Prevention is better than a cure, so the old saying goes. And in the case of preventing those teeny blood sucking nasties, it certainly pays to ensure your home and your dog are an inhospitable environment as possible for fleas at all stages of their life cycle.
As with any treatments you’d use after discovering fleas on your dog, it’s also far more effective to take an integrated approach to preventing fleas in the first place.
- 1 in 5 dog owners don’t regularly check their dog for fleas and 1 in 6 dog owners don’t use preventative medicines or treatments. That’s quite shocking considering there are more than 8 million dogs in the UK.
- Most vets, including Dr Will Woodley, recommend an integrated approach – which includes treatment, checking and additional care such as shampoos.
- Treatment and prevention isn’t too expensive, most dog owners spend no more than £10 per month.
Here’s the best advice on flea prevention practices to make your pooch a flea-free doggy.
How to prevent your dog from getting fleas
How often should you check your dog for signs of fleas?
Here’s what Dr. Will Woodley, veterinary professional and founder of VetBox, says about regular checks:
“I would recommend checking for fleas on a monthly basis. To inspect your dog, turn them onto their back and check the areas where fleas like to hide. The armpits and groin are two areas that tend to be warm and protected, making them preferred spots for large flea populations. Check the ears carefully for signs of scratching, redness, blood, or flea dirt.”
What to do if you have more than one dog or cat?
Here’s what Dr. Will, founder of VetBox, says:
“If you have several pets (cats and dogs) you need to treat them all regularly. This is something we come up against a lot as some owners think that by treating one dog the others will be protected, but they won’t!” – Dr. Will
So, if you have more than one pet living with you, it’s important to remember to check and treat them both for fleas; if one of them has fleas there’s a good chance the others will, too. Treating one pet for fleas doesn’t eliminate the risk for any other pets living in your home.
Products for flea prevention
There are various products that you can use on your dog to prevent fleas. One of the most popular are pipettes, also known as spot-on. You can also get hold of tablets, sprays and shampoos all suitable for use on your dogs.
To help you decide which product is best for your dog, we surveyed more than 1,400 dog owners to discover which product type and which brands they use most often. Keep reading this guide to discover the results of our research.
How much do flea treatments cost?
Most UK dog owners (75%) spend no more than £10 per month on flea prevention and treatments. It’s relatively inexpensive to ensure your dog’s hair stays free of fleas, and let’s face it, this is well worth the small financial investment, particularly considering that a total home and dog flea removal requires more effort than regular preventative treatments.
As a worst-case scenario, you may need to call the professionals in to deal with an advanced, out-of-control infestation. This can be very expensive so habitual treatment is definitely worth the money.
Here are veterinary surgeon Dr. Will’s comments on the cost of flea prevention from the results of our flea treatment and prevention survey:
“The monthly spending on parasite control varied quite a bit, which is understandable as it costs a lot more to treat a breed such as a St. Bernard, compared to say, a Chihuahua. I would say that you get what you pay for and if a flea product is costing less than £5 per treatment off the shelf, then it probably doesn’t contain very effective medicine.” – Dr. Will Woodley
The most popular types and brands of flea treatments can be purchased for as little as £10 for a pack of flea killing tablets. Popular spot-on treatments can be purchased in packs of 6 pipettes for around £25 for a medium-sized dog, these can last you up to around 4-6 months, depending on the size of your dog and the required dosage and coverage – which you should always double check with your dog.
Which flea prevention treatment is best for my dog?
Since it’s best to take an integrated approach, you should consider using a flea treatment product that you can apply to your dog’s skin (or administer to them orally) at regular intervals.
In our 2018 survey of more than 1,400 UK dog owners, we discovered the most popular types of flea treatments. Here are the results:
- The majority (56%) of dog owners use spot-on treatments, followed by tablets (18%), which means that almost three-quarters of dog owners are using these top-recommended flea killing products.
- Tablets came out slightly strong when we asked dog owners to tell us how effective these different product types were at preventing fleas.
We also asked UK dog owners about which flea prevention brands they’ve used most often to treat their dogs, here’s what we discovered:
- Advocate and Frontline came out as the most popular brands, with over two-thirds (67%) of dog owners using these two.
- However, Advocate scores the highest on the effectiveness front – with 87% of dog owners saying they found this brand effective at treating and preventing fleas.
Here’s Dr. Will’s comments on which kind of treatments he would recommend:
“It’s no surprise that spot-on treatments were the most popular choice. They are convenient, easy to administer and with Advocate (a spot-on pipette product) being by far the most popular treatment in the UK amongst vets, this result was expected. At VetBox we use spot-on pipettes as we believe that they are easier to use and better value for money than tablets.” – Dr. Will
Is using ‘alternative treatments’ enough to prevent fleas on my dog?
