RX for Dog Fleas: Treatment by Prescription

Dog fleas and treatment are an unpleasant experience for both dog and owner alike. The most effective way to rid your dog of fleas is to get a prescription from your veterinarian. Your vet will recommend a treatment based on where you live, the degree of flea infestation and other factors. 

There are more than 200 types of fleas in America. Fleas can jump 14 to 16 inches and can lay eggs 48 hours after their first blood meal. They lay up to 50 eggs per day. Though there are both "dog fleas" and "cat fleas," the most common flea to invade your dog's coat and skin in the United States is the cat flea. (Actual dog fleas are found mostly in Europe.) It's important to prevent fleas if possible and to attack them quickly when they do invade. As with flea varieties, there are several types of flea medications your veterinarian can prescribe, both oral and topical.

Oral Dog Fleas Treatment

Comfortis is an effective once a month oral treatment to be given with food. Dosage is a single tablet costing about $15. It kills fleas when they bite because it circulates in the dog's bloodstream. Comfortis works quickly and your family is not exposed to pet insecticides, which is especially important if the dog sleeps with any family member.

Program is another monthly pill. It's not considered by most vets to be as effective as Comfortis. It works as "flea birth control" by stopping the larvae from hatching. It does NOT kill adult fleas and will most often be prescribed with another medication which does kills older fleas, such as Capstar. Program alone can't keep up with the numerous new fleas a dog brings in from outside, even if the dog is mostly an inside dog. Program is secreted onto the skin over the course of the month, so itdoesn't wash off. Capstar is also a once a month tablet which begins killing adult fleas within 30 minutes, but it only lasts about two days. Program and Capstar combined will cost about $15 to 20 per month.

Topical Dog Fleas Treatment

Topicals are liquids which are applied directly to the skin between your dog's shoulder blades so they can't be licked off and harm your pet. Advantage was the first topical treatment and many vets still consider it the best flea product. It's safe and works quickly but won't typically last as long as Frontline, another widely prescribed topical. A dog should not be bathed for at least two days after applying any topical. Humans can safely handle their pets after application, though this is still a concern for many pet owners.

There can be some resistance to both Advantage and Frontline, especially in warmer areas of the country with year round flea populations. This concern can addressed by using Frontline Plus which controls ticks as well as fleas. It also contains the ingredient (S)-methoprane which stops fleas that aren't killed by basic Frontline from reproducing. Both FrontlinePlus and Advantage cost about $10 to $15 per dose. With FrontlinePlus, you get the added benefit of tick protection.

Whatever medication you and your vet decide will be best for your dog's flea treatment, be sure to follow all dosing or application instructions to achieve the best results. (Prices mentioned may vary and are based on a medium sized dog.)