Flea season is a nightmare for every pet parent as fleas can cause serious diseases. To avoid it, you must keep an eye out for flea dirt on your pet, be regular with topical flea preventive medications, and more.
A healthy dog is a happy dog. And a happy dog does not itch all the time. When your dog has fleas, it's uncomfortable for them and you. Flea bites can be very itchy and irritating to humans and dogs. So how do you know if your dog has fleas and how to care for them?
Evaluate How Much Your Dog Is Scratching
Look for the signs that your dog is scratching excessively. If they spend most of their time scratching, they likely have fleas. Flea bites are one of the biggest annoyances for dogs and their owners during summer. They're hard to see and even harder to treat, so you'll want to ensure you catch them early in their life cycle before they get out of control.
If your dog is scratching more than usual and you can't find any fleas or flea dirt on them, check with your vet about what else might be going on. While certain pet medications can cause dogs' skin allergies (like steroids), there could also be a medical reason for itching more than usual — such as food allergies or an infection, in which case you might need allergy medicine for dogs or antibiotics for dogs. Once you've ruled out these possibilities, then it's time to look into getting rid of those pesky little bugs.
Monitor for Flea or Flea Dirt
Your dog may have fleas, but you can't see them. Fleas are tiny brownish-black insects that feed on your dog's blood. They live in your dog's fur and bedding, hiding there during the day and coming out at night to bite your pup.
Flea bites cause itching, redness, and swollen skin, and they can even cause anemia if a large infestation occurs. If you find dark brown or black spots on your dog's coat, this could be caused by fleas biting him repeatedly (or it might indicate another issue). Be sure to check for fleas in his bedding when monitoring for these signs. If you see one or two little bugs crawling around where he sleeps at night, it's time for treatment.
Best Flea and Tick Medications for Dogs
The best flea and tick medication for dogs keeps them healthy, provides good protection, and is safe to use. Some of the most common treatments are Frontline Plus for dogs, Advantage Multi for Dogs, Revolution for Dogs, and K9 Advantix.
Bravecto for Dogs is another option and is effective at killing fleas in as little as four hours after application. It also works against ticks but not mosquitoes or lice. If your dog has a sensitive stomach or skin condition like hot spots, you'll want to avoid Bravecto as it can irritate if used on these types of animals.
If you're looking for something less toxic than chemicals, check out Seresto or Sentinel Spectrum for Dogs, which uses an insect growth regulator called pyriproxyfen (an active ingredient in some pesticides). This substance prevents larvae from developing into adult fleas so they won't bite your dog or spread disease when they die off naturally without treatment.
If you'd instead not put any chemicals on your pet, then try Tri-Heart Plus (which uses ivermectin), Vectra 3D (permethrin), or K9 Advantix II (permethrin). Most veterinarians recommend using multiple protection methods during the warmer months because no single solution works 100% against all pests.
Resist the Temptation to Try a Home Remedy
When you're struggling to find a flea remedy that works, it can be tempting to turn to home remedies. The Internet is full of them, from diatomaceous earth powder and essential oils to garlic and vinegar. But just because they're touted as effective doesn't mean they work, especially when it comes to fleas.
The problem is that these methods aren't regulated or approved by any government agencies. Most don't undergo testing or clinical trials before being put on the market for public use, which means their effectiveness hasn't been proven through formal scientific methods. And if something isn't safe enough for humans (like hydrogen peroxide), it's probably not safe enough for your dog either.
Treat Your Dog with a Topical Treatment in Early Spring
Treating your dog with a topical treatment in early spring is the best way to keep fleas away. Topical treatments are available for all sizes of dogs, and they're safe and effective. They work by killing adult fleas on contact, so your pup won't have to deal with itching or irritation from biting fleas all summer long.
There are a variety of topical treatments available at any pet pharmacy, but be sure you check the label before buying one. Make sure you're using products appropriate for your dog's age (some medications can be toxic if misused) and weight.
Some medicines may even cause an allergic reaction if misapplied or in combination with other topical treatments. It's also essential to follow the directions strictly. If multiple applications are listed, each one must be administered precisely as your vet or pharmacist instructed so as not to damage their skin or fur.
Finally, because some dogs are sensitive to oral medications like pills or liquids (which can sometimes taste bad or cause gastrointestinal distress), topical treatments may be a better option than taking pills orally daily during flea season.
Shampoo Your Dog Occasionally, If Needed
If your dog's coat is long, oily, or thick, you may consider giving it good grooming by using a shampoo designed for dogs. Shampooing can help reduce the number of fleas on your pet because detergents in the flea shampoo for dogs will pull out dirt and oils from the fur, making it harder for fleas to survive. However, be sure that you don't shampoo too often as this can cause dry skin and irritation in some dogs.
Another option is using a flea product (or combination) specifically formulated for use with your breed of dog. These products are made specifically to kill off any fleas on your dog while simultaneously protecting them against future infestations through regular washing with this product once every few days until there are no signs of an infestation present.
Clean Your Home and Yard as Needed
In addition to vacuuming, you should also use a flea spray on carpets and upholstery. Flea sprays are designed to be sprayed directly onto pets, but they're also safe for use around your home. Make sure you cover all areas of your pet's bedding with a flea spray to prevent fleas from reproducing there instead of just killing those present at the time of application.
You can also buy unique dog beds treated with a topical insecticide such as permethrin or bifenthrin. These chemicals work systemically through the dog's skin and kill any insects that bite them afterward. If you're going out of town during peak season and leaving your dog behind while they are still susceptible to bites, consider buying one of these beds so your pup will be protected while you're gone.
While you can't eliminate all fleas from your dog's environment, you can deal with the problem quickly using modern treatments. Fleas have been around for millions of years and will probably be around for millions more. While there are natural remedies that people have used over time to control fleas on dogs and cats, it is essential to understand that the best way to rid yourself of these pests is through modern medicine.
With the proper treatment, you can keep your dog flea-free. You may find that one topical treatment works better than another or that your dog responds to shampoo or a home remedy. The most important thing is to stay vigilant and treat your pet as soon as possible if you suspect an infestation.