The most frequently asked question about fleas is how to get rid of fleas on my dog or cat. (or ferret, or rat, or rabbit, etc) There are dozens of commercially available products that promise to get rid o fleas on your pet, but getting rid of fleas isn’t as simple as putting a topical medicine on your pet. As already mentioned in other articles, the key to successfully getting rid of fleas is execution. You want to take steps to completely eradicate fleas on your pet and in your home. This post will be the one that applies to getting rid of fleas on your pets. There are corresponding posts entailing how to get rid of fleas in your home, your yard, and yourself.
Now on to the most common methods to get rid of fleas on dogs.
Shampoos are probably the first step to take in combating fleas. They are also the most cost effective countermeasure against fleas. I use the shampoo pictured to the right every other bath. It is Sentry Brand oatmeal shampoo specifically formulated to combat fleas for 7-10 days and also to treat dry skin. Every other bath I typically use Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo, just because my little fat Corgi has dry skin resulting in dandruff. The combination works relatively well in my experiences.
There are other shampoos to consider besides Sentry, which costs around $10 per 18oz bottle. Happy Jack has a fine line of commercial grade shampoos designed to kill fleas and ticks. I am familiar with Happy Jack’s Hot Spot shampoo, and it works wonders. The only downside is cost and availability. Locally, Tractor Supply is the only place I have found Happy Jack at, and it is pretty pricey, with a small 8 oz bottle costing north of $10. I use all shampoos rather liberally, so an 8oz bottle of shampoo is only enough for around 2 baths.
Flea combs are a purely mechanical method for removing fleas. They are a fine tooth comb that feature teeth that are narrower than those of a flea. You simply brush your pet thoroughly and remove the fleas from their fur. My biggest issue with flea combs is what to do with the fleas. Normally I just flush them down the toilet, but it can become burdensome when you brush 3-4 fleas out simultaneously, because they are small and expert escape artists. For this reason, I seldom use a fine tooth flea comb to get rid of fleas on my dogs.
Topical Medicines (Frontline, Advantage, K9 Advantix)
These topical medications that you apply to your pet’s neck are marketed as the best way to get rid of fleas. I disagree. I had used Frontline for years, but it never fully killed fleas on my corgi. She would have just as many fleas on her after the application as before the application. Not only were the applications ineffective, they are incredibly expensive. A typical 3 month treatment regimen costs around $50. While they are relatively safe, there are countless cases of rashes developing after the application of these strong chemicals.
“If they don’t work, why do I hear so much about these medications, including from my veterinarian?” Simply put: marketing. The companies than manufacture these treatments spend millions of dollars on marketing, including television ads, internet ads, and direct marketing to veterinarians and pet groomers. The lazy pet owner believes that a simple topical medication will solve all of their flea problems. While I am sure that Frontline, Advantage, and other brands of these treatments work for some people, but I gave up on them years ago because of their ineffectiveness.
You probably haven’t heard of many orally administered pills for treating fleas. This is because the pills are made of very common, and safe ingredients that are commodities. This means that they are easily imitable and high profit margins would only result after high investments into building brand equity. Enough business talk, what I’m saying is that that herbal pills for dogs are incredibly cheap and effective. Brewer’s Yeast with Garlic are the most commonly used pills to combat fleas.
The pictured bottle to the left contains 5,000 pills and only costs $25. 5,000 pills is roughly 1.5 years worth of treatments for a 40lb dog. I ordered a smaller bottle to try out, and when I read the dosage instructions I was surprised because you are supposed to give 2 pills for every 10 pounds. There was no way my corgi would eat 8 of these pills. I was wrong. I can toss them to her and she catches them without any issues. They do have a smell in the container, but apparently dogs like the smell, because I can stand there and feed her all 8 pills in a minute or so. Her German Shepard/golden retriever companion is larger, so he gets 12-15 pills, but he’ll eat anything, including dirt clods he finds in the yard. So to conclude this topic, you are looking for Brewer’s Yeast with Garlic. It is sold at Petsmart, Tractor Supply, and many other stores (Amazon has the pictured 5,000 pack for $25 shipped). I’m not sure about Walmart, they have begun carrying Hydro-cortisone spray and “premium” dog shampoos, but I haven’t seen Brewer’s Yeast with Garlic pills there yet.
Diet is important in your dog having a strong immune system. Purina, Kibbles’n'Bits, and even IAMs are not quality dog foods. Most dog foods that cost $1/lb or less feature corn and grain as primary fillers, which can instigate allergies and result in poor overall health. Investigate quality foods such as EVO, Nutro Natural, Kumpi, and Blue Buffalo.
In my experiences, flea collars are more of a decoration than a flea deterrent. They range in price from $3-$20 depending on the brand and claimed “efficacy,” but I honestly believe they don’t help with fleas at all. First time dog owners are ones most suspect to fall victim to flea collars. If you’re interested in learning more about flea collars, simply check out the user reviews on Amazon, there are hundreds, mostly 1 star ratings, talking about how each flea collar didn’t get rid of fleas on their pets.