your property by putting appropriate fences that will help prevent the entry of feral animals into your backyard. Remember that fleas don’t just rely on dogs as their hosts. Other mammals are excellent hosts, too. So, don’t give these curious wildlife a reason to be nosy in your property. Don’t leave food scraps or even your pet’s food outside as these are natural magnets for feral cats, raccoons, and other creatures. Also, seal off possible entry points such as crawl spaces, sheds, garages, and even under decks as these can be used by other animals as nests.
- Call a professional to fog your home. Many of the chemicals used in fogging can kill fleas in all stages of development, including the very hardy pupae. These substances can also last as long as 7 months, so it may be wise to plan the fogging so that when it does wear off most of the fleas will be less active. If you have a large property, getting 2 to 3 foggers should do the trick.
- Keep your shrubs well-spaced. The more sunlight that gets through to each leaf or any other structure in your plant should help kill the larvae of these pests. Improving ventilation also helps.
- Vacuum, sweep, and mop your floors and other surfaces to help remove eggs, larvae, pupae, and even adult fleas. Make sure to reach in baseboards as these critters love the dark. With each vacuum, dispose the bag immediately. Remember that vibrations can ‘awaken’ pupae and turn them into adult fleas.
- Wash the beddings and other items of your pet. Leave these to dry under the hot sun. This should kill these ectoparasites. Include your mutt’s toys.
Managing fleas and preventing them from ever coming back requires multiple approaches. The best flea medicine for dogs is just one of the approaches that you will have to employ. You will also have to include in your regimen environmental control and sanitation to help prevent reinfestation. Preventing reinfestation will help you prevent the development of a variety of diseases in your pet. To make the most out of these treatments, it is best not to combine them with other medications. If you think you need to, then talk to your vet about it. These 10 best flea treatment for dogs will start you on the right foot.