The constant scratching and licking caused by fleas can make both you and your dog miserable. Choosing a flea treatment can be challenging, particularly with so many products available. But by consulting with your veterinarian, you can ensure you get the proper treatment for your dog.
Topical flea treatments are applied directly to your dog's skin. Available in both prescription and over-the-counter varieties, prescription-strength treatments tend to last longer, are more effective and are less likely to cause allergic reactions. They begin working within 30 minutes after application, and fleas are typically gone within two to three days. Over-the-counter medications often work for a week or two and require more frequent application. The mechanism of these medications vary. Some kill fleas that bite your pet, while others repel fleas or prevent flea eggs from hatching.
Oral treatments are pills prescribed by your veterinarian that eliminate fleas by slightly altering your dog's body chemistry. Most of these medications do not kill fleas. Instead, they prevent flea eggs from hatching. Thus your dog may have fleas for a few days after dosing, but because the flea life cycle is short, the fleas will quickly be gone. If your dog is allergic to fleas, however, you may need to combine oral medications with topical medications that kill fleas immediately. Consult your veterinarian.
Flea collars contain pesticides that kill fleas. These treatments are readily available in most pet stores. However, they may not be safe and can expose your dog to harmful poisons, according to the National Resource Defense Council. Flea collars are also less effective than prescription treatments. However, you can use flea collars as part of a flea treatment program. Try putting a flea collar in your vacuum's bag to vacuum up fleas and their eggs.
Flea baths kill the fleas that are currently on your dog, and can remove some flea eggs. Some pet stores offer regular flea baths, but these treatments are short-lived. Some dogs may also experience allergic reactions to flea baths.
There are a variety of natural remedies including dietary changes and essential oils. Pyrethin, a common ingredient in many flea remedies, is also available in some chrysanthemum oils, which you can apply as topical treatments. Mother Nature News points out that adding brewer's yeast to a dog's diet may help with flea and skin problems. The effectiveness of these remedies varies depending upon the specific remedy and the degree of flea infestation. Natural remedies may work best as preventative tools. For dogs with severe flea infestations, a fast-acting prescription treatment is more likely to be effective.
- National Resource Defense Council Issue Paper: Poison on Pets II
- Mother Earth News: Natural Flea Control
- Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats; Richard H. Pitcairn et al.
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Fleas
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Fleas and Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.