There’s nothing your average dog-lover dreads more than a flea infestation. These ghastly insects can cause your pet a wide array of health issues, like tapeworms, anemia, bacterial infections, and skin irritation. Treating fleas can be especially hard in puppies since many of the commercial medicines used to treat older dogs can be harmful to young ones.
The best flea medicine for puppies starts killing fleas in the first hour and stops further infestation without harming the small four-legged friend, equally beneficial to get rid of other insects like ticks and mosquitoes.
If your puppy has fleas, you must act quickly to treat them. With so many potentially harmful flea medications on the market, it can be hard for puppy owners to navigate which ones to try.
Thankfully, there are several options for treating fleas that are safe for dogs at any age. Keep reading for insight into which treatments are the most effective for curing fleas in puppies.
Types of Flea Medications
Every puppy is different, and flea medications are not a one size fits all kind of deal. Before we delve into the specifics of treating fleas, let’s identify the different types of flea medications. Most commercial flea medicines fall into one of two categories: topical or oral.
Topical Flea Medications
Often referred to as “spot-on” treatments. These medications are applied directly to your puppy’s skin rather than ingested. They are typically applied to a dog’s back, between its shoulder blades, in an area where the dog can’t lick or bite the treatment off.
Topical flea medicines kill and repel fleas at every stage of life: egg, larvae, and adult. They are generally extremely effective at wiping out large infestations. This is mainly due to a chemical called Fipronil, which is found in most best-selling flea medicines. After fleas come into contact with Fipronil, it begins to disrupt their nervous systems, causing them to die within mere hours. For puppies over the age of 8 weeks, however, it is completely safe.
Aside from being generally more effective, topical flea medicines are also preferable for owners whose puppies struggle with taking medicine orally.
As far as topical flea medicines go, I personally recommend a product like Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Treatment for Dogs. Frontline Plus is a fast-working Fipronil treatment that kills and prevents fleas for a month after each application.
If you’re looking for a product that is more affordable and easier to use, I also recommend Adams Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs and Cats. This is an effective spray-on topical treatment that is safe for puppies 10 weeks or older.
Topical flea medications must usually be applied to your puppy once a month for maximum effectiveness.
Oral Flea Medications
Oral medications, while still effective, are different altogether. Oral flea medications come in the form of tablets that your puppy can chew or swallow, rather than having the medicine applied to their skin. These tablets contain an insecticide that kills fleas when they ingest it.
The most important chemical in oral flea medications is called Nitenpyram. Like Fipronil, Nitenpyram acts on the nervous system of a flea, rapidly killing it.
However, unlike Fipronil, Nitenpyram only kills adult fleas. Also, unlike Fipronil, its effects don’t last very long, and it is not usually recommended for long-term use.
The effectiveness of different oral medications varies, with some acting in days and others acting in months. Oral medications that contain Nitenpyram, like Capstar Fast-Acting Oral Flea Treatment for Dogs, tend to act quickly and effectively. If you use oral flea medicine for your puppy, be sure to do your research beforehand.
Safety Concerns With Puppies Under 8 Weeks
Flea medicines are not a good option for treating puppies under 8 weeks old. For several weeks after a puppy is born, its skin is susceptible. The harsh chemicals found in most flea medicines can cause harmful skin reactions in puppies under 8 weeks old while harmless to adult dogs.
If a puppy under 8 weeks old has fleas, the puppy must be treated as fast as possible. The blood loss that results from a flea infestation can cause severe anemia in tiny puppies, sometimes even leading to death.
Though flea medicines aren’t an option in this scenario, there are still several avenues for treating flea infestations in very young puppies.
Treating Puppies Under 8 Weeks
If commercial flea medications are too harsh for your puppy, you will need to purchase a flea comb. A flea comb is a wide-tooth metal comb that is gentle enough to brush the fleas out of your puppy’s fur.
Run the comb gently through your puppy’s fur, paying special attention to its neck and back. Whenever you see a flea on the comb, pull it off and kill it. Many dog owners recommend keeping a warm bowl of water close by to place the fleas in after removal.
Repeat this process several times, as fleas tend to hide out for periods of time before moving around again. If your young puppy’s flea infestation is too severe to treat with combing, reach out to a vet immediately.
Safety Concerns With Other Pets
Though topical flea medications are extremely effective for treating flea infestations in puppies, they can have some major drawbacks, especially if you have other pets living in the house with you.
Many topical flea medications are considered “dog-only” because, while they pose no danger to dogs, they can be extremely toxic to other household animals.
Most notably, the chemical Permethrin, which is present in many of the best-selling topical flea medications, can be deadly for cats. Many dog owners see this because oral flea medications are superior since they pose little to no risk to other household pets.
Not all topical flea medications are dangerous, though. Other chemicals commonly found in topical flea medications are safe for cats, such as the aforementioned Fipronil.
When it comes to using topical flea medications, the most important thing is to pay close attention to the listed ingredients and always consult a vet when you’re unsure.
Are Flea Collars Good for Puppies?
Flea collars are a popular choice for treating fleas in dogs and puppies because they are easy to use. Just plop a collar on your pup, and his fleas will be gone in no time! Right?
More and more dog experts have been pointing out flea collars’ ineffectiveness in treating flea infestations. Flea collars work in one of two ways: they either transmit insecticides into your puppy’s skin (like topical flea medicines) or transmit a gas that is harmful to fleas.
Due to their limited range, flea collars are often only effective at killing fleas around the neck area of your puppy. They are also generally less strong than topical or oral flea medications and often cannot kill adult fleas.
Along with their ineffectiveness, flea collars can pose several health risks to pets and humans alike. Tetrachlorvinphos is one of the commonly-used chemicals in best-selling flea collar products. Like other insecticides, this chemical acts on a flea’s nervous system to kill it within hours of exposure.
Unlike similar insecticides, however, Tetrachlorvinphos can have disastrous health consequences for humans, especially young children. Like topical treatments, they can also be deadly for cats.
A flea collar works best as a preventative measure against fleas rather than to cure an existing flea infestation in your puppy. Like any other treatment, flea collars should only be used after you have thoroughly researched the risks associated with them. Always consult a vet if you’re unsure about the effects of certain flea treatments.
Help Your Puppy Avoid Fleas
Flea prevention is an important part of keeping your puppy healthy and happy. Make sure you research medicines thoroughly before using them and reach out to your vet with any uncertainties.
I know you want the best for your pets, and I hope this guide helps you keep your puppy safely itch-free!