What are some effective strategies and medications to treat fleas on dogs?

Original Question: Hi Dr. Greenway, I have 2 little dogs and for the first time ever am having issues with fleas. I have used the "kill pill" and that did not work and our groomer says revolution does not work. What should I do? Thanks so much. - Sheila

What are some effective strategies and medications to treat fleas on dogs? Mar 1, 2018

Hi Sheila,

Thanks for sending in your question. I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with this.

There are a few things that are unusual about the question. The first is the product you are calling a ‘kill pill’. I’m not aware of any medication that is nicknamed this, but I would suspect that it might be Nitenpyram, the trade name is Capstar. When you give this pill orally, fleas will reliably ‘jump off’ the dog within 5 – 15 minutes and it is very effective. The only problem is that whatever level of flea infestation you see on your dog, it’s much worse at home. If your dog has fleas, then you will likely have thousands of flea larvae and eggs at home ready to mature and jump back on your dog.

The next issue is the statement you said your groomer made about Revolution not working on fleas. This is completely wrong. Revolution, which has Selamectin in it, is incredibly effective at eliminating a flea burden on the dog and in the home, but you must understand how it works. It will kill the fleas on your dog over the course of hours or days. Then when the fleas in your house mature, they will jump onto your dog and another dose of Revolution will kill them. This will interrupt the life cycle of the fleas and it will absolutely resolve the problem, but it will take time. Revolution is often prescribed to be given once a month for 3 months. You need to use it at least twice to disrupt the flea burden. In 13 years of practice, and thousands of cases of fleas, I have never seen it fail. The same is true for Advantage, Advantage Multi, Advantix and Sentinel. If they actually fail, the companies will want you to call them and they will discuss the issue at length with you until it is resolved. They will even refund a product if it truly is a case of failure, which again, I have never encountered.

The use of home sprays, chemicals, cleaning of the house and bedding etc. will reduce the number of eggs and larvae in your home, but I’ve never seen these to be enough to eliminate the problem. These remedies are still valuable to reduce the problem but only while you let the medication work. Many people still consider giving their pet a flea shampoo, which again, may eliminate the current fleas on your pet, but then the ones in the home just jump back on to your pets and set up an infestation.

I have seen many people try using flea collars and other non-prescription or all-natural products from grocery stores, hardware stores and pet stores. It’s possible for some of these to work, but I often see them fail. I don’t want to staunchly say the only option is a veterinarian prescribed product but if you’re really frustrated and want an effective treatment, it will be the most reliable and effective means of getting the problem under control.

In your case, I would stop using the ‘kill pill’ (because I believe it’s the product that only kills the adults on your dog over a short period). I would ask your veterinarian for the lowest cost flea medication they carry and buy 3 months worth for each pet. I recommend washing all bedding and vacuuming the house, but I don’t often support spraying chemicals throughout the house because of undesirable side effects.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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