How to Keep Your Dogs Flea-Free

FLEAS_Featured1Fleas may be inevitable. But you suffering with them doesn’t need to be, according to veterinary parasitologist Dr. Michael Dryden who studies fleas, and has become so expert at designing their demise that he's known as Dr. Flea. Dryden insists that you can win the war on fleas, no matter where you live. And he's positively giddy about safe new chemistry that reliably kills fleas faster than ever.

Dryden said it's been about 15 years since he's seen this sort of "game changer" in the world of flea prevention. Two new brand-name products, NexGard and Bravecto, contain Isoxazolines. NexGard is a monthly chewable to protect dogs against ticks and fleas. Bravecto, also an oral chew for dogs, delivers 12 weeks of protection against fleas and ticks in one dose.

Another more established chewable to prevent fleas in dogs and cats is Comfortis. And Trifexis, also a chewable, kills fleas, and doesn't stop there; Trifexis also protects against intestinal parasites and prevents heartworm in a single monthly dose.

"So many people are accustomed to the spot-on application systems," says Dryden. These products come in small tubes which a pet owner squeezes to apply the preventive along a pet's back or between the shoulder blades. "However, today's chewables can do the same job with (equally) great efficiency," Dryden notes. It's that efficiency, which Dryden calls residual speed of kill, that's incredibly important -- and that's where the new chemistry in NexGard and Bravecto shine.

"When a flea jumps on a dog or cat, in seconds the flea is feeding," says Dryden. "We can now kill fleas fast enough where not enough protein is injected into the saliva of the flea to elicit an allergic reaction (in the dog). We can manage flea allergies by using products with this residual speed of kill. We don't know how many pets are affected by flea allergies (flea allergy dermatitis), but that number is pretty high. (It's) the most common allergy in pets."

There's also a product called Vetra 3D, a monthly spot on with repellency properties; the idea is to provide a force field around the pet so fleas and ticks can't readily pass through it and bite. "I like the idea of preventing the bite," says Dr. Mike Paul, past president of the Companion Animal Parasite Council. "It takes some time for ticks to transmit disease, so the faster ticks are off the pet, the better -- and still better if fