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Spring and summer are times when the lure of the great outdoors calls to us and our dogs, but they also just happen to be peak flea and tick season for much of the country, and with changes in climate, peak seasons are extending even further. No matter how careful you are, it’s impossible for your dog to totally avoid fleas and ticks if they spend any time outside. The best flea and tick prevention for dogs is a combination of effective products and consistent use. Your dog and your household will thank you for taking flea and tick prevention seriously.
Effective Flea & Tick Prevention Products for Dogs
The best flea and tick preventatives for dogs on the market today are safer and more effective than what was available even a decade ago. Our choices for dog flea and tick products have grown exponentially over the years, but it’s still important to consider your dog’s safety when using any product. Talk with your veterinarian to decide on the right flea and tick prevention regimen that will fit your dog’s age, health, breed, and the area where you live or vacation. Your vet will also consider whether you have more than one pet, have dogs that swim, or have young children in your household.
Choices for flea and tick preventatives include:
- Flea and tick pills and chewables
- Topical flea and tick treatments
- Flea and tick collars
- Flea and tick shampoos
- Flea and tick sprays and wipes
- Flea and tick yard treatments
Choosing the Best Flea & Tick Prevention for Dogs
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) cautions pet owners that parasite protection is not “one-size-fits-all.” Some products should not be used on very young puppies or senior dogs. Some dog breeds may be sensitive to certain ingredients that can make them extremely ill. The AVMA suggests that you ask your veterinarian the following questions when you’re looking for the best and safest flea and tick prevention option for your dog:
- What parasites does this product protect against?
- How often should I use/apply the product?
- How long will it take for the product to work?
- If I see a flea or tick, does that mean it’s not working?
- What should I do if my pet has a reaction to the product?
- Is there a need for more than one product?
- How would I apply or use multiple products on my pet?
Your vet is your best source of advice for your individual dog. You can always ask questions about your chosen flea and tick program once you start it, or learn from your vet about new products that are coming onto the market. Choosing the best flea and tick preventatives help you and your pet avoid the bites that can cause illness or other symptoms.
Tick Bite Prevention to Prevent Disease
Diseases spread through tick bites can cause a range of symptoms and, in some cases, can even kill your dog. Ticks can carry and spread several debilitating diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases that dogs can contract. These diseases can be very difficult to recognize and are easily misdiagnosed due to varied and vague symptoms. Treatments for tick-borne illnesses in dogs are also lengthy and can be very costly.
AKC Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jerry Klein suggests doing daily tick checks on your dog during tick season, in addition to consistently using a tick preventative treatment. A tick bite takes about 12 hours to transmit the bacteria anaplasma and 24 to 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease, for example. Locating and carefully removing ticks from your dog as soon as possible can help reduce the risk for these kinds of tick-borne illnesses.
Flea Bite Prevention to Prevent Itching & Illness
Symptoms of flea bites in dogs include itching and scratching, redness, flaky skin, scabs, hot spots, and hair loss. If your dog is allergic to fleas, you may notice these uncomfortable symptoms and more if they get infested with fleas. Just one flea bite can send a flea-allergic dog into a whirlwind of scratching, biting, and chewing at their skin.
Fleas are also the most common cause of tapeworms in dogs. When dogs are bitten by a flea, they will usually chew at the spot where the flea bit their skin. Often, they will swallow the flea in the process. Fleas carry the larvae of the tapeworm inside their bodies, and when your dog swallows a flea, these tapeworm larvae will mature into adult tapeworms inside your dog’s intestines. Fleas have also been known to cause anemia from blood loss in heavily infested dogs.
Flea & Tick Prevention for Your Household
People are also vulnerable to many of the complications and diseases that ticks and fleas can cause. One more reason to practice flea and tick prevention with your dog is to help keep your home, other pets, and family free from an infestation.
You already know fleas and ticks can lurk in your yard, but these pests can also catch a ride on your dog and set up home in (and breed in) your carpets and furniture. Vacuuming your carpets regularly can help, but it won’t necessarily kill fleas, ticks, or their eggs and larvae. If fleas and ticks have come into your home and taken up residence rent-free, you may need to use a flea- and tick-killing product to eliminate them and avoid having them reinfest your dog and other pets.
Choices for household flea and tick prevention include:
- Indoor flea and tick area spray
- Home and carpet flea and tick spray
- Holistic flea and tick home spray
- Indoor flea and tick foggers
- Flea and insect traps
- Flea and tick carpet powder
- Outdoor flea and tick spray
Before using any flea or tick product in your home, be sure to read the package label thoroughly and follow all usage instructions.
Flea & Tick Protection for Multi-Pet Households
It’s important that you understand and follow all of the warnings or instructions for flea and tick products that may apply not only to dogs, but to any other pets you may have in your home: cats, fish, birds, reptiles, or rodents. Products containing essential oils or certain insecticides may not be safe to use around cats or birds, for example. Always check with your veterinarian to confirm these kinds of household flea and tick treatments are safe to use with your individual pets.
If you are a multi-pet household, keeping these pests at bay is that much more important: “Fleas and ticks also serve as vectors that spread a large number of diseases between animals,” says Dr. Klein. “So if you have more than one pet, your other pets will be at risk.”
That also means a multi-dog (or dog-cat) household will need to treat every dog or cat, not just the one who might have picked up the flea or tick. If you see a flea on one dog or cat, it’s likely all of your dogs (or cats—even indoor-only ones) could have them lurking in their fur. If you treat one pet, but you don’t treat the rest of your pack, the fleas and ticks can just hop—quite literally—from one pet to the next. Consistent and comprehensive flea and tick treatment for your household—and all of your dogs or cats—is key to controlling the problem.
Talk to your veterinarian and decide which prevention products will work best for your dog and be compatible with any other pets, your home, and your budget.