As warmer weather approaches, with it comes a pesky parasite many pet parents know all too well:
Other than being some of the most irritating creatures on the planet, fleas can cause major health issues in your pet if left untreated, such as flea allergy dermatitis and hot spots.
As your pet’s protector and guardian, it’s your job to help prevent fleas from infesting your dog or cat and to provide flea treatments if those prevention methods fail. Luckily, there are many flea prevention and treatment options available, including topical treatments, oral medication, and flea collars.
It’s great having these options, but how is a pet owner supposed to know which is right for their pet?
In this article, you’re going to learn the pros and cons of each type of flea prevention and treatment method. By the end, you’ll know exactly which is best to give your pet.
Let’s get started.
The Differences Between Each Option
You might be thinking, “Topical, oral, collars…they all lead to the same result, right?”
Yes, this is true, but they do it in different ways. And depending on your budget, your pet, how long your flea season is, and how hands-off or on you want to be, all of these things will determine which method of flea treatment you should use.
Topical flea treatments are some of the most popular. You’ve likely seen commercials for K9 Advantix, Frontline GOLD, and similar products. These are all topical treatments.
A topical treatment is applied directly to your pet’s skin and coat. They come in various forms:
- Spot-on treatments
Spot-on flea treatments are typically the most effective. They tend to last 30 days at a time and kill fleas throughout their life cycle. Powders can get a little messy, but shampoos are good for fast-acting treatment and relief.
Many topical treatments also prevent and kill ticks and lice. Some of the most popular topical treatments include:
- Frontline Plus
- Frontline GOLD
- K9 Advantix
Oral flea treatments can be extremely effective and don’t involve any mess. However, many require a prescription and may come with side effects.
Oral flea medication is often fast-acting, sometimes killing flea populations within a matter of hours. Capstar is a popular non-prescription option, and Nexgard is a popular prescription medication that treats worms as well.
Collars act as a preventative treatment. Once activated, they release an insecticide that is spread around your pet’s body using their natural oils. This kills fleas on contact, preventing them from reproducing and spreading.
Flea collars are hands-off and many of them last up to 8 months.
When to Use Each Treatment
One of the best ways to prevent a flea infestation is to put a flea collar on your cat or dog before flea season arrives. This removes any chance of fleas having the opportunity to feed and lay eggs on your pet.
You can also apply a spot-on treatment before flea season starts. Just make sure to re-apply when it runs out to prevent a gap in treatment.
Long Term Killing Prevention
If you want to kill fleas and prevent them from coming back over the long term, a topical spot-on treatment is your best option.
Apply it every 30 days (or as directed) for as long as fleas are a potential problem in your area. While collars do last a long time, most don’t kill fleas as well. Topical treatments provide the one-two punch you might need.
If you’ve missed the opportunity to prevent fleas or the method you used didn’t work, the two best options for fast-acting relief are oral medications and shampoos.
Oral medications can work in as quickly as four hours. Shampoos can kill a flea infestation within a few washes.
Treatment of Multiple Parasites
Topical and oral treatments provide effective treatment and prevention of fleas, but they can also treat ticks and lice. Some oral medications also treat worms (like heartworms).
Which Treatment is Right For You and Your Pet?
If you’re on a budget, a flea collar is your most efficient and cost effective option, as long you put it on your pet before they come into contact with fleas.
If the flea season in your area is short, a four-month spot-on solution can be enough for the year and sometimes carry over into the next year. If you live in an area with a longer flea season, consider longer-lasting topical solutions or oral medication.
Finally, if you want a more hands-off approach, a collar or oral flea treatment are great options.
Flea Treatments Today
All three of these methods are effective at preventing and/or killing fleas. Hopefully, you now know which is best for you and your pet, but if not, feel free to leave a comment below.