Pesky Pests: Put Fleas & Ticks in Their Place

Greetings from me, Chopper. The warm months between spring and fall give plenty of chance for pups to soak up the great outdoors.

The problem is that the weather is friendly to biting bugs as well. Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are out in full force. We hate bug bites as much as you do, but we don’t let that keep us from exploring buggy places.

Your best friend should take a heartworm preventative. Heartworm is transmitted through mosquitoes. Talk to your vet about preventative options. (You may have to get really sneaky and hide it in a treat.)

Which flea and tick preventative will be best for your pup? Otis and I dug up some information to guide you.

Topical Treatments

A topical treatment is applied to the skin to get rid of pests or prevent them. Flea dips and shampoos are topical treatments. Concentrated pesticides applied along the back are another option.

The active ingredients in topical medication paralyze and kill pests, like fipronil and imidacloprid. Natural treatments often include pyrethroid, made from chrysanthemums. (Be careful using pyrethroid treatments on small dogs and in homes shared with cats.)

Pros: Topical treatments can be very effective. Apply on schedule and don’t worry about bugs.

Cons: They require reapplication, usually monthly. They’re greasy on the day of application—and dogs like to roll on their backs to scratch away the strange sensation. Watch for allergic reactions.

Chewable Tablet

Chewable tablets contain certain insecticides that kill fleas and ticks when they bite. They can last two to three months, depending on the brand. Some brands are only available with a prescription, but others can be found on the shelves of the pet store.

Common chemicals in these tablets are afoxolaner, fluralaner, nitenpyram, and spinosad. They kill live fleas within a couple days. (Fluralaner is the only one that kills ticks.)

Pros: Kill fleas within 48 hours. Some dogs don’t mind eating the tablets. No fear of pesticide being spread around the house.

Cons: Not all dogs like taking the tablets—like me. (Yuck!) Watch for side effects. Your vet may know of breed-specific difficulties or relevant issues with your dog’s medical history that would eliminate this option.

Flea & Tick Collars

A flea and tick collar can prevent an infestation but may not eliminate all the bugs if your dog already has fleas. Some emit a gas that repels pests while others have a medication that seeps into your dog’s fat layers. They can last one to eight months, depending on the brand.

Common chemicals found in flea collars include deltamethrin (synthetic version of phyrethroids found in chrysanthemum flowers), amitraz, pyriproxyfen, and propoxur. Avoid products with tetrachlorvinphos because it may be harmful to humans and domestic pets.

Pros: You can use them seasonally. Put it on your doggo just for nature romps, remove and seal in a plastic bag until you need it again. You can also pull it off if your pup has a skin reaction. Dress your dog in the collar and forget about treatment schedules.

Cons: Be careful about double dosing your dog with another treatment plus the collar. May cause an allergic reaction. (Otis was allergic to the flea collar our mom tried. Not fun.)

Natural Supplements & Treatments

Natural supplements are fed directly to your buddy or are mixed into food. They behave as repellants but do not kill pests and their eggs.

Active ingredients in supplements can include vinegar, garlic (can be toxic to dogs), citrus, brewer’s yeast, and various herbs. Discuss natural supplements with your vet before giving them to your pet.

Some pet parents recommend using essential oils. A number of essential oils are toxic to dogs, so you must research these home remedies very carefully. Use the lowest dose of safe essential oils possible.

Coconut oil is another option to kill and prevent pests. To eliminate a current infestation, you have to take your buddy outside and do a thorough rub-down with coconut oil. Daily application by spray is necessary as a preventative.

Pros: No chemicals.

Cons: Frequent application can be inconvenient. Not always effective. Be cautious with essential oils.

And the Winner Is…

Every dog is unique. You have to protect your pup pal from pests, but not every treatment is best for every doggo. Dogs with autoimmune and other health issues need a vet’s guidance in choosing the right treatment. 

Consider your pup’s exposure to pests. If your buddy is very outdoorsy, a prescription might be best. For the indoor dog who just mingles at the park and doesn’t romp in the woods, a flea collar could be the solution. Seek guidance from your vet. Find what’s best for your adventure buddy and enjoy what summer has to offer. 

The best one is the one brings smiles on your pups' face when they are digging, chasing, flopping outside in the yard, in the creek or in the woods!

Until next time--

Chopper & Otis