Essential Tips for Choosing the Best Flea Treatment for Pets

Essential Tips for Choosing the Best Flea Treatment for Pets

We’ve already got the pets we love, we certainly didn’t ask for (or want) a few thousand more. 

Preventing Fleas and Ticks keeps your pets comfortable, true, but it's also essential to preventing disease. At best, these diseases can at best be uncomfortable. At worst, they can cause serious and irreversible harm.

There are countless products out there that claim to treat flea infestations. However effective tick and flea treatment for dogs or cats means picking the best quality product that both works and lasts.

Healthy Pet has helped to treat these parasites for more than a decade and, as such, we have a deep knowledge of what’s effective (and what’s not). 

Don’t know the best choice between collars and topical applications? That’s fine, we can help. We have treated thousands of pets (and eradicated millions of ticks and fleas in the process) with everything from collars to ointments and sprays to shampoos. 

Below, we look at some of the most common questions; risks, signs, preventative measures, and suggested products.

Do Fleas and Ticks Harm Pets?

While it’s true they’re a nuisance, there can be some nasty side effects from a flea or tick infestation. It’s worth remembering that fleas were the key vector in the Black Plague that devastated Europe in the 1300s. So what makes them so dangerous?

Anemia in Pets: Fleas can cause severe anemia. In dogs this is bad but in puppies, it's potentially life-threatening. This is due to the surprising amount of blood that fleas can harvest each day. For a puppy, this decrease in red blood cell count can be severe.

Allergic Reactions: much like mosquito bites for humans, the bites from fleas can lead to the same itching. This in turn can lead to hair loss, irritation, and even the breaking of the skin. Scabs and open wounds are also entry points for secondary diseases.

Transmission of Diseases:
While fleas are a problem, they can also carry parasitic passengers themselves. From bacteria to tapeworms, disease transmission can cause weight loss, fever, and even worse symptoms.

Pet Health Risks Posed by Ticks

Tick-Borne Diseases: The famous bullseye rash caused by tick-borne Lyme disease is but one of a handful of nasty diseases that can infect your pets. Other illnesses, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis, can cause loss of appetite, fever, intense immune response, and pain in joints. 

Attachment and Feeding Locations: Ticks love to latch on to the very things our pets use to explore the world. Their heads, necks, ears, and paws are all danger zones. These are also some of the areas most likely to come in contact with other diseases and pathogens, meaning it’s essential to remove ticks as soon as possible.

Common Signs of Flea and Tick Infestation in Pets

  • Fleas: Fleas are tiny and hard to catch in the act. To check for signs of infestation, look for dark specks on the skin of your pet. Also, white specks are often flea eggs. By far the easiest signs are behavioral, coming from our pets themselves. Excessive licking or scratching, and fresh scabs or irritation on your dog's skin are all signs of flea infestations.
  • Ticks: One positive for ticks (if that’s possible) is that they are much larger than fleas. They often migrate to sensitive areas with thinner skin. Visual checks of your pet's neck, ears, and joints are worth doing regularly. Left unaddressed, the signs are often symptomatic of a tick-borne disease (fever and other immune responses) which is best avoided.

Best Products to Get Rid of Fleas and Ticks on Pets

Luckily there are lots of options. The trick is finding the right one for your pet. 

For prevention, we tend to recommend collars. Our favorite is the Seresto Flea & Tick Collar and the Seresto for Cats

Sometimes a collar won’t do it and you need a more proactive treatment. For this, we recommend a topical application (something we would apply directly to our pet’s skin. We recommend Bayer Advantage as an ointment. If you prefer sprays, we stock Wondercide Flea & Tick Control Spray

During an infestation, it’s good to remove any dead or active fleas. Thin-tooth combs are best for this. Our choice is Coastal Flea Combs

Once you’ve finally won the battle, it’s time to think about the war. Prevention is key. Using flea-preventative shampoos or conditioners can be a great way to avoid the future pain of having to treat your pet again. We recommend Tropiclean Medicated Shampoo.

