Medicine to Keep Fleas Away From Dogs

by Betty Lewis
    Niether one of you is happy when your pooch has fleas.

    Niether one of you is happy when your pooch has fleas.

    Ryan McVay/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    There's really nothing to like about a flea. Tiny as it is, it's literally a blood sucker, jumping onto your pup and feeding off Beau as it pleases. Fleas may cause Beau some mild itching or he may have a more severe reaction. Keeping fleas at bay will make everyone in the family happy.

    In the flea's eyes, he's probably the jelly to your pup's peanut butter, a pairing that's meant to be. Though you and Beau feel differently, it doesn't matter to the flea. Though a flea can't fly, it does have powerful legs allowing it to jump great distances -- right onto your pooch. It's a speedy little bug too, racing through your dog's hair, eluding your pinch. You may see fleas on Beau, or the other telltale sign of fleas, the fine grains resembling salt and pepper scattered throughout his coat or bedding. Those grains are feces and flea eggs. A fine-tooth flea comb run through his back, groin, tail and hindquarters also will uncover fleas and flea debris.

    Just because fleas like Beau doesn't mean he has to host these unwelcome guests. A variety of medication can keep fleas away from your pup. Your vet can discuss Beau's needs with you, based on his lifestyle and where home is. Preventives can control more than fleas, but also keep other insects, such as ticks, off your pup. The product known as Program keeps flea eggs from hatching and growing, but it can take a month or two to take effect as the fleas on your pup have to die of old age before you'll see the benefit. Advantage and Frontline will work to kill adult fleas in a day or two. Both kill fleas by contact -- they don't have to bite Beau first -- and they may reduce hatching eggs and larvae. Some medicine, such as Revolution and Sentinel, provide protection against fleas and other parasites, such as heartworms.

    It's easy to run to the store and pick up a flea treatment for Beau, but the option on the supermarket shelf may not be the best choice. According to PetMD, many over-the-counter products use a class of insecticides called pyrethroids or synthetic pyrethrins. Pyrethroid-based products are controversial in their potential risk to dogs and cats, and most fleas are resistant to that type of insecticide. The insecticide is used in a variety of flea preventives, including spot treatments, shampoos, powders, dips and sprays. The Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration are responsible for safely regulating flea and tick products. To date, pyrethroid-based products are available for sale, though the EPA has received complaints about the products. PetMD notes it's possible that in the quest to control fleas, people tend to use too much of the over-the-counter medications, with the thought that more is better.

    Garlic and yeast have been held up as natural alternatives for flea prevention, but there's no evidence they work. If you want to try a more natural approach with Beau, PetMD suggests rubbing freshly squeezed orange or lemon into your pup's fur because fleas are repelled by citrus. A good old-fashioned bath will get rid of his fleas; they'll fall off of him and drown. Some basic housekeeping, such as regular vacuuming and laundering will control fleas, and outdoor cleanup to keep grass, bushes and shrubs under wraps will help too.

    If you use a flea preventive, it's vital to follow the package instructions. If Beau shares space with a cat, don't use his flea preventive on her. As well, if he's a small dog, don't buy a dose for a large dog to split into multiple doses. Keep an eye on him after applying the medicine and watch for reactions. If he loses his appetite, experiences diarrhea, vomiting, depression or excessive salivation, call the vet.

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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