What do I give my dog for fleas?

One of the problems we see at Newport Harbor Animal Hospital is: Fleas!

Questions inevitably follow the diagnosis of fleas – here are some of the questions that I have been asked over the years:
Q. Can I use garlic to prevent fleas?
A. NO! Garlic is toxic to dogs and cats but not to fleas! This food can cause dog and cat red blood cells to burst. So, don’t use it.
Q. Does motor oil kill fleas?
A. All petroleum distillates (oil products – motor oil, baby oil etc.) are dangerous to pets – just stay away.
Q. Can I use diatomaceous earth?
A. Diatomaceous earth may help to desiccate flea eggs to a minor extent but is not effective in killing fleas. This may be helpful in environmental control but not on your pet!
Q. Can I use ½ a dose or split the medication between my pets?
A. NO! The dose for your pet is the correct one based on their size. Improper administration may lead to inadequate protection.
Q. My pet doesn’t go outside – why do I need prevention?
A. Fleas don’t stop at your front door! And without blood they don’t survive so they hitch a ride with you into your pet’s lives. Wildlife such as squirrels, rabbits, opossums, raccoons all carry fleas. So, while you are sleeping these critters are visiting your house and leaving fleas to infest your pets.
Q. I have never seen a flea – my pet doesn’t have any!
A. I have heard this so many times I cannot count. And equally as often, when I pull out the flea comb I find fleas or their droppings. Fleas are parasites they’re job is to hide and eat to survive. So, just because you haven’t seen any fleas – doesn’t always mean they’re not there.
Q. I always get flea bites and I don’t have any, so therefore my pet doesn’t have any fleas right?
A. This is not the case. Fleas are parasites. They need a host to survive. The host they prefer is a dog or a cat. Once they are on the preferred host (your pet) they do not leave. Fleas that hatch in the environment and have not found your cat and dog to live on may find you to bite, but once they are on your pets they stay there, therefore you will not always get bit by fleas if your pet has them.

What do I give my dog or cat for fleas?

We are starting to see more fleas this time of year with the humidity and warmer weather. Southern California is a great environment for fleas – they never really go away, but we see an increase in the population at the perfect time: when everyone is out in the great weather to socialize. So, what do we do about these little parasites? Well, the key is prevention! Fleas carry yucky diseases like: tapeworm, Mycoplasma – a bacteria that attaches to red blood cells, and Bartonella – the bacteria that causes ‘cat scratch fever’, Yersinia pestis – the ‘black plague’ and Typhus. Fleas can also cause allergic reactions that make your pet itchy and can lead to skin infection (FAD: flea allergic dermatitis). All of these conditions can be prevented with appropriate flea prevention.

There are many, many options out on the market today. So many, that it’s difficult to know which one is the best for your individual pet. Not one is perfect for everyone! There are topical liquids that you place on your pet’s skin and oral pills. Some that last for 1 month and some that last for 3 months. In order to decide which is best for your pet you must consider:
1. Does your pet swim or bathe more than once per month?
2. Does your pet go into areas that ticks may be present?
3. Do you want to give it topically or orally?
4. How often do you want to give the medication?
5. Does your pet have any health concerns?
6. Is your dog pregnant?
So, what is the best flea medication for my dog or cat? At Newport Harbor Animal Hospital we have narrowed the options down to a few trusted medications:

– Pill
– Given once per month
– Kills and prevents fleas
– For Dogs and Cats

– Pill
– Given once every 3 months
– Kills and prevents fleas and ticks
– Dogs only

– Topical liquid
– Applied once per month
– Includes flea prevention, heartworm prevention, (and some intestinal parasites in cats), tick prevention for the brown dog tick, ear mites, sarcoptic mange
– For Dogs and Cats (make sure you choose the correct version!)
– A heartworm test (simple blood test) is needed prior to starting on this medication.

– Contains the active ingredient in Comfortis
– Pill
– Given once per month
– Kills and prevents fleas
– Prevents heartworm and some intestinal parasites
– For Dogs
– A heartworm test (simple blood test) is needed prior to starting on this medication.

The bottom line is – fleas are gross and very preventable! When you bring your pet in to see us at Newport Harbor Animal Hospital, we will advise you on the best option for your pet – because one size does not fit all!

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