While most people assume there is only 1 type of flea there are actually many different species of fleas totaling at about 3,000. However, hands-down the most common flea living on dogs is actually the cat flea. Despite what its’ name suggests the cat flea prefers both cats and dogs and is the flea you will most likely encounter in your home.
Why are fleas such a pest?
Small size :
The small size of fleas, typically around 3/16”, helps them to easily get in-between the hairs of your dog for an easy meal. Their small size also means that they can remain unseen in your carpet, in the cracks of wood panels, and on your furniture.
They’re amazing jumpers :
They lay many eggs :
A female flea can lay somewhere around 50-60 eggs a day. They lay these eggs on a host such as your dog, however many of these eggs will fall off in your home as your dog scratches and grooms itself as well as just from walking around. Many of these eggs end up in your carpet and on your furniture. These eggs can hatch in as little as 10 days.
Young fleas are tough :
Because fleas lay so many eggs, the majority of fleas that end up in your home are in their earlier stages of development, up to 95% in fact. However many dog flea treatments and pesticides only kill the adults, or 5% of the population, leaving the remaining 95% to grow up, bite your dog and lay eggs themselves.
Fleas live on blood :
Blood is the reason fleas bite your dog and their saliva is specially designed to both soften the dogs’ skin for easy penetration and keep the blood flowing after the bite. This saliva is the reason many pets and humans have allergic reactions to flea bites causing hair loss, extreme itching, and ton of other skin problems.
Fleas transmit disease :
Fleas are known to transmit both the Bubonic and Pneumonic plagues to both pets and humans. While humans and pets can be treated effectively with antibiotics, if not treated quickly enough they can die.
All dog flea treatments either: kill adult fleas, stop young fleas from maturing into their next growth stage, or the best dog flea treatments do both of these.
So what’s the best dog flea treatment?
With the many advancements in flea fighting medicines in the past few years, topical solutions and flea tablets have become the easiest, most convenient, and most effective way to deal with fleas.
Topical dog flea treatments are an easy way to deal with fleas without having to go to the vet. Typically the solution comes in an easy to use applicator which you squeeze to apply onto the skin (not the hair) between the shoulder blades of your dog.
The solution is absorbed and is stored in the oil glands of your dog’s skin and then distributed through the hair follicles killing fleas and ticks for around 30 days. Because it is absorbed into the oil glands of your dog, it means that it is waterproof and you can bathe your dog or let it go swimming without having to worry about the the solution coming off or being less potent. Each individual brand will tell you how long after you apply the solution you should wait before allowing your to dog to get wet and how old your dog should be before it can safely use it.
Topical dog flea treatments work very quickly and usually take only a few hours to start killing fleas. And unlike other treatments, fleas don’t have to bite your dog to be killed, all it takes is contact with your dog’s hair. When purchasing one you need to know the weight of your dog because the applicators are sold in different sizes according to how much your dog weighs. With the huge increase in popularity of topical treatments there are now many brands available which offer slightly different features and use different active ingredients. The best being:
Frontline dog flea treatment:
This is the most well-known and popular brand. It is manufactured by the Merial company and the most recent type available is Frontline Plus. It uses fipronil and (S)-methropene to kill fleas and ticks for a full 30 days after it is applied. It kills fleas in all stages of growth from eggs, larvae, and pupae to adults. While it is the most popular it is also a little more expensive than other brands of topical treatments. It is available in packs containing 3, 6, or 12 applicators and each applicator works for 1 month. It also comes in different sizes for dogs from 0-22 pounds, 23- 44 pounds, 45-88 pounds, and 89-132 pounds. It should only be used with puppies 8 weeks old or older.
Advantage dog flea treatment:
Another top choice is Advantage from Bayer. Its newest version is AdvantageII which uses imidacloprid and pyriproxyfen as its active ingredients. Not only does it kill ticks but fleas in all stages of growth. The pyriproxyfen stops the growth of fleas from one stage another, this means that they will never become an adult flea and be able to reproduce. Each application works for 30 days and they can be purchased in packs of 2,4, or 6 applicators and for dogs up to 10 pounds, 11 to 20 pounds, 21 to 55 pounds, and dogs over 55 pounds. It should only be used with puppies that are 7 weeks old or older.
Advocate dog flea treatment/Advantage Multi:
This is another great product made by Bayer. It is also known in some countries as Advantage Multi and protects against the largest variety of parasites both externally and internally. It kills: fleas, heartworm, hook worms, whip worms, ear mites, mange, and demodex mites. It’s an excellent product and doesn’t need to be prescribed by a veterinarian. The Advocate dog flea treatment is applied monthly and uses imidacloprid and moxidectin. While the imidacloprid is absorbed into the oil glands just like other topical solutions and kills fleas, the moxidectin is absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream which works to kill internal parasites. It should only be used on puppies 7 weeks old and up.
Flea tablets :
One more option for dog owners is tablets like Sentinel Spectrum. The ones offered by Sentinel are actually meaty chew tablets which are taken once a month during or after a meal and are made to be very good tasting to your dog which means they will actually eat them without being forced or tricked to. Not only does Sentinel provide protection from fleas (only adult fleas) but heartworm and internal parasites as well including: roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Sentinel is known for being extremely effective and easy to use, however it is more expensive than other options. They come in packs of 3 or 6 chews, lasting 3 or 6 months. Sentinel Spectrum should be used with dogs 6 weeks old and up and in 4 different doses based on the weight of your dog each of which come in a different color pack: 0-4kg. (Orange color), 4.5-11 kg. (Green color), 11.5-22 kg. (Yellow color), and 22.5-45 kg. (Blue color).