Can using shampoos, sprays, powders and other such products be used on their own? The short answer to this is no, it’s not recommended to use these types of preventative treatments as your sole method for preventing fleas on your dog. Here’s Dr. Will’s top tip:
“All of the other products should be seen in addition to preventative treatments (spot-on pipettes or tablets), rather than alternatives.” – Dr. Will
Spot-on (pipettes) and tablets are the best options for dog flea prevention best because they contain chemicals such as imidacloprid, moxidectin, fipronil and methoprene that will kill adult flea population on contact with your dog and continue to kill any new fleas for around a month.
Oral or external?
Many of the leading flea treatment brands now supply flavoured tablets that your dog will enjoy as a treat or addition to their meals.
However, these tablets can take up to 15 minutes to start working, which is a little longer than the spot-on option. Tablets work quickly, but many of the popular brands only last 24 hours – meaning that your dog would be vulnerable to fleas again after this one-off treatment. Monthly tablets do exist, though and some of these types of treatment also stop the eggs and larvae from developing.
Some spot-on treatments are also effective at killing ticks, which are a risk to dogs in the summer months – these are another nasty little parasite which can cause and carry a whole host of diseases, so it’s worth picking a solution that can tackle more than one type of parasite.
Sadly, there’s no such thing as a catch-all product for fleas, ticks and worms. Ensure you follow your vet’s advice about the best course of medicines to keep your pooch healthy and happy all year round.
Regular checks of your dog’s hair and skin
It’s important to keep up regular grooming, this will help to normalise checking your dog’s hair and skin and can help your dog behave better if you need to check them in an emergency.
Since most flea products are most effective at dealing with one stage of the flea life cycle, it’s important to continue checking your dog for signs of fleas even when you’ve been administering regular flea treatments to your dog. For example, spot-on treatments, used alone, are very effective at killing adult fleas but may not always remove or kill larvae or eggs, which are usually found in the environment, such as in carpets and furniture.
What’s more, some tablets only continue to kill adult fleas for up to 24 hours, meaning that after this period has ended, your dog is at risk from being bitten and being a host to fleas once more. Regular checks of your dog are important to ensure they’re not getting reinfested.
If you continuously spot fleas on your dog even after treatments, it’s possible you have a flea problem in your house that needs addressing.
How often should I treat my dog for fleas?
Regular flea treatments are best
Pro-tip: why not schedule reminders in your phone’s calendar to remind yourself to treat your dog? That way you’re less likely to forget.
Here’s VetBox founder Dr. Will’s advice on why regular treatments are the best approach:
“I would always advise using a preventative treatment on a regular basis, as getting rid of an infestation can be much harder than preventing one in the first place. Assuming you use a vet recommended product at the correct dosing interval, the risk of your pet getting fleas should be minimal and grooming is not essential. However, I would recommend checking your dog on a monthly basis, just to be sure, particularly if your dog is regularly in a rural area.” – Dr. Will
Our survey of more than 1,400 UK dog owners revealed that rural dog owners were 10% more likely to check their dogs more often than dog owners living in urban areas. Here’s what Dr. Will the vet had to say about this revelation:
“Rural dogs are probably more likely to encounter wild animals infested with fleas and as such owners are probably more aware of them. It’s still vital that urban pets receive the same preventative treatments as contact with other dogs or cats is the main way that fleas are spread.” – Dr. Will
No matter where you live, whether it’s a city centre apartment or a rural farmhouse, fleas pose a danger to your dog’s health and since prevention is better than a cure, it’s always a good idea to take steps to
Should I treat my dog during winter months?
Yes, vets will usually advise you to keep up your regular flea prevention treatments all year round. Whilst British winters are usually cold and wet, (conditions that aren’t ideal for a thriving flea population) most homes will remain warm and dry due to central heating. These cosier indoor conditions mean that dormant or early life cycle fleas (the hidden 95%!) are still a risk to your dog.
Most spot-on treatments are intended to be a monthly treatment and to keep fleas at bay all year round it’s certainly worth keeping up the monthly application of spot-on. Always follow manufacturer’s advice on the regularity of treatments and always follow instructions given by your vet.
How to prevent fleas in your home
Since it’s entirely possible to have fleas living in your house without the presence of a dog or cat, and an estimated 95% of home flea populations aren’t on your pets, it stands to reason that simple vigilance to keep your dog clean is not enough on its own. We recommend regular vacuuming and washing of bed sheets at medium to high temperatures (60 degrees where appropriate).
It’s also a good idea to stay super vigilant when it comes to preventing a flea infestation in your home; here are some more top tips to keeping your garden flea-free.
How to prevent fleas in your garden
Keep up regular maintenance of your lawn, garden plants and flower beds. This will remove those little hiding spots that fleas can use to breed and lay in wait for a dog to jump onto.
Try to keep your fences and hedges in good condition and be careful to keep any bins sealed and rubbish or food away from your garden – this includes bird feeders! This will dissuade wild animals from paying visits to your garden, and as we know they can be one of the main carriers of fleas.
Of course, pesky foxes can squeeze through the narrowest of gaps, so there’s no fail-safe way to keep wild critters from entering your garden – but you can make it a less attractive place for them to come sniffing around.
The advice contained in this article is not intended to be a replacement for professional veterinary advice.