What can I put on my dog to prevent fleas?
This is a common question on dog forums and from clients visiting the vet with their dogs.
Fleas are something every dog owner has to think about.
They are nasty parasites that routinely hitch rides on dogs, and if the dog is left unprotected, make a snack of our furry friends.
Today, we’re going to be talking why it’s important to prevent a flea infestation, and answering: What can I put on my dog to prevent fleas?
How Common are Fleas on Dogs?
The short answer is very. Fleas are the most common canine parasite.
In fact, the top two parasites that dog owners are frequently faced with are fleas and ticks.
This is why so many owners want to know how to deal with one or both of these parasitic jerks.
It’s incredibly important to prevent flea infestations on our dogs for a few reasons:
- It’s Uncomfortable: Flea bites itch!
- Fleas Transmit Worms: Fleas are the vehicle by which tapeworms are transmitted. They’re easily treated, but it’s an extra expense.
- Heavy Infestation Has Health Risks: Severe flea infestation can cause allergic dermatitis and anemia, both of which can be quite severe in very heavy infestations.
Related: Dog Flea Treatments to Prevent, Eliminate, and Soothe
What Can I Put on My Dog to Prevent Fleas
As almost every professional and most owners will tell you, the first thing you should do is ask your vet about what you can use to prevent fleas on your dog.
However, it’s nice to have some knowledge ahead of time so you can discuss the pros and cons of the various treatments that are available out there.
These days, most but not all flea preventatives are bundled with a tick preventative as well.
In the past, flea preventatives were either spot-on treatments, collars, or baths.
However, these days, you can also get chewables for your dog to help you prevent fleas.
We’re going to take a look at the major types of flea prevention products along with their pros and cons.
The video below also gives you a good overview.
Spot-on treatments are topically applied to your dog’s skin.
They’re medical liquids that are designed to absorb into your dog’s skin.
After that, when a flea bites your dog, the blood meal he takes is essentially poison to the flea.
In addition to killing fleas, some spot-on treatments are also designed to stop flea larvae and pupae from maturing.
To apply, you part the hair at his shoulder blades and apply the full contents of the spot-on capsule directly to the skin.
After that, you shouldn’t bathe your dog for about 24 hours to allow the liquid to fully absorb.
- Relatively Easy to apply
- Some formulations can stink
- Your dog cannot be bathed or get wet for 24 hours
- Can cause site reactions in some dogs
- May not work if most or all of the medication is not applied directly to the skin (getting more on the hair than the skin).
A word of caution. Do not purchase all-natural flea prevention products.
For example, many of these products aren’t regulated the way prescription products are.
In addition, some ingredients in these products, while all-natural, can be irritants for pets.
Different flea preventative brands have different formulations and ways of working.
Talk with your vet about which spot-on treatment is right for your dog.
Chewable flea preventatives have been around for several years now, and they’ve been found to be just as effective as spot-on treatments.
Much like spot-ons, chewable treatments are designed such that the active ingredient is absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream, making his blood deadly to any fleas that bite him.
Some chewables last for one month, while some can last for three months.
There is no application, simply give your dog the pill. Most chewables are made with flavors that your dog loves, so there’s no need to disguise pills or pill your dog.
- Exceptionally easy to give
- Some chewables have a three-month efficacy
- More expensive
- A small percentage of dogs can have stomach upset
There are a few different chewables that are designed with different ingredients and efficacy time frames.
Talk with your vet about which chewable treatment is right for your dog.
Flea collars have been around forever, and while many people use them, they aren’t as effective as spot-on or chewable treatments.
Flea collars contain chemicals that either repel or kill fleas.
However, because the ingredients are in the collar and not in the dog’s bloodstream, they are only effective around the head and neck area.
This is not ideal, as fleas prefer the hindquarters and underside of dogs such as the armpit and groin areas.
In general, flea collars aren’t very effective on their own, as they only protect a certain part of a dog’s body.
In addition, collars aren’t as powerful as spot-ons or chewables, so they may not work effectively on fleas that do come into contact with them.
- Less expensive
- Some collars have an ingredient efficacy of up to 8 months
- Chemicals are infused into the collar, making contact with them easy, especially for children
- Prevention is only effective around the head and neck
- Ingredients aren’t as effective as spot-ons or chewables
Flea shampoos can be used to treat fleas, but only in cases of infestations as a supplement to other treatments.
They are not preventatives, as they are designed to kill fleas that are already living on a dog.
In addition, fleas are fast, and can simply move to your dog’s head and even jump off of him completely to avoid the shampoo.
For these reasons, flea shampoos simply aren’t effective.
- Can sometimes be used in conjunction with other treatments to stop infestation
- Usually ineffective
- Fleas can simply avoid the shampoo
- Can cause fleas to migrate to parts of the home as they jump off of the dog
- Only useful in some cases and only after an infestation has occurred
Do Indoor Dogs Need Flea Prevention
Absolutely. Even dogs who live exclusively in the home need flea prevention.
We all take our dogs out to do their business, and even if that’s the only time your dog goes outside, he needs flea prevention.
It only takes a few seconds for a flea to hitch a ride on your dog, and if he has no prevention, the flea has carte blanche to make your dog a buffet.
If your dog happens to become home to a female, he could also become an incubator for more fleas.
Once that happens, you’re looking at a probable flea infestation on your dog and possibly in your home if you don’t catch it in time.
Can a Dog Have Flea Dirt and No Fleas
If your dog is untreated – and sometimes even if he is – you might find small black particles on his skin.
If you wet these particles with water or alcohol on a paper towel and it turns red, this is flea dirt, which is just a nice term for flea poop.
If you find flea dirt on a treated dog, it’s usually as simple as the flea leaving a little present before or directly after taking a blood meal.
However, if you find flea dirt on an untreated dog, it could be a warning sign of an infestation.
Even if you don’t see fleas, they could still be on your dog.
Fleas are fast, and they’ll often scoot off to another part of your dog while you’re parting his hair.
This means that while you don’t see them on your untreated dog they can most certainly be there.
Can I Get Fleas if My Dog Has Them
You can absolutely get fleas from your dog. When your dog becomes infested with fleas, they’ll generally want to stay on him.
However, they’ll lay eggs which can fall off your dog and onto surfaces like your couch or bed.
In addition, the fleas themselves sometimes end up on these surfaces, as well.
While fleas prefer the dark warmth of a dog’s coat, they will absolutely take their meals where they can get them.
That means if they end up on your couch or your bed, they won’t hesitate to hitch a ride on you and start snacking.
Can Dogs Get Fleas from Grass
A lot of people think that fleas are like ticks, preferring to hang out on bushes or other medium-height plants and wait for a potential host to walk by.
However, fleas are more likely to be in the grass than ticks.
Fleas take multiple meals, whereas ticks latch on to their host and stay where they are.
That means that fleas can fall off of wild animals as they make their way through your yard.
All it takes is for a flea or two to be in the grass as your dog walks by for those fleas to hitch a ride on a new meal ticket.
Can Dogs Get Fleas in the Winter
You might be thinking that it’s safe to go without preventative in the winter months, but that’s not the case at all.
While flea populations are far less active during the winter, they can still be around.
Fleas are exceptionally hard to kill, so all it takes is one day in the 40s or 50s for the fleas to show their ugly, blood-sucking faces and try to find a host like your dog.
We’ve Answered What Can I Put on My Dog to Prevent Fleas. Now What?
So now you know the answer to what can I put on my dog to prevent fleas. No what?
The next step is to talk with your vet.
With so many options out there, your vet can help you choose the right method of flea prevention that works for you and your dog.