What Types of Flea and Tick Prevention Products are Effective?

As we’ve said, the good news is: there are literally thousands of options to treat fleas and ticks. The bad news is: there are literally thousands of options to treat fleas and ticks. It can be hard to navigate and harder to know which products are effective and which are duds.

Veterinarians recommend (and our experience agrees) that using a variety of preventative options helps to ensure you never have to suffer an infestation. Below we look at some of the different options with some pros and cons.

Recommended Dog Flea and Tick Collars

Collars are great because they last a long time (anything up to 8 months). But, there are some downsides. Some collars can leave chemical residues in the environment.

Topical Flea and Tick Treatments

Treating monthly through a topical application is great and also helps combat a large range of critters. They’re known as “broad-spectrum” due to the level of protection they offer (we recommend something like Advantage Multi or Frontline Plus - both are great, pick your favorite!).

Oral Flea and Tick Medications

If you prefer a more discrete treatment, there are a range of oral options too. These are effective and available in a pill or even as a chew (who knew flea prevention could be fun?). As with any medication, always read the label but these are safe for most dogs.

Holistic Flea and Tick Prevention

The risk is never zero, but using a holistic approach is the best way to get as close as you can. Collars, topical treatments, oral medication, shampoos - these all help in isolation, but together, they turn your pet from a tasty morsel into a tough cookie. 

As with everything, choosing options suitable for your pet’s preference is a must. Feel free to experiment and settle on a combination that suits you and your pet.

Prescription Flea Control Products

These are almost always more effective than the over-the-counter variety. Prescription, vet-approved products are the best-in-class option for tick and flea control. They offer unparalleled safety and efficacy. 

Why are they so good? They are formulated to interrupt the flea life cycle and control ticks effectively throughout the year.

Active Ingredients in Flea Control Products

Something worth researching is the active ingredients in each treatment. For example, collars and topical treatments are usually insecticide-based. They actively repel and kill parasites, while oral medications have a different mechanism of action.

Depending on your pet’s sensitivity and your preference, check the active ingredients on any prevention products to make sure you’re using one that’s right for you. Remember, the staff at Healthy Pet are well-read in these topics and can help you make informed decisions.

Considerations for Your Pet to Help Guide Your Product Selection

The important factors when selecting the right prevention solutions are things like their weight, how old they are, are their health. Aside from your pet, it’s worth looking at what types of ticks are endemic in your area.

Always follow the instructions - a missed dose is a blessing for fleas. By getting the right product for your pet and following the instructions on the label, you can be sure that you will treat a flea infestation effectively and protect your pets from the diseases they carry.

What Factors Should You Consider When Selecting a Preventative?

Consider Your Pet's Specific Needs:

Age, Weight, and Health

Make sure you factor in your pet’s age and weight. This is practical, to make sure you treat effectively, but it is also a safety concern to ensure you use the right dose.

Pet’s Health History

Are they allergic to any medications? What is the active ingredient in the medication you’re using, and has it caused an adverse reaction before? Existing health conditions, medications, and supplements are all things to consider before starting a preventative treatment course.

Lifestyle Considerations

A dog that guards livestock will have different preventative needs than one who spends most of the day in a comfy environment at home. A sensible look at what your pet does each day and where they are likely to spend their time should influence your choice of treatment.

Environmental and Seasonal Factors for Tick and Flea Treatments

  1. Geographic and Seasonal Prevalence

A wet winter can massively increase the risk of ticks. Different seasons, different weather, and different species - all of these can play a part in which parasites your pet is most at risk from and which prevention strategy will be most effective (and when). 

  1. Regular and Seasonal Applications

Tick and flea protection is not just for Christmas, as they say. To ensure the best protection, consider all-year-round protection. In high-risk seasons, take extra measures to ensure that your pet is as safe as it can be.  

