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  • Writer's pictureJosie

The 411 on Fleas and Fido

Scratch…Scratch…Scratch…bite….lick…bite again…The jingle of tags rings through the air, and one thought crosses all dog owners alike, fleas!! This year has been tough to treat fleas for Athena. Previously, she has not had any issues, but we usually treat her with grooming and topical applications. However, there has been a recent influx of feral cats, and we had not treated our backyard before. The flea has a cycle, which is why it is essential to pick out which medication is best due to what part of the process you are attacking. 

How to determine if Fido has fleas?

Inspect the armpits and groin for black specks. Take a flea comb. It would be a good idea to have soapy water available to place live fleas. Fido will usually exhibit "classic" signs of a flea infestation such as scratching, biting, licking excessively. Another method for checking for fleas involves checking for "flea-dirt." This is flea feces. To do this, you use a white paper towel, set it next to the dog, brush the dirt off onto the paper towel, wet the paper towel, and examine the color. Dirt will stay dark, whereas the feces' blood will turn the paper towel a reddish-brown color. It is not often that fleas will remain with just Fido. Check the dog's bedding or areas that they lay down frequently. Lastly, check with the vet to ensure that the skin is not infected or some allergies needed to be treated. 

Now that we've established that Fido has fleas, what do we do?

Treatment options: Topical applications, flea collars, flea shampoos, and environmental insecticides 

For each of the different medications, it is crucial to see what the product is treating. For example, some oral medications need to be given daily, whereas a topical application would be monthly. Having an accurate weight is important also. This will help determine the correct dosage to select to prevent under or overexposure to the chemical. Most topicals are not recommended for dogs under 12 weeks old. 

While collars can be an excellent option, easily applicable, and start working within 24 hours, some vets argue that the collars lack extensive coverage to the dog, especially around their hind legs/tail, where the fleas can avoid the treatment. However, unlike the oral Capstar and Advantus, the collar lasts for a longer time while actively preventing hatching eggs. 

  • Fresh scented

  • Kills and repels fleas and ticks, plus prevents flea eggs from hatching for 7 months. Can be worn simultaneously with your dog's regular collar

  • Orange collar with reflective strip reflects direct light from up to 300 feet away for an added dimension of night time safety

  • Water-resistant design won't cause loss of effectiveness if your playful pup takes a stroll in the rain

  • Fits dogs with necks that measure up to 22 inches

  • For use on adult dogs and puppies 12 weeks of age and older

Some sprays can be utilized on bedding, furniture, and even applied to the coat. However, it is also in your best interest to test the product first to ensure no staining and no allergies. It is typically composed of essential oils that target fleas, eggs, and larvae. I like to treat Athena's bedding in addition to her coat and the furniture. This is best used prophylactically to prevent re-infestation of bedding. 


Capstar and Advantus address adult fleas but not eggs. It will provide immediate relief but not long term control. These are best used daily to kill infestations. 

Capstar (nitenpyram) is a fast-acting flea treatment tablet for dogs and cats that starts killing fleas in only 30 minutes. A single dose of Capstar kills 90% of adult fleas within 4 hours for dogs and 6 hours for cats, ridding your pet of these pesky parasites. Capstar is for dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens 2 pounds of body weight or greater and 4 weeks of age or older. 

Advantus (imidacloprid) soft chews are a fast-acting treatment of flea infestations on dogs and puppies 10 weeks of age and older weighing 4 pounds or greater. These flavored chews start killing fleas within 1 hour with just a single dose. In the event of a continued infestation, you can safely repeat the treatment as often as once per day. Keep away from children. Kills adult fleas. 


A study published in Veterinary Parasitology demonstrated that topicals were 88.4 percent effective, while oral treatments were 99.9 percent effective. 

  • Waterproof flea and tick treatment for dogs: Frontline Plus for Dogs provides waterproof, fast-acting, long-lasting flea and tick treatment and control for your dog. This is a weight-based formula.

  • Break the flea life cycle with frontline: Frontline flea and tick treatment for dogs kills adult fleas plus flea eggs and larvae to stop existing infestations and prevent the establishment of new infestations.

  • Kills fleas and ticks: Frontline flea and tick treatment for dogs kills fleas, flea eggs, lice, and ticks. This flea and tick treatment kills ticks, including those that may transmit Lyme disease.

  • Trusted flea and tick protection for dogs: Frontline has been trusted by veterinarians for nearly 20 years. Made with 2 tough killing ingredients, fipronil and (S)-methoprene – one to kill adult fleas and ticks and the second to kill flea eggs and larvae – this fast-acting, long-lasting protection provides flea and tick control for dogs and puppies 8 weeks and older.

  • Lasting flea and tick protection: Frontline's long-lasting formula is stored in the oil glands of the pet's skin to give non-stop flea and tick protection for a full 30 days. Frontline flea and tick treatment for dogs works non-stop for a full 30 days. A 6-dose supply lasts for 6 months.

  • Age Range Description: All Life Stages 


There are various bathing solutions or grooming options available that target flea management. Be careful to read the recommended age for these treatments as well. Another cheap and effective method for killing fleas is Dawn dish soap. Be careful not to get any soap in your furry friend's eyes. Ensure that the entire coat is wet and begin lathering in the soap. Most solutions require that the soap be applied for at least five minutes before rinsing. Dawn dish soaps help create a surfactant layer that effectively traps eggs and adult fleas to kill. 

Regardless of which treatment you select, ensure that you read the application process. When I first started applying the flea treatment, I definitely did it wrong. You don't want to diminish the effectiveness of flea medication.

How to prevent fleas in the future?

Ensure regular bathing and grooming

Wash the bedding 

Frequently vacuum bedding/carpet

Treat the yard

Keep up with the treatment

What do we do with Athena?

We generally use a combined attack against fleas. We have found the most success with Frontline Plus (we purchased from Costco, but it is also available at Amazon). Walmart also has cheaper options for flea maintenance. Because the smell of the essential oils does not bother me, I spray our furniture, the kennels, and the dog beds. Lastly, during this last treatment, we purchased an oral medication from PetSmart- Advantus. This can be price matched to Chewy at pet stores or purchased on Amazon. We noticed a significant difference in Athena's discomfort and biting at her hind legs. To ensure that it wasn't allergies, we also had her checked out during her annual exam. Lastly, Athena is groomed every 3-4 months to help shedding, dog odor, and flea prevention! 

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