Puppy Flea Treatment

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If you have a new pup in your life, the time to think about puppy flea treatment is now! Flea bites cause puppies all kinds of problems. Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin ailment for dogs.

Every time a flea bites, it leaves behind saliva that irritates the bite, often causing an allergic reaction. The resulting dermatitis is very uncomfortable for your little dog and can lead to infection…

Fleas can bite dozens of times an hour or more, they feed on a tiny bit of blood with every bite, so puppies can become anemic with a large enough infestation. These bugs also spread nasty parasites, including one variety of tapeworm. Luckily, with proper care, fleas won’t be a bother. You just have to know what to do.

Treatment And Prevention

Young puppies

If you have a very young puppy (younger than 8 weeks) a bath in warm water mixed with Dawn detergent is a very effective treatment against fleas. This soap kills fleas quickly and you will have only to pick the leftover bugs off with tweezers.

Dawn is safe to use on puppies (just keep it out of their eyes) and is used by many breeders. Take care using “natural” flea treatments for tiny puppies because they can be dangerous for the young ones.

Puppies older than 8 weeks

If your puppy is 8 weeks or older there are great products available that will make flea bites a thing of the past. They are long-lasting, working up to 7 months when applied directly to the skin or are maintained with a monthly pill.

Symptoms of Fleas

Puppies with fleas become quite itchy and they can drive your pet nuts. Fleas seem to prefer the back end of dogs, so your pet may chew the flanks and above the tail region. Parting the fur also often reveals “flea dirt”–it looks like tiny black specks caught in fur. This digested blood is flea poop and it turns red when placed on a damp cloth.

With pets that are allergic, a single flea bite can cause all over itching. These pups become sensitive and react to flea saliva. Products that don’t just kill but also repel fleas work best for allergic pups.

Flea Life Cycle

Adult fleas don’t hop on and off your pet. They stay there unless involuntarily dislodged, but they represent only five percent of the total flea population. The remaining 95 percent, composed of flea eggs, larvae and pupae, lurk in the environment and are poised to belly up to the furry banquet.

Fleas can lay 20 to 40 eggs per day, and 10 female fleas can create almost a quarter of a million different life stages in a month.

Newly emerged flea larvae can survive two weeks without a blood meal, and pre-emerged fleas (pupae/cocoon stage) can survive six months without feeding.

Flea products may address the egg, larvae and adult stages, but no insecticide can kill the cocoon stage. You must wait until it hatches to kill it.

It takes 14 to 21 days for the lifecycle to be complete.

Pet Lifestyle

Fleas hate direct sunlight and prefer outdoor shaded areas with sand, leaves or other debris, so the lifestyle of your puppy determines their exposure. Indoor couch potato pups won’t need the same protection as hunting dogs that roam the field. But even pups that visit the yard on leash have enough exposure to warrant flea protection.

Age and health also influence the type of product you should choose. Look at the label to make sure the flea or tick protection says it’s safe for your individual pets. Some are not safe for puppies.

While the extreme cold can kill parasites and they remain active only during warm months, it’s hard to predict and anticipate a weather change that brings out the bugs. Thus, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommends year-round protection against fleas and ticks.

Natural Flea Treatment

The safest and most “natural” flea control technique involves using a flea comb. Frequent vacuuming of the carpet removes up to 90 percent of flea eggs and 50 percent of larvae. Don’t neglect washing pet beds, carriers, blankets and throw rugs as well as any sofa cushions or other favorite pet resting places.

For outdoor habitats, cut the grass short to allow sunlight to shoo away the bugs. Keeping your pets from problem areas and treating the bug habitats helps reduce the pest population. Nematodes—worms that eat immature fleas—are available from lawn and garden supply outlets.

Bathing puppies can get rid of existing fleas but won’t necessarily keep them off. Be cautious of so-called “natural” flea products as they may still be dangerous for youngsters. Spray products do a better job and have some residual effect.

Products that contain insect growth regulators (IGRs) are the best choice for precise control because they prevent immature fleas from maturing into biting adults. They typically last a long time with a single application, some as long as seven months.

Modern Pest Advances

IGRs attack insects but not the pet and are one of the safest of the flea ingredients around.

