One of the very first things new dog parents have to decide (besides what to name your adorable pup) is what the best flea and tick prevention is for your four-legged family member. And it’s pretty obvious why, too—you really, really don’t want these pests in your home or on your pooch.
For one thing, fleas aren’t just an itchy nuisance (though they’re also that). Both fleas and ticks can make your fur baby sick. Dogs can get Lyme and other tick-borne diseases that can give them fevers, swollen joints and even kidney disease. Dogs also can get skin allergies from flea saliva, which can lead to hot spots and skin infections, as well as tapeworms and anemia from the bites. OK, we’re all in agreement that fleas and ticks are just plain bad news, right? So, what’s a dog mom or dad to do?
Flea and tick prevention for dogs is the best way to go. Depending on the type you use, tick and flea meds for dogs can kill existing creepy crawlies and stop these pests from latching on in the first place. Luckily, there’s a wide range available, from over-the-counter methods to prescription-only options that require a visit to the vet.
Ready to start the search for the best flea and tick prevention for dogs? Let us guide you to the perfect pick for your pup.
What’s Your Dog Like?
Before you get too far in your search and certainly before applying any medication, have a conversation with the vet, recommends Carly Fox, DVM, a staff doctor at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. That way you can avoid giving your pup something that can be harmful or ineffective. So here’s what to consider:
- Your dog’s age: “In general, most products are not safe until about 7 to 8 weeks of age. So, you just want to make sure what the back of the product says before administering it to puppies under 2 months [old],” says Dr. Fox, who specializes in emergency and critical care. Very old dogs may also have adverse reactions to some preventatives too, even if they’ve used it for years. Talk to your vet once your pet gets older to see if you need to change it out.
- Your dog’s overall health: You also have to take care with dogs who have allergies or other underlying health conditions, Dr. Fox advises. For instance, if your dog has sensitive skin, a topical gel might not be the best choice. Or if your dog is allergic to chicken or beef (which is rare, but happens), then oral preventatives may be off the table as they can contain beef flavorings. If your dog has a history of seizures, you may want to be careful with some types of oral meds. And if your dog is pregnant or nursing, you want to be careful what you give her, too.
- Is your dog on other medications? If your dog is on other medications, like a dewormer, it’s important to discuss this with your vet to make sure the flea and tick prevention you choose is safe to use with whatever else your pet is taking, Dr. Fox notes.
- Your dog’s weight: Any product aimed at preventing or treating fleas and ticks on dogs specifies the size of pup on its label. For instance, if you’re considering a Nexgard chewable tablet for your 6-pound Chihuahua, you want to get the one formulated for dogs in the 4-10 pound weight range. Otherwise, your pup could get more of these chemicals than they need. “The biggest toxicities that I see as an emergency clinician all have to do with administering a product that's meant for a larger animal to a smaller animal,” Dr. Fox says.
- Your dog’s routines: If your dog spends a lot of time hiking in the woods with you in areas known for ticks, then you might want to consider more than one preventative, Dr. Fox suggests. “So not just a topical or not just a pill, but maybe either a topical plus a collar or a pill plus a collar." Or say your dog loves to swim and your walks in the country include a dip in a pond (or you have one in your backyard). Then topical treatments, which require you to keep your dog dry for at least 24 to 48 hours, may not be the best choice.
- Does your dog need immediate relief? If your pup has fleas, you have to do something about that right away. So you’ll need a flea-killing treatment followed by one that prevents these critters. “And make sure that the product you’re using is going to target the pest that you’re trying to get rid of,” Dr. Fox notes. Some combination treatments will protect for more types of ticks than others as well as other parasites.
- Your personal preferences and home life: OK, so this has less to do about what your dog is like and more to do about you. As a pet parent, you need to consider things that are important to you, like your budget. Or maybe getting your dog to stand still while you apply a topical isn’t worth the hassle—or giving a pill to a finicky eater isn’t either. If you have small children or other animals, base your decision on the likelihood of accidental poisonings. “If you put a topical on, is your toddler going to stick his hand right in it? Is the other dog in the house going to lick it off your other dog’s back?” Dr. Fox asks. Little kids might also be able to slip off a collar and stick it in their mouths, which is another accident you want to prevent.
Ready to shop? Start by browsing your options below.
Oral Flea and Tick Treatments for Dogs
Topical Flea and Tick Treatments for Dogs
Flea Collars for Dogs
Flea Shampoo for Dogs
Flea Spray for Dogs
Flea Combs and Other Tools
Home and Yard Prevention