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Flea and Tick Prevention and Treatment for Dogs

Maintaining your dog’s health and happiness hinges on proactive care, particularly when it comes to preventing potential health issues. Employing monthly flea and tick preventatives stands as one of the most effective methods to safeguard your furry friend’s well-being.

Why Is Flea and Tick Prevention Important for Dogs?

The significance of flea and tick prevention for dogs stems from the fact that fleas and ticks are ectoparasites, dwelling on the outside of their host. These pests survive by biting their host and feeding on blood, which can directly affect your dog’s health. Flea saliva can lead to severe allergies, dermatitis, anemia, itching, and infections, while tick bites can result in infections, abscesses, paralysis, and even fatalities.

Furthermore, these parasites can carry and transmit various diseases to dogs, including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Bartonellosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, tapeworms, and Babesiosis. Some of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can spread to you and your family. Hence, it’s crucial to keep fleas and ticks away from your dog and out of your home.

When Do Dogs Need Flea and Tick Prevention?

Dogs require flea and tick prevention primarily during warmer months when these parasites thrive in mild to moderate weather conditions. If you reside in regions with consistently warm temperatures throughout the year, it’s essential to keep your pet on flea and tick prevention all year round.

Even in northern states, occasional warm spells during the winter can create favorable conditions for fleas and ticks to emerge. These brief periods of warmth provide opportunities for fleas and ticks to latch onto your pets and infiltrate your home. Once indoors, fleas can reproduce and inhabit various areas like floorboards and carpets, wherever your pet frequents. Without tick prevention, ticks may also transition from your dog to humans within the household.

What Are Flea and Tick Preventatives for Dogs?

Several products are available to safeguard your dog against parasites. These products come in the form of pesticides, repellents, or growth inhibitors, each targeting pests at various life stages to prevent infestations.

Certain products are effective against specific species, usually focusing on fleas. These may include flea dips, baths, and powders. For comprehensive coverage against both fleas and ticks, additional medications might be necessary.

Combination flea and tick preventatives for dogs incorporate multiple ingredients to combat different types of pests. These options typically offer protection against fleas and ticks and may extend to heartworm, mites, or intestinal parasites.

Before selecting a flea and tick medication, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian to ensure suitability for your dog. Confirm the following with your veterinarian and by checking the product label:

  • The product is suitable for your pet’s species (dog vs cat).
  • The product is intended for your pet’s life stage: puppy, adult, or senior.
  • The product falls within the correct weight range for your pet.
  • The product’s correct administration method (chewable or topical treatment).
  • The product’s effectiveness against the relevant parasites.
  • Whether the product should be administered with food.
  • The recommended frequency of administration.
  • The onset of action for the product.
  • Guidelines for bathing your pet after application.
  • Any safety-related concerns associated with the product.
  • Ensure you have the appropriate contact numbers in case of adverse reactions.

Even if you’ve used the medication before, review the package insert for any updates in warnings and directions. Adhere strictly to all instructions and reach out to your veterinarian or the product manufacturer if you have any queries.

Choosing a Flea and Tick Combination Medicine for Dogs

When it comes to selecting flea and tick prevention for dogs, the array of options can be overwhelming. Your veterinarian serves as an excellent resource for narrowing down your choices and identifying the most suitable solution.

Consider these 7 factors when determining the best flea and tick medicine for your dog:

Application Method:

      • Flea and tick preventatives typically come in two forms:
        • Oral: Chewable tablets ingested by your dog.
        • Topical: Liquid applied between the shoulder blades or down the back of your dog.
      • Topical preventatives are suitable for picky eaters or dogs with sensitive stomachs. However, caution is needed around small children or other pets to prevent accidental ingestion.
      • Spot-on treatments may have a medicinal smell and can cause temporary itching, irritation, or hair loss. They are not ideal for dogs that swim frequently or require regular baths, as water can affect their effectiveness.
      • Oral treatments are convenient and easy to administer, often given like treats. It’s essential to ensure your dog consumes the entire tablet and doesn’t vomit it up before absorption.
      • If vomiting occurs after administering an oral preventative, contact your veterinarian for guidance on re-dosing and reporting any potential reactions.


    • Different regions harbor various local parasite populations, including fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal worms.
    • The Companion Animal Parasite Council offers valuable insights into the parasites prevalent in your area, aiding in the selection of an appropriate flea and tick product to ensure comprehensive protection for your dog.

MDR-1 Gene:

Certain breeds, such as Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Shetland Sheepdogs, carry a genetic risk factor associated with a mutated gene that causes sensitivity to certain drugs. These dogs are unable to safely metabolize certain medications, including some components found in preventatives.

Many veterinarians recommend testing dogs for the MDR-1 gene, particularly those breeds susceptible to it. The Washington State University Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory website provides additional information about this mutation, including which drugs to avoid and methods for testing your pet.


While no specific breed is particularly prone to flea or tick infestations, certain dogs may face a higher risk due to their temperament and breed traits. Dogs involved in work, herding, or hunting activities may spend significant time outdoors, while others may be more inclined to stay indoors with occasional outdoor excursions.

Life Stage:

For puppies or small dog breeds, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian to determine an appropriate preventative product based on their weight and age. Most flea and tick preventatives are suitable for dogs aged 6-8 weeks or older, but always refer to the package insert for precise instructions.

Medical Conditions:

In dogs with a history of seizures or neurological disorders, particular caution should be exercised when using preventatives from the isoxazoline class, as they may lower the seizure threshold.

It’s essential to have a comprehensive discussion with your veterinarian before using any preventative if:

  • Your pet has previously experienced an allergic reaction to the drug.
  • Your pet is unwell and/or underweight.
  • Your pet is pregnant, nursing, or intended for breeding in the future.
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