Ever had a scratch that you can’t reach? It’s the worst… Luckily us humans can ask for help or use a ladle to scratch that itch on our back (yay for thumbs!).
Dogs aren’t so lucky. When fleas infest their coat, they can’t ask us to help alleviate the itching on the parts of their body they can’t reach with their legs. It’s up to us, as pet parents, to keep a close eye for any tell-tale behaviors, like excessive scratching.
Once you suspect that your dog might have fleas, you’ll want to give them the best treatment. But what does that mean? Well, you’ll have to consider how effective or fast-acting the medication is, as well as your pet’s age, weight, and other factors.
But how do you know if your dog has a flea problem in the first place? Take a deep breath—we’ll explain the basics.
How can you tell if your dog has fleas?
When you see your dog scratching themselves more than usual, this might indicate that there are unwelcome visitors lurking in their fur.
Your vet, of course, can offer a close inspection. But you can also check on your own to see if there are actually fleas, or if something else is bothering your furry friend.
- Look for flea dirt. Black or reddish specks in your dog’s fur might indicate flea dirt (a charming word for bug feces or old blood). Lightly wet a paper towel and rub it on the area where you see the black specks. If what’s picked up by the paper towel starts to look like a small bloodstain, you might be dealing with fleas.
- Use a flea comb. You can find a flea comb in any pet store (a fine-tooth comb is also fine to use). Combing is an easy way to check for the little devils. The comb collects fleas, flea eggs, and flea dirt. The comb might not be able to get rid of all the fleas and eggs, but will help you detect the insects and provide some immediate relief for your furry friend.
- Look for white ovals. If you see white ovals in your dog’s fur this might indicate that they’re in for some itching. These ovals could possibly be tapeworms, or flea eggs.
Once you know that your dog has fleas, it’s time to take action.
Getting rid of fleas
You have four options: topical flea treatments, oral treatments, flea collars, and flea shampoos.
Not sure which treatment is best for you and your dog? No worries, that’s what vets are for. They can help you assess the situation and come up with a good solution for you. (FYI, did you know that with Lemonade’s Preventative+ package, you’re covered for flea and tick medication?)
Topical treatments are liquids or gels that are applied directly on the skin, whereas oral treatments are in the form of a pill. Flea collars slowly release active ingredients on your dog’s body that kill the fleas and flea shampoos wash away fleas, their eggs, and ticks.
Topical flea medication (a.k.a., ‘spot on’ medication) is often applied between the dog’s shoulder blades so that they can’t reach and lick it off. Brands like Frontline Plus and k9 Advantix are effective topical treatments; they not only help get rid of the fleas, but also repel them. This treatment can be used monthly to make sure fleas go away—and stay away.
Options include flea pills and chewable tablets that help control, treat, and prevent flea infestations in dogs. They might come in the form of flavored chewies that dogs will easily take to, like a treat.
There are many pills that do different things. Some can kill fleas, whereas some only kill larvae. And some can even prevent fleas from laying more eggs. That’s why it’s important to discuss with your vet which part of the flea life cycle the specific pill treats.
Well-known and effective brands include Bravecto, Credelio, Nexgard, Capstar, Simparica, and Comfortis.
These collars kill fleas by releasing chemicals. Some collars target only adult fleas, while others may kill some of the younger life stages.
One downside of flea collars is that they’re primarily effective in the neck area. Vets usually wouldn’t recommend these collars when your goal is to get rid of or prevent fleas. (More often, collar-based options are used as a tick treatment, because ticks tend to gravitate to the neck area.)
Bathing your dog with flea shampoo will get rid of the current fleas, but won’t prevent a re-infestation.
Are all flea treatments safe to use?
Don’t give your puppy a treatment without consulting your vet. There are treatments that aren’t safe to use on puppies that are younger than 8 weeks of age. The packaging should specify if the product is safe to use or not.
Lemonade’s expert vet Dr. Liff explains that all of the brands mentioned above are FDA- or EPA-approved—but if you have little kids in your home it might be a bit safer to use oral products. That way, children can’t get the treatment on their hands or accidentally ingest it if they’re petting or playing with the pup.
One last thing
Between vet visits and medications and flea treatments, pet parenthood can get expensive, so we’re here to help take the bite out of some of those expenses. Click below to get your cat or dog enrolled ASAP.