Flea infestation is a very common problem for dogs. As well as causing irritation and allergic reactions for dogs in the house, fleas can also infest other pets, and can bite people too.
Fleas can also transmit other diseases to dogs, and with heavy infestation, can cause anaemia. Fleas can also be hard to remove from your house as their eggs are hardy in the environment, so they can live in the carpet and re-emerge after your pet's flea treatment wears off.
It is important to keep up flea prevention for your dog, to avoid annoyance to both your pet and yourself.
Read on to learn about the best flea prevention and treatment options available.
What are fleas? Why are they bad for dogs?
Fleas are small b insects about the size of a grain of rice. The most common flea affecting dogs in Australia is actually the cat flea, Ctenocephalides Felis. Fleas are found everywhere in Australia, and affect both indoor and outdoor dogs. Fleas are a very common cause of allergic skin disease, and irritate dogs by causing intense itchiness.
Different types of products (topical vs oral etc)
A few decades ago there were few good options for fleas, with ineffective collars, shampoos, and powders all that was on offer. These days we are spoilt for choice with flea products that are highly effective and are often formulated to treat other problems at the same time, such as ticks, or heartworm.
The two main types of flea products for dogs are oral chews and topical “spot ons” which are applied to the skin on the back of the neck and sometimes in several places along their back.
Which product you choose depends on a number of factors such as what else you are using the product for, the size and age of your dog, and whether your dog is easy to give tablets or chews to.
What flea treatment should you choose?
The following is a discussion of some of the flea products available, and how to use them:
A great leap forward in flea management when it first came on the market, Frontline Plus has been a trusted option for Australian dogs for many years. Applied as a spot on on the back of the neck, for flea control Frontline Plus is used monthly.
Frontline Plus can also be used in the control of paralysis ticks but must be used every two weeks. Frontline Plus remains an affordable option for dogs to control flea infestation, but is less quick to kill fleas, and less long acting against paralysis ticks, than some of the newer products.
Frontline Plus can be used in puppies from 8 weeks of age.
Another spot on, Revolution is protective against fleas, ear mites, heartworm, sarcoptic mites and lice. Revolution is applied monthly and can be used from six weeks of age.
Often it comes with Canex allwormer in the pack to cover intestinal worms. Revolution is a great product but is not active against ticks which is worth considering if you live in a paralysis tick area.
The Advantage Family
Active against fleas and lice for four weeks, Advantage can be used on puppies from birth, dosed appropriately according to weight. Advantage does not provide protection against paralysis ticks.
Prior to the development of the Isoxazolines, Advantix was one of the most commonly used tick preventatives. Active against fleas for a month, it must be used every fortnight for ticks.
Advantix can be used on puppies from seven weeks of age, and also repels mosquitoes, sandflies and stable flies. Advantix is very toxic to cats, and I would not recommend using it on dogs who live with a cat companion.
Advocate can be used on puppies from seven weeks of age, and used monthly is protective against fleas, heartworm, roundworms, hookworms, whipworm, lice, and some mites. Advocate is not protective against ticks.
New Generation “Big Guns” the Isoxazolines
Within the last decade, our options have been greatly expanded with the development of the Isoxazoline medications. The name is tricky, but the effect on fleas is spectacular. These medications are also highly effective against paralysis ticks, and some other ectoparasites such as those which cause mange.
Nexgard and Nexgard Spectra are extremely popular for the treatment of fleas and paralysis ticks. Given as a monthly chew, they can be used in puppies from eight weeks of age.
Nexgard Spectra is also protective against heartworm, roundworm, hookworm and whipworm.
Are you the type of pet owner who likes to treat your dog once a season? Bravecto has the advantage that its chews need only be given once every three months to protect against fleas, ticks and mites. (Paralysis tick prevention lasts four months but brown tick and bush tick prevention only two months). Bravecto can be used in puppies from eight weeks of age.
If your dog is not the sort to take a chew, Bravecto is also available in a spot on product, which lasts an even more astonishing six months against fleas and paralysis ticks (12 weeks against brown dog ticks).
Bravecto is a groundbreaking product in the effective and long term flea control it provides.
Simparica is a chewable product used monthly against fleas and ticks, while Simparica trio also protects against heartworm, roundworm and hookworm.
The Simparica products can be used in puppies from eight weeks of age, and are a good choice if you have a tiny dog, as they come in a “Tiny Dog” size for your 1.25-2.5kg pocket sized bundle of joy.
Tips on how to choose/buy based on dogs weight
In order to correctly dose your dog with flea prevention you will need to accurately know their weight. Many vet clinics will be happy for you to weigh your dog on their scales (at least in non lockdown times). Otherwise you can lift your pet on the scales with you if your dog is small enough, and then subtract your own weight to calculate your dog's weight. Make sure you've chosen a product appropriate for your dog's age too, if you're treating a puppy. If in doubt check with a veterinary professional.
In conclusion, fleas can be a major annoyance for our dogs but we are lucky to live in a time when we have plenty of highly effective treatment options available to suit dogs of every age and size. To make it more convenient you can even buy them on autodelivery, so you will never be short of a dose when you need it.