For instance, methoprene fools flea larva into thinking it’s a larva forever, so it never turns into a biting adult flea. Another early IGR called lufenuron (once monthly pills) inhibits the development of the exoskeleton of the flea and sterilizes the bug so it can’t reproduce. Pyriproxyfen (Nylar) works like methoprene but with increased potency that also kills flea eggs and larva.

A better understanding of flea biology also helped develop active ingredients that attack the flea nervous system. These include fipronil (Frontline), imidacloprid (Advantage), nitenpyram (Capstar), and selectamin (Revolution) applied as spot-on treatments once a month. Each offers slightly different benefits.

Imidacloprid kills adult fleas and has a month-long effect. Fipronil also kills adult fleas for a month as well as ticks. Selamectin protects for a month against a host of pests including fleas, ear mites, heartworms and certain types of ticks. All four of these active ingredients take 24 to 48 hours to be effective. Nitenpyram, taken as a pill, kills adult fleas that feed on a treated pet within 20 minutes​ but is only effective for 24 hours and isn’t helpful for flea-allergic animals.

Some of the most effective flea and tick products today combine an adulticide to kill adult fleas with an IGR to control the immature bug population. You can find a fipronil and methoprene combination product that kills fleas and ticks (Frontline Plus), as well as etofenprox partnered with Nylar or methoprene in various over-the-counter spot-on products that help control fleas and ticks. Products that contain imidacloprid with permethrin (K-9 Advantix, for dogs only) or spinosad (Comfortis for dogs) also are available. New products are coming out all the time.

Consult with your veterinarian about how to best to protect your puppy in the bug wars. Some products only are available by prescription. If you choose an over-the-counter product, look at the label and follow product instructions to ensure the health and safety of your pets.

10 Best Dog Flea Treatment and Prevention

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy being treated for fleas

1. Dog Flea Powder

30 year ago, flea powders were the cutting edge in flea eradication technology. Today, they aren’t considered to be even close to being the best dog flea treatment. Newer flea control medications are easier to use, more effective, and last longer.

For a complete science-based breakdown, there’s a good page on dog flea and tick prevention methods with studies on what works and what doesn’t to prevent ticks and fleas in dogs.

Either way, flea powders are still really cheap, though, which is why they get a mention on the list. If you feel inclined to give them a shot, they can be used to provide some relief to your dog for 2-3 days at a time.

Zodiac Flea & Tick Powder is one of the better known flea powders for dogs that works well.

Note that other flea-fighting methods discussed later in this list are effective for a month at a time, so long-term repeated application of flea powder may well end up being more expensive than a one-time application of something that actually works.

2. Dog Flea Collars

A flea collar is considered to be a cheap and convenient best dog flea treatment option. Unfortunately, you tend to get what you pay for.

Dog flea collars only do a great job against fleas that are close to the collar, so if your dog has a fully-fledged infestation, you are better off using something else. These collars might be useful as a first preventative method, too, before your pooch even has a flea problem to begin with.

Bayer Seresto Flea and Tick Collar has long been one of the leaders in this category.

Keep in mind that flea collars contain some pretty nasty poisons. As long as the collar stays on your pooch, chances are he won’t be able to ingest them. However, other pets in your household can easily be exposed while playing or grooming.

Some of them work, and some of them don’t. The best thing you can do is look what other customers have to say about some of the best dog flea collars or give it a try and decide then (or both).

3. Flea Shampoo

Flea shampoos are another cheap best dog flea treatment weapon in your flea-fighting arsenal.

Basically, you lather up your dog with flea poison, and any fleas on your dog will die. Simple enough, although that may be easier said than done depending on how easy it is to bathe your dog.

Vet-Kem Ovitrol Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo has been well-reviewed by many pet owners and appears to be very effective.

Flea shampoos don’t provide anything to protect your dog from re-infestation. In a real flea infestation, your entire house will be hiding the little buggers, so they will get back on your dog in no time.

Use dog flea shampoos for immediate relief if your dog is really riddled with tons of fleas. Meanwhile, use one of the other method on this list to prevent the fleas from coming back.

