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Which flea treatment is best for my dog?

When you start looking into flea treatments for your dog, you may be surprised to discover the sheer number of options available. Choosing the best one for your pup can be confusing. Today, our Greensboro vets discuss different types of flea treatments to help you find the safest option. 

The Problem With Fleas 

This external parasite relies on a host animal to survive. Once one of these irksome little creatures lands on your pet, they can quickly infest your pup and start to multiply at an alarming rate.

Some estimates are that for every adult flea discovered on your dog, there may be 100-plus immature fleas lurking in your pet’s coat. Plus, once your pet has fleas, they will likely invade your home, hiding in soft furnishings, carpets and other areas that will need to be cleaned and disinfected, to avoid reinfection.

More Than Just an Itchy Annoyance

You might start to suspect your pup has fleas if you’ve seen the itch-scratch cycle start to take hold. Many dogs will have an allergic reaction to the protein in flea saliva, triggering them to start scratching soon after a flea bites their skin. A single bite can cause some dogs to scratch excessively, resulting in lesions and fur loss that can then become infected.

Fleas can also carry and transmit tapeworms, an internal parasite that resides in a dog’s intestines - and may even be transferred to humans.

Lifecycle of Fleas

While some flea treatments are designed to interrupt the lifecycle of fleas, others focus on killing them outright. To decide which flea treatment is best for your pooch, you’ll want to learn a little about how fleas thrive and multiply.

Adult fleas attach to your dog, hide in their warm fur and lay eggs. Just one female flee can lay about 40 to 50 eggs each day, and produce as many as 2000 eggs over her brief lifetime.

When your dog scratches feverishly at the bites, eggs can spread throughout your home and garden.

Eggs become embedded in your home or garden, then hatch to become larvae. Flea larvae lurk within any fabric they land on, hatch and start to look for pets to catch a ride on. They then dine on your pet’s blood and start to lay eggs of their own.

Flea Prevention: Easier Than Treatment

It’s far easier (and usually cheaper) to prevent fleas and other parasites from infecting your pet than to treat them after an infestation has occurred. Here are a few ways you can help to keep your dog - and home - free of fleas.

Topical Flea Treatments for Dogs

Flea Shampoos

You might consider using a high-quality flea shampoo to bathe your dog, which will effectively kill any adult fleas that may be living on your pet. However, this will not keep larvae and eggs from continuing to hatch and feed on your pooch. Medications in flea shampoos only tend to work for one day or less, so you’ll be fighting an ongoing battle if you use shampoo exclusively to fight the infestation.

Flea Collars

These thin, plastic collars are coated in special chemicals designed to kill or repel fleas. Though collars typically emit a gas that’s said to repel fleas, this option may not be very effective as fleas quickly learn to avoid your dog’s neck and burrow into their fur further back. Other collars are coated in chemicals designed to be absorbed into your pet’s skin and kill fleas when your dog is bitten.

The safety and effectiveness of flea collars is a hot debate. If you are considering getting your pooch a flea collar, discuss your thoughts with your veterinarian to find out which collar may be best for your dog.

Spot Treatments

Typically, these come in small, single-dose tubes. You would drip a pre-measured amount of the medication onto your pet’s skin just behind the shoulder blades (this will prevent your pooch from licking off the medication).

The effectiveness of these topical treatments varies and depends on several factors, including whether the product is used correctly and how early treatment is started (how many fleas are present). When used as directed, these products are predicted to be approximately 88% effective.

Spot treatments are mostly designed to kill large adult fleas, though some topical treatments also have ingredients that impede the development of larva. While many of these products are available over the counter, speak to your vet to learn about which spot treatments they would recommend using on your pooch.

Flea Powders & Sprays

Flea powders and sprays can offer protection for your dog in the short-term. However, many of these products only kill adult fleas.

If you are thinking of using a powder or spray on your pet to fight fleas, look for products that discourage the development of flea eggs and larvae, in addition to killing adult fleas.

These treatments can be relatively effective, but will likely need to be reapplied repeatedly over a certain period of time. Before using these products, discuss your plans with your vet and carefully follow any instructions on the product to protect your pet’s health.

Oral Treatments to Prevent & Kill Fleas

Chews & Tablets for Dogs

Keeping your pup on parasite medication, especially during flea and tick season, is an easy and effective way to keep parasites from gaining a foothold on your pooch and causing them to fall ill or be uncomfortable. Oral treatments are estimated to be 99.9% effective at killing and preventing fleas.

Oral flea treatments come in the form of chews and tablets that dogs can take once a month. Once the medication is ingested, it remains active and is transmitted to fleas when your pet is bitten.

How these oral treatments work varies - while some kill adult fleas, others are designed to keep larvae from hatching.

Oral treatments with Nitenpyram are designed for short-term use, to quickly kill fleas during an active infestation, as little as 30 minutes after being administered.

Oral treatments can also protect your pup against many other parasites including heartworms, ticks, and more. Ask your vet about parasite prevention and treatment options they recommend. 

Parasite Protection & Preventive Care for Pets

Many pet owners feel that the cost of prescription quality parasite prevention is out of their budget. That’s why our Greensboro vets offer parasite prevention as part of their Annual Wellness Plans. These plans come with a discounted price on your pet’s annual exams, vaccinations and parasite protection, and spreads the cost across 12 easy payments.

At Friendly Animal Hospital, we offer a selection of Wellness Plans designed to help pet parents give their pets the preventive care they need at an affordable price. Visit 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 Greensboro vets to schedule an appointment today. At Friendly Animal Hospital, our Wellness Plans include annual flea and tick prevention. 

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