Effective Flea Treatments for Pets

Veterinarians will attest that flea infestations are very frustrating yet common in both dogs and cats, particularly if they spend time outside. Fleas are dark, flat bodied, and small in size (1.5 to 3.2 millimeters in size). If pets are infested with fleas, owners can usually see them jumping off and onto your pet fur and skin. However, the most common signs of fleas are:

  • Chewing
  • Scratching
  • Licking
  • Biting
  • Signs of flea dirt (or faeces and blood)
  • And restless behavior in cats and dogs

If you believe your pet has fleas, performing a spot check using these techniques:

  • Use a flea comb to spread hair and inspect the skin and hair roots for fleas and flea dirt.
  • Comb throughly from head to tail.
  • Use a damp paper towel to wipe at flea dirt.
  • If it turns reddish brown in color, you’ll know it’s flea dirt.  

If it is, your pet has fleas. Now it’s time to treat your pet with one or a combination of the following treatments with your veterinarians approval:

1. Flea baths
Many owners choose to start treatment with a flea bath, which can be done at home or at your groomer or veterinarian’s office. A flea bath is a temporary flea banishment solution that utilizes flea shampoo, which is a formula that aims to eliminate flea dirt, eggs, and insects from the skin and hair. Flea shampoos come in different formulas depending on cat or dog size. Make sure to following the instructions carefully to prevent any irritation in your pet. Post-bathing be sure to rinse away all traces of shampoo from your pet’s skin and fur.

2. Flea collars
Most vets won’t recommend putting a flea collar on your pet due to irritations that may occur. This once popular flea control method is now considered potentially toxic for pets, as well as rather ineffective for flea control. If you do choose to use a flea collar on you outdoor pet, consult first with your veterinarian who can recommend a safe, non toxic option (i.e., Seresto collar).

3. Topical flea treatments
Also known as “spot on” flea treatments, these topical applications (i.e., Frontline, Revolution, Advantage, etc.) work to repel and kill fleas and ticks with a fast-acting pesticide. Formulas are available at different dosages to prevent skin irritation, and most work within 12-hours of application. Spot on flea treatments are also effective as preventative flea control as they eradicate fleas and eggs before they hatch and lay more eggs. Talk to your vet about preventative flea maintenance that can work up to one year of topical application.

4. Flea powder
Like flea collars, these chemically-concentrated insecticidal powders are considered outdated and potentially dangerous for pets and owners. The risk of you or your pet inhaling these dangerous chemicals is high, and if the wrong dosage is used, it can be fatal to pets. If you do plan to use flea powders to treat fleas, please talk to your veterinarian first about safe options.

5. Chewable and injectable flea treatments
These flea treatments should always be prescribed by a vet to ensure safe dosages. Most are administered in oral chewable tablets (i.e., Comfortis, Nitenpyram, Capstar, etc.) or via injection on a monthly basis leading up to flea season, and for preventative maintenance. Oral flea treatments aim to sterilize fleas so they’re not able to breed.