4. Frontline Plus

Frontline Plus is the first so-called spot-on flea control medication. It’s called spot-on because you apply it to a single spot between your dog’s shoulder blades, which was found to have the most effect against fleas.

Spot-on medications are considered one of the best dog flea treatments as they are far more effective than the outdated flea collars/powders/shampoos.

However, Merial Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Control is one of the older spot-on options, and some dog owners claim it just isn’t as good as it used to be. Whether this is because fleas have evolved an immunity, or because Frontline has changed their formula, you are probably better off with one of the other spot-on medications later in this list.

5. Capstar

Capstar is like a flea shampoo bath in a pill. One pill will kill 99% of fleas that currently live on your dog.

That is the same outcome as you get from using flea shampoo bath with your dog, so unless bathing your dog is easier than feeding him a pill, you should probably consider Capstar for Dogs Tablets the superior option. The pills are cheap, too.

Unfortunately, similarly to dog flea shampoos, Capstar doesn’t provide any lasting poison for your dog’s fleas, and is definitely not the best dog flea treatment you can buy.

However, if your house is infested, you can combine Capstar with one of the other methods on this list; otherwise your fleas will be re-infested in a matter of days.

6. Sentinel Spectrum

The Sentinel Spectrum pills are essentially the opposite of Capstar. This product will clear up the itching caused by fleas, and it will prevent flea babies from growing on your dog (thus stopping re-infestation).

The problem with Sentinel Spectrum is that this product does not kill adult fleas currently living on your dog, which is naturally unusual for a best dog flea treatment. Every dog owner wants to exterminate currently living fleas.

Therefore, the best way to relieve your pooch from fleas and provide a lasting protection for her is to combine Sentinel Spectrum with something that will have an immediate relief (some of the products mentioned next will do the trick). This is an easy, proven and effective method.

7. Frontline Spray

The Frontline Spray is typically a lot more effective than the already mentioned Frontline Plus.

The reason Frontline Flea and Tick Treatment Spray not as popular, however, is because you have to spray your entire dog with it, which is a bit more annoying than a spot-on treatment, but probably easier than a flea shampoo bath.

Unfortunately, this Frontline Spray is quite expensive. If money is no object, the Frontline Spray is possible the most effective treatments on this list, and quite possibly the best dog flea treatment.

But if cost is an issue, then the remaining items on this list are almost as good, and much cheaper.

8. Advantage/Advantix/Advocate

By far one of the best dog flea treatments on this list, either one of these spot-on cures are made by the same company – Bayer.

They all use the same flea poison, but each has different additional poisons that treat other parasites (like mites or ticks). If you only care about fleas, these are all basically the same.

The Bayer products are easy and very effective. They aren’t the cheapest option on this list, but 9 times out of 10 they will get the job done right the first time.

K9 Advantix II is especially effective against a wide range of parasites, so it’s a great option if you aren’t exactly sure what’s eating your dog.

9. Revolution

Revolution is a competing dog flea product and a great alternative to Advantage Multi. It also works very well on a wide range of critters.

Honestly, choosing Revolution over one of the Bayer options will come down to brand loyalty. Both companies make excellent and effective dog flea treatments.

It’s worth noting that Bayer’s Advantage Multi will treat your dog’s mange (demodex), whereas Revolution will not.

What is puppy mange? It’s an extremely annoying disease. If your dog is losing major amounts of hair on his face and maybe other parts of his body, go see your vet ASAP.

10. Comfortis and Panoramis/Trifexis

This best dog flea treatment product comes in pills (both brands are manufactured by Elanco and use the same flea poison).

Comfortis treats the fleas, the whole fleas, and nothing but the fleas. It provides relief from symptoms while eradicating adult fleas and preventing re-infestation.

Panoramis is newer than Comfortis, and treats a host of other bugs. It doesn’t provide as much targeted symptom relief as Comfortis, though.

These two medications are the newest comers to the flea killing business, and have quickly proven to be some of the best. They can be a little overpowering for some dogs’ stomachs, though. Watch for vomiting after administering the dose, and give a second pill if the first comes back up. Obviously, remember to consult with the vet, too.

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