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A review of dog flea treatments: what are the options for your pet?

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There are plenty of options for pet owners when it comes to the fight against fleas, but how do you know what's best for your dog?

Fleas are irritating little blood-suckers that are just as happy to bite humans as they are pets, so help make sure your dog doesn't bring any uninvited guests home by keeping him or her properly protected.
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Fleas are tiny, wingless insects that feed on a host animal's blood, causing irritation and sometimes skin infections, hair loss and nasty diseases. Keeping your pet protected against fleas is actually relatively straightforward with the array of treatments now available. You just need to choose which delivery method works best for you and your pet...

Sprays
Pet specific flea sprays containing insecticides are applied directly to the roots of a dog's coat to kill fleas on contact. They work quickly, but the entire body of the animal needs to be sprayed, so they can be more time consuming than some of the other options. Don’t confuse these with “household flea sprays”, which tackle the problem in the home, but can’t be used directly on pets.

Shampoos
If your dog has fleas, a special flea-killing shampoo containing an insecticide can help to get rid of them. They usually need to be left on for at least 10 minutes, and don’t always have a lasting effect, so won’t necessarily stop your pet becoming reinfested!

Flea combs
Fine-toothed flea combs do not contain any chemicals but repetitive grooming using one of these can help remove fleas from the coat. Pets that love being groomed might quite like this method, but it’s very time consuming, and it’s hard to get every flea this way as they burrow deep down into your pet’s coat. It also won’t stop new fleas taking up residence on your pet!

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Spot-on treatments
These involve you squeezing a little pipette of liquid onto the base of your dog's neck. The active ingredient is then either absorbed into the dog’s bloodstream, or spreads throughout the skin. The active ingredient in the spot-on Advantage spreads throughout your dog’s skin, where it is able to kill fleas on contact – so fleas don’t have to bite your pet to be killed. It is recommended that Advantage is applied monthly to help protect dogs against fleas. Advantage is available at many pet stores, and you can buy it without a prescription.

Tablets
There are a variety of flea tablets available. The active ingredients in flea tablets are absorbed into the dog’s bloodstream, fleas that bite the pet will be exposed to the active ingredient and killed.

Flea collars
Special medicated flea collars can provide long-lasting protection against fleas, sometimes offering many months of protection at a time.

There are a whole range of different pet flea treatments available, that all work in slightly different ways, the one that’s right for you and your dog will depend on your individual dog as well as your personal preference. 

Treating the home
If your pet has fleas, then unfortunately that means your home has fleas too, as fleas lay eggs that fall from your pet into your home. Treating your pet is often only part of the picture, you also need to tackle the flea problem in the home, household flea sprays can help with this.

Did you know…
When a flea jumps, it can reach speeds of up to 1.9 metres per second!2

Read more information on Advantage spot-on treatment here.

1 This information is regarding mode of action and is not intended to imply fleas can be completely stopped from biting; Mehlhorn et al. Parasitol Res (2001) 87: 198-208

2 Sutton, G. P. and Burrows, M.(2011). Biomechanics of jumping in the flea. J. Exp. Biol. 214, 836-847