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Common Dog Flea Medicine

Flea medicine for dogs include topical "spot-on" medication as well as oral flea medication. This page looks at some common products of dog flea medication, including their side effects.

As fleas can cause various health issues to dogs, it is essential to eradicate fleas if you find them on your dog.

This page looks at some common products of dog flea medicine that are currently widely used for canine flea control. These products are safer than the traditional insecticides that were formerly used as flea control products such as dips, powders, sprays, and medicated shampoos.

Oral Dog Flea Medicine

Two Dogs

The most common oral dog flea medicine is Program (the brand name for lufeneron), which is one of the new parasite medications that are quite effective for fleas.

Basically, Program is a form of "flea birth control". It inhibits flea eggs from developing and hatching by interfering with the production of chitin which is the hard outer shells of fleas. As such, it is a safe flea medicine for mammals such as dogs because they do not product chitin.

The active ingredient accumulates in the dog's fatty tissues for a time so it does not require frequent dosing.

The drawback of lufeneron is that the flea must bite the dog for this medication to be effective. If your dog has flea allergy dermatitis, he will still suffer. In addition, because it only affects flea eggs and not mature adult fleas, the adult fleas can continue to bite the dog until they die off in about 1-2 months before the dog can have some relief.

Therefore, if more immediate results are desirable, Program should be used in combination with other flea products or medications for skin problems.

  • Possible Side Effects:

    This dog flea medication may rarely cause some side effects, including vomiting, mild depression, or a loss in appetite. To minimize the possibility of these side effects, give the medication with food.
  • Cautions:

    Program should not be given to puppies younger than 6 weeks of age, but is safe to use on pregnant and lactating females.

Topical Spot-on Dog Flea Medicine

Several topical products of dog flea medicine are being used for canine flea control. They include:

Advantage (the brand name for imidacloprid) is an insecticide that works on nicotinic receptors in fleas. It causes fleas to show central nervous system signs of paralysis and then death. It kills adult fleas on direct contact and also reduces the number of hatching eggs and larvae. Advantage can kill a majority of mature fleas (around 98-100%) in 12 hours after application.

Advantage is a liquid preparation that is applied to the dog's skin once a month. Typically it is applied between the shoulder blades and, for larger dogs, to 3 to 4 additional sites along the dog's back. One application is effective for up to 30 days.

Imidacloprid is one of the newer and safer flea medications for topical use - It is NOT intended for internal use. It is considered non-toxic because it is not absorbed through the skin into the body.

However, if your dog likes to get himself wet often, Advantage may not be a good choice because it loses some of its effectiveness when mixed with water. If your dog goes swimming more than once a week, therefore, you may need to apply the medicine to your dog often (e.g.once a week).

  • Possible Side Effects:

    Imidacloprid may cause some localized irritation where it is applied. If a dog happens to eat the tubes, this could cause an overdose. Signs of overdosing include twitching and muscle weakeness. If you suspect your dog has overdosed with imidacloprid, contact your vet and the National Poison Control Center immediately.

  • Cautions:

    Advantage should not be used on puppies younger than 7 weeks of age, or on pregnant or lactating females.
Frontline contains fipronil which is a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) inhibitor that attacks the central nervous system of parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites. Although mammals also possess GABA, ours is limited to our brains and fipronil cannot pass the blood-brain barrier, thus this medication is safe.

Fipronil kills fleas on contact within 24 to 48 hours. It can also be used to treat tick infestations in dogs (and cats) or to prevent these parasites from becoming established on your pet.

Frontline is a liquid flea medication and is applied in the same way as Advantage. The medication gets into the sebaceous glands and hair follicles and from there it works for 30 days or more.

  • Possible Side Effects:

    The only possible side effects of fipronil are greasy spots where the liquid medication is applied and rarely a mild irritation at that spot.
  • Cautions:

    Frontline is considered safe for use on puppies over 10 weeks of age, and in pregnant and nursing dogs, as well as senior dogs. It should not be used in combination with other dog flea medications without consultation with your vet.
Frontline Plus contains fipronil as well as S-methoprene, a kind of insect growth regulator (IGR). IGRs are synthetic hormones intended to influence the growth of parasites such as fleas. They mimic normal insect growth regulators which would inhibit metamorphosis. Thus, flea eggs and larvae are prevented from developing into adults. Since IGRs are insect hormones, they are considered to be safe for mammals such as dogs and cats.

Frontline Plus is a topical flea/tick medicine that can be applied to dogs once a month. Following application, it kills 100 percent of adult fleas on the dog within 18 hours and 100 percent of all ticks within 2 days.

  • Possible Side Effects:

    Some dogs may experience some temporary irritation at the site of application.
  • Cautions:

    Frontline Plus is labeled for use on puppies 8 weeks of age and over. It is also safe for use on breeding, pregnant, and lactating females.

There are also a few broad-spectrum medications that are effective against fleas and ticks.

Other Dog Flea Medicine Options

Besides the above newer dog flea medications, there are also a variety of traditional insecticide products that are available for canine flea control, although the effectiveness and safety of these products vary. Check this page for more information on these traditional insecticide products.

Don't forget to check out our page on natural home remedies for fleas if you prefer to go natural.
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