A review of dog flea treatments: what are the options for your pet ?
With the array of flea treatments now available, keeping your dog protected against fleas is relatively straightforward. You just need to choose which delivery method works best for you and your pet. Use our comprehensive guide to help you decide.
Pet-specific flea sprays with insecticides are applied directly to the roots of a dog’s coat to kill fleas on contact. Don’t confuse these with household flea sprays, which tackle the problem in the home, but must not be used directly on pets. Check the product label first to be sure.
Pros:Sprays work quickly to kill adult fleas on dogs with a flea infestation.
Cons: The entire body of the animal needs to be sprayed, so this treatment can be more time-consuming than some of the other options. Additionally, some dogs don’t like being sprayed, or being restrained while the spray is applied.
If your dog has fleas, a special flea-killing shampoo containing an insecticide can help get rid of them.
Pros:These can be good for dogs who like baths.
Cons:Flea shampoos usually need to be left on for at least 10 minutes, and they don’t always have a lasting effect – meaning that they are a short-term solution that won’t necessarily stop your pet becoming reinfested!
Fine-toothed flea combs do not contain chemicals. Instead, repetitive grooming using a flea comb can help remove fleas from your dog’s coat.
Pros: Pets that love being groomed might prefer this method.
Cons: It’s very time-consuming, and it’s hard to remove every flea. Combing also won’t stop new fleas from taking up residence on your pet.
A small pipette of liquid is squeezed onto the base of your dog’s neck, or for larger dogs, in a few spots along their back. The active ingredient is then either absorbed into the dog’s bloodstream, or spreads throughout the skin.
Pros:Some spot-on formulas are designed to kill fleas on contact. For instance, the active ingredient in the spot-ons Advantage [link], Advocate [link] and Advantix [link] spreads throughout your dog’s skin, where it is able to kill fleas on contact – so fleas don’t have to bite your pet to be killed1. Advantage, Advocate and Advantix are available from vets and pet stores.
Cons:While spot-ons have a lasting effect against fleas, you’ll need to remember to apply the treatment when it’s due, typically monthly.
Tablets and Chews
The active ingredients in flea tablets and chews are absorbed into the dog’s bloodstream. Fleas that bite the pet are exposed to the active ingredient and killed.
Pros: Tablets and chews are usually flavoured and easy to give. The active ingredients start to work quickly.
Cons: Fleas need to bite your dog to be killed. Each tablet or chew gives varying durations of protection, and sometimes different duration for different parasites, so you’ll need to read the label carefully and keep track of when you give them.
Special medicated flea collars can provide long-lasting protection against fleas, sometimes offering many months of protection at a time.
Pros: Some flea collars remain effective for several months without the need for a top-up treatment. For example, the Seresto flea collar for dogs [link] kills fleas for eight months. Seresto, is also water-resistant^ and odour-free.
Cons: Effective flea collars typically come with a higher upfront cost, although when you consider the duration of treatment, and cost per month, they are usually very cost effective.
There are a whole range of different pet flea treatments available that all work in slightly different ways. The one that’s right for you and your dog will depend on your individual dog as well as your personal preference.
^See product label for details
1. Mehlhorn et al. Parasitol Res (2001) 87: 198-208 Sutton, G. P. and Burrows, M.(2011). Biomechanics of jumping in the flea. J. Exp. Biol. 214, 836-847