Flea and Tick Treatment Efficacy and Safety for Pets

  1. Effectiveness of Products: The best products will let you know how effective they are. Normally a rating of around 98 to 99% effectiveness is the minimum we would recommend to ensure the best possible outcome for your pet.
  2. Safety of the Product: A golden rule with every product you choose to use with your pet: ensure that it’s suitable. Use dog treatments for dogs, cat treatments for cats, and camel treatments for camels🥸. It perhaps sounds basic but it’s really important to make sure you avoid any harmful side effects.
  3. Duration of Effectiveness: Keep an eye on the effective duration. Mark it in the calendar so that you’re on top of reapplications. This is the best way to ensure all-year-round protection.

Exploring Natural Alternatives for Flea and Tick Treatments

There are a range of all-natural products out there. The research on these can be inconclusive and sometimes bewildering, so make sure you check with your vet before using any natural remedies to ensure their effectiveness and safety. The Healthy Pet staff also has some guidance to share here: ring us or stop by to discuss the nuances of your pets’ lifestyle and environment. 

Integration with Other Treatments

Depending on the active ingredient, a selection of tick and flea-prevention products can be combined with other treatments. A common example is Heartworm prevention. This is often convenient. But again, always check with your Vet if you’re thinking about combining medications.

When Should You Consult with a Veterinarian?

Despite our best efforts, everyone needs help sometimes. Below we look at some milestones for when you should involve your Vet and why:

  1. Initial Selection of Flea and Tick Control Products: Involving your vet at this stage means you can ensure the products you select are perfect for your pet. Sharing with them information such as your pet’s likely activities and environment, any other medication or supplements - all of this will help your vet pick the perfect prevention option.

  2. Signs of Infestation: If the worst should happen and you suspect an infestation, it’s time to call. Don’t wait until you can see fleas or ticks as the earlier you catch an infestation, the easier it is to manage and the less likely it is to spread. Your vet can give you a definitive answer about whether you’re facing an infestation, and if so, how severe.

  3. Choosing the Right Treatment: Once an infestation has been confirmed, your vet can help you select the right treatment. They can explain the most effective options, the different active ingredients with their pros and cons, and suggest application methods. They can do all of this with one eye on your pet's medical history to help avoid any interactions with medication or sensitivities.

  4. Suspected Flea or Tick-Borne Diseases: If you start to notice any of the symptoms of common diseases such as fever, lethargy, weight loss, or swelling, it’s essential to call your vet. Not only can they identify the issue but if treatment is required urgently, they are in the best position to provide it.

  5. Uncertainty About Medication: Medical labels for pets are comprehensive. They need to ensure that both owners and vets have all the information they need to protect their pets. However, that can make them confusing. If you have any doubts about how to correctly administer medication or about something you see on the label, your vet can help.

  6. Regular Inspections After Exposure: If your pet has recently been exposed to Fleas or Ticks, it’s good practice to book checkups with your vet. This helps them to confirm that the flea’s life cycle has been broken and that your pet is truly free from their unwelcome hitchhikers. It’s also worth booking a checkup if you’ve been through a high-risk area - for example, after a walk through long grass during tick season. 

Visiting the Vet regularly is indeed the best way to keep on top of flea and tick prevention but there’s also a lot that can be done at home. Keeping up with treatment regimens, being conscious of your pet’s behavior, keeping an eye out for visible signs. All of these are things we can do at home to protect our pets from harm.

Learn More in the Store

Healthy Pet is more than simply a pet supply store. We truly believe in making the lives of your pets better. Whether it’s helping you decide the best possible prevention options to tackle fleas and ticks, with our natural remedies for anxiety and pain, or going back to basics with our healthy raw food options, every pet is different and we strive to meet their unique needs.

We put your pet first. We’d love to invite you to one of our stores all across Austin. Discover our Healthy Pet locations throughout Austin here. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff are on hand to answer any questions you have about protecting your pets from fleas and ticks, so please ask away!