Ah, the joys of Spring and Summer. The return of swimming, hiking, Frisbee in the park, all reasons to look forward to the season. But the return of fleas? Not so much. Not only are these blood-sucking parasites unsightly and creepy, they can also cause some serious diseases. So, how can you keep your dog flea-free this season? Here are a few ideas to consider ...
1. Spot-on Treatments
While spot-on medications seem like they would only work on the spot they are applied to (in the same way a collar works), they are actually very effective at covering the animal’s entire body. The drops work by a process of translocation, by which the medication is spread over the body by way of the oil glands. They are not affected by bathing, swimming or rain and will kill and repel fleas for several weeks before reapplication. They may also work to interrupt the flea life cycle while it is in progress. Before choosing a particular spot-on product, read all labels carefully to be sure you are choosing the one most appropriate for your dog’s age and size.
2. Oral Medications
If you need help controlling a serious flea infestation, using oral medications along with spot-on treatments will help. Once a month flea control pills (in small tablet form) work to disrupt the life cycle of fleas, but do not kill adult fleas on contact. Some are made to be easy to administer, even for pets that are difficult to medicate, with flavor added to make them more like treats so they are accepted gladly -- or at least easier to hide in your dog’s food. With the oral medication, you won’t have to be concerned about small children coming into contact with the dog immediately after administration, as you might with spot-on treatments.
3. Flea Shampoos
Bathing your dog with a special medicated shampoo that kills fleas and/or ticks on contact can be an inexpensive (though labor-intensive) method of protecting your dog during flea season, or year round. You will need to repeat the process more often, about every two weeks, as the effective ingredients in these shampoos won’t last as long as a spot-on or oral medication.
4. Flea Collars
Collars that repel and kill fleas are another option. Their effectiveness may depend on how invasive the fleas are in your dog’s environment, and the collar needs to make contact with your dog’s skin in order to transfer the chemicals onto the fur and skin. When adjusting the collar around your dog’s neck, make sure there is just enough room to fit two fingers under the collar. Cut off any excess length of collar to prevent your dog from chewing on it, and watch for signs of discomfort (e.g., excessive scratching) in case an allergic reaction to the collar occurs. Make sure you read labels carefully when choosing a collar to make sure it is size and age appropriate.
5. Flea Dips
A dip is a concentrated chemical that needs to be diluted in water and applied to the animal’s fur with a sponge, or poured over the back. This is not like a shampoo bath, so you will not rinse your dog off after applying the dip product. These chemical products can be very potent, so labels need to be read carefully before use to make sure that it is appropriate for your dog age and health. Misuse can lead to toxic reactions, in both pets and in the people treating them, so they are generally only used for severe infestations, and only infrequently. Because of the chemical potency of dips, they should not be used on very young animals (under four months) or on pregnant or nursing animals. Ask your veterinarian for advice before treating puppies and pregnant or nursing pets.