With so many different flea products on the market these days, it can be hard to know which to choose for your dog and why. The good news is that with so many options, there really is something to suit all dogs. Generally, the aim is to kill any live fleas that are on the dog already. Aswell as prevent any new ones from jumping on, and eliminate any reservoirs of eggs or larvae in the environment. This means making sure that other animals that live with your dog are also treated for fleas. 

Why are fleas a problem?

Fleas might just seem like a bit of a nuisance, which they are. But it’s not the only thing they’re responsible for. Aside from the obvious discomfort that biting fleas cause to pets (and their owners), they are also responsible for transmitting tapeworm infestations to both dogs and cats. Not only this, but in very young pets, the presence of large numbers of fleas feeding on the animal can lead to significant anaemia (a low red blood cell level). Some dogs may also produce an allergic response to flea saliva, which is referred to as Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD). This causes a disproportionately strong reaction and accompanying dermatitis after only a small number of flea bites. It can be a frustrating condition to manage. 

Why choose a spot-on flea treatment?

Spot-on flea treatments involve applying a small amount of medicated liquid to the skin of the dog, in an area where they can’t easily reach around and lick it off. They are generally quick and easy to apply. There’s no need to fight with your dog to get tablets into him. There are a lot of different product available; some covering for fleas only, others for fleas, ticks and other types of ectoparasites (think mites). And further products that extend their range of cover to internal parasites (like intestinal worms) as well. Some are also useful as repellents to help prevent mosquito bites. This can be important if you’re considering travelling abroad with your dog. 

Exactly which product you choose may depend on whether your dog’s lifestyle means he needs additional cover for other parasites, your dog’s tolerance to the ingredients and other medication he may be taking. 

What are the downsides of spot-on treatments?

Unfortunately, some dogs don’t like the smell of some of the liquids and can become aversive of having the product applied. It’s also important to consider whether he lives with other dogs or cats who are likely to lick at the site where the substance is applied. Some flea products for dogs can be dangerous to cats, so it’s important to remember to take this into consideration. 

In addition, if your pet is extremely fond of playing in water, it can be tricky to know when to apply the product. So it doesn’t get washed out before your dog is protected. Not only this, but some substances can also be toxic to aquatic organisms if they get into waterways. Spot-on products also tend to need to be applied frequently to achieve consistent cover.

What about tablet flea treatments?

Tablet flea treatments can be a good choice for dogs who don’t mind taking a tablet, are frequent swimmers, and who live with other pets that might end up licking off a spot-on. They are similar to the spot-ons; in that many tablet forms can also provide a diverse range of cover for other external and internal parasites at the same time. There are some products that have an appealing extended length of action. This means that they don’t need to be given as frequently as some of the spot-on formulations. 

Are there downsides to flea tablets?

The most obvious negative aspect of using tablet flea treatment is the need to administer a tablet to your pet. Some can be quite amenable, or at least easily tricked into taking a tablet. But whilst products are getting ever more sophisticated with their flavourings, there are still some dogs that are very difficult to get tablets into. Similarly, some dogs with sensitive tummies, that require a specific diet or that have underlying organ dysfunction, might not be candidates for tablet flea treatment. As it must be digested and absorbed. And sometimes metabolised (altered by an organ such as the liver or kidneys) before it gets to work.

So, which is best?

In most instances, it’s personal preference. Your vet can choose the product that best suits the form of application for the dog. However, it’s important to take a lot of other factors into consideration before picking a flea treatment. Regardless of which type you choose, it’s always key to treat your dog’s environment with a licensed product that can eliminate the larva and egg reservoirs, to prevent them from getting reinfested as these mature. 

It’s always a good idea to get your vet’s advice before giving any product to your dog. If you’ve got a flea problem, they’ll be best situated to advise you on how to treat all of your pets. Aswell as their environments, appropriately and effectively.

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