Other dog flea treatment options
Before topical solutions were available the flea collar was for years the weapon of choice when it came to keeping dogs flea free. The two main advantages that flea collars have are that they are much cheaper than other options and they last much longer, usually around 6-7 months. They are also a good alternative for dogs that have issues with topical flea treatments. However, some flea collars only kill adult fleas so it is important to read the label carefully and purchase one which kills fleas in all stages of growth.
Another thing to keep in mind is that because of the chemicals used are quite strong you must wash your hands after touching a flea collar. While they are very cheap, many dog owners who have children choose to use topical solutions and not to use flea collars because of the risk posed when kids touch the collar and put their hands in their mouths without washing them first. A new and safer option are flea medallions. These attach to your dogs collar and are an effective dog flea and tick treatment for up to 4 months because they are continuously emit small amounts of its active ingredient which become distributed across the dogs hairs. Many of them like Spectra Shield are waterproof as well.
There are a wide variety of flea sprays on the market both to spray directly on your dog as well for spraying inside of your home.
Probably the best spray for your dog is the Frontline spray flea and tick treatment. This spray is used directly on your dog and the active ingredient fiprinol kills fleas as well as ticks for up to one month after spraying and will kill 100% of the existing fleas on our dog’s body in 24 hours. It is also waterproof so your dog can go for a swim or have a bath without losing the flea killing effects.
When it comes to sprays for your home, a long-lasting spray like Hartz Ultraguard Plus Flea and Tick Home Spray is a great choice which kills fleas in their pre-adult stages for 7 months. While this is an excellent product it is not made to be sprayed directly on your dog and should be used along with another dog flea treatment like a topical solution, spray treatment, tablet, or flea collar. Because it is a pesticide it also kills ticks, silverfish, roaches, earwigs, and ants. While it does have a strong pesticide smell(even though it claims not to) it really does the job especially when used on carpets, curtains, couches, dog beds, and other places where fleas are living.
Dog flea treatment shampoos are an inexpensive option for the dog owner who doesn’t mind giving their dog a bath. A popular choice is Hartz Ultraguard Rid Flea and Tick which not only smells great but will kill both fleas and ticks on contact while washing. It also uses oatmeal to soothe flea and bug bites as well as irritated skin. Usually retailing for between $7-10 dollars a bottle it’s a quick fix for killing fleas on your dog but not really a long-term solution. That being said, it’s a good idea to have a good flea shampoo at home to hold your dog over while waiting to purchase another type of treatment. And if you’re going to bathe your dog anyway, why not use a flea and tick shampoo for extra protection.
Natural dog flea treatment options
Some dog owners don’t like the idea of using chemicals to kill fleas on their dogs and in their homes and they want to go the natural route, and there are a bunch of really good options.
Unlike other dog flea treatments this one is made from natural vitamins. Your dog takes one liver flavor tablet per day and a scent undetectable to humans is emitted from the dog’s skin. Fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks will be repelled by this scent and won’t bite or attach themselves to your dog.
Another natural dog flea treatment that most dog owners don’t know about is diatomaceous earth. Many people think that because the name says “earth” that it is a type of soil, but actually it is made of diatoms which are the fossilized remains of microscopic shells. It is totally safe for all animals to consume and you put this powder into your dog’s food daily or rubd into their fur to kill and repel all insect types. Many people sprinkle this powder on their carpets and in their dog’s beds as well. Sprinkling it in your home is actually one of the most effective ways to prevent and kill bedbugs too! If you can’t find this product online you can usually pick it up at most garden centers.
Make your own natural flea spray:
You can make an all natural flea spray for your dog by adding cut lemons to boiling water and leaving them for about 12 hours to steep. Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and spray your dog all over.
Natural flea repellent :
Fleas dislike many herbs as well as plants with a citrus smell. By planting certain types which fleas don’t like you can help to repel them both indoors and out. By planting: Lemon Balm, Thyme, Catnip, Fennel, Basil, Sage, or Peppermint you will help to keep fleas away without using chemicals.
***Extra Dog Flea Treatment Tips***
-Feeding your dog a good diet will keep him or her in good health and that means less problems with fleas
-Use a good flea shampoo when washing your dog, you have to do give your dog a bath anyway so why use a normal shampoo when you can get the added benefit of killing fleas -Always treat all dogs as well as cats in your home for fleas not just one
-Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum: Because fleas hide out in your carpet, a good thorough vacuuming a few times a week is a simple way to help to put dent in the flea population in your house
-Make sure to empty your vacuum bag into an outdoor garbage container so fleas can’t jump out and back into your home
-A flea collar or mothballs placed in your vacuum bag is a simple trick that will kill fleas which are sucked up into your vacuum preventing them from escaping and laying eggs
-You can actually drown fleas in your yard by watering your lawn and garden heavily with water a few times per week
-For an all natural flea treatment rinse after shampooing your dog make a 50/50 mix of water and lemon juice and rinse your dog
-Baking soda mixed with water into a paste is a great non-toxic anti-itch cream for areas where your dog has already been bitten by fleas or other insects
-Just because a flea treatment is safe for your dog does not mean it is safe for your cat, always make sure you read the label of the product carefully
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