After you’ve welcomed a new puppy into your home, it’s important to use all available resources to set him up for a long and happy life. Those include getting all required and recommended vaccinations for your puppy, beginning the socialization process, and initiating a regimen of preventive care, including heartworm preventatives and flea/tick medication.
Flea and Tick Medications for Puppies
Most flea/tick medications are not safe to use on puppies until they’ve reached at least 7 or 8 weeks of age (see below for a chart of medications and their recommended starting age). Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a flea/tick medication to use and advise you on when it’s safe to begin administering it to your puppy.
|Advantage Multi||7 weeks/3 lbs.||Topical||Monthly||X|
|Bravecto||6 months||Tablet||12 weeks||X||X|
|Capstar||4 weeks/2 lbs.||Tablet||Varies||X|
|Frontline Plus||8 weeks||Topical||Monthly||X||X|
|Frontline Spray||8 weeks||Spray||Monthly||X||X|
|Frontline Top Spot||8 weeks||Topical||Monthly||X||X|
|K9 Advantix||7 weeks||Topical||Monthly||X||X|
|K9 Advanti II||7 weeks||Topical||Monthly||X||X|
|Sentinel Flavor Tabs||4 weeks/2 lbs.||Tablet||Monthly||X|
|Seresto||7 weeks||Collar||8 months||X||X|
|Trifexis||8 weeks||Tablet||1 month||X|
|Vectra 3D||7 weeks||Topical||Monthly||X||X|
|Virbac Long Acting KnockOut Spray||6 months||Spray||2 weeks||X||X|
|Virbac Pyrethrin Drip||12 weeks||Dip||No more than every 7 days||X||X|
What to Do If Your Puppy or Dog Has Fleas
Flea treatment: According to veterinarian and AKC Family Dog columnist Jeff Grognet, Capstar, is safe to give to puppies as young as four weeks old (and a minimum of 2 pounds). This medication is given in a tablet form to treat flea infestations. Because its active ingredient (nitenpyram) works for only 24 hours, it is not effective as a preventive medication. Always speak to your veterinarian before offering your dog a new medication to ensure it is safe for your dog to take and to confirm dosage.
Flea shampoos & collars: Most veterinarians do not recommend flea shampoos or collars for puppies or adult dogs because they are not very effective, Grognet says. There is an exception: The collar, Seresto, is designed to slowly release the active chemicals (imidacloprid and flumethrin). This product may be useful at stopping flea larvae from molting. Seresto is effective against fleas and ticks for up to 8 months and can be used on a dog as young as 7 weeks old. Speak with your veterinarian about this option.
Grognet also points out that some flea shampoos can be beneficial for nursing dogs because it will prevent exposing the puppies to the chemicals, which are washed off with the shampoo. Some experts swear by bathing a flea-infested pregnant dog or young puppy in Dawn soap, but Grognet is wary of this method. “It strips out the dog’s natural oils and does not kill fleas,” he says. If you do use this method, Jerry Klein, AKC's Chief Veterinary Officer, advises being thorough in rinsing. "Many times the rinsing should take longer than the lathering," Klein says. "This complete rinse after a shampoo is one of the most important aspects of any bath, and often hurried in many cases."
Consult with your veterinarian before using any product on your dog, especially if she's pregnant or nursing.
Flea comb: As an alternative to medications (or for pups younger than four weeks), Grognet recommends using a flea comb to check your puppy for the presence of fleas and safely remove them.
Clean the home: Depending on the severity of the infestation, it may be necessary to also treat your home to ensure flea eggs and larvae don’t grow to reinfest your puppy later. Of the flea population, only 5 percent includes adult fleas on pets, Grognet says. The rest are in various stages of the life cycle and can be found outdoors or in your home. Vacuum your carpets (remember to remove the bag afterward) and clean all bedding your pet has used as well as any chairs with padding. Speak to your veterinarian about what additional steps you should take to treat the problem and prevent it from returning.
Why Flea and Tick Prevention Is Important
In addition to being uncomfortable for your dog, fleas are also the leading cause of tapeworm, a parasite whose larvae is carried by fleas. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Canine Ehrlichiosis, Canine Anaplasmosis, and other serious conditions. (Read more about tick-borne diseases from the AKC Canine Health Foundation.)
Dr. Andrea Tu of Park East Animal Hospital in New York City (scroll down for video) recommends regularly running a flea comb throughout your dog’s coat to check for fleas. Also, be on the watch for “flea dirt,” little black specks usually found on a dog’s belly or around the tail. Vacuuming the home and spraying insecticides on shaded areas in the yard can also be useful in keeping any potential flea problems at bay. Some people prefer the more "natural" option of using nematodes, an organism that feeds on flea larvae, on their yards.
After visiting woody areas or spending a lot of time outdoors, give your dog a tick check, looking him over for any embedded parasites. If you spot a tick on your pet, carefully remove it using this safe method and contact your veterinarian in case further treatment or testing is necessary.
How to Prevent Flea and Tick Infestations
Once your puppy is old enough, it’s important to start using a monthly preventive medication to ensure that he won’t be affected by fleas or ticks in the future. Many of the medications available and mentioned in the chart below are effective for preventing both fleas and ticks. Speak to your veterinarian about the best medication for your pet based on your location, the age and weight of your pet, and more.