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Traditional Dog Flea Medication

Traditional dog flea medication include dog flea collars, dips, shampoos, sprays, etc. This page looks at the safety level and effectiveness of these products.

Although there are newer and safer products of dog flea medicine on the market to treat and prevent flea infestations in dogs, there are still quite a few traditional flea products available, such as flea shampoos, dips, sprays, and flea collars.

How safe and effective are these products? Let's take a look.

Traditional Dog Flea Medication - Flea Shampoos

Dog in a Bathtub

Medicated flea shampoos kill fleas only when they are on the dog - Once they are rinsed off, their effectiveness is gone. There is very little residual effect. It is therefore only effective if your dog has very mild or moderate flea infestations and the environment has been treated thoroughly.

When using medicated flea shampoos on your dog, remember to protect his eyes and ears.

Generally speaking, medicated flea shampoos that contain pyrethrins are safer, especially on puppies.

Traditional Dog Flea Medication - Dog Flea Collars

Dog flea collars can control fleas to some extent but collars cannot eliminate all fleas.

Most dog flea collars contain dichlorvos, which is a highly volatile organophosphate (an insecticide) that turns into a vapor that surrounds the dog. Because of the volatility of the insecticide, flea collars usually lose their potency over time and must be changed every two months or so.

Organophosphate is rather toxic and long-term use of flea collars is not advisable. Initial signs of toxicity may include excessive drooling, diarrhea, and staggering. Some dogs can also develop contact dermatitis around their neck because they are sensitive to the chemicals contained in the collars.

Traditional Dog Flea Medication - Flea Dips

Dips are applied to the entire dog, allowing them to penetrate the hair coat to kill fleas. They have the most immediate killing action and the longest residual activity. However, most dips contain highly toxic chemicals such as organophosphates. Initial signs of toxicity may include excessive drooling, diarrhea, and staggering.

Because of the highly toxic nature of dips, they should only be used according to your veterinarian's directions, and only on heavily infested animals as a last resort. Be extremely careful not to get any of the dip in the dog's ears or eyes. Before dipping the dog, it is helpful to put cotton balls in his ears and ophthalmic ointment in his eyes for protection.

Traditional Dog Flea Medication - Sprays

Flea sprays have effective killing action and most have a residual killing action that lasts up to 14 days. Sprays can be used on dogs with severe flea infestations and if newer flea medications such as Advantage or Frontline are not being used.

If you choose to use a spray, choose water-based sprays instead of alcohol-based ones, since the latter ones are flammable and can dry the dog's coat.

When using a spray, you do not have to soak the dog with the spray, but be sure to spray all parts of the dog. Start spraying from the back of the dog's head all the way to the tail. That way, the fleas cannot escape the treatment by jumping onto the face. Do not get any spray in the dog's eyes.

Do not allow your dog to lick the spray off his hair since some of the chemicals can be toxic.

Sprays should not be used on young puppies who haven't reached 2 months of age.


As you can see, most of the traditional products of dog flea medication are rather toxic and not really safe for dogs (and the environment), these products should be used with extreme care under your veterinarian's directions, and perhaps only as a last resort - when natural flea products or newer flea medicines fail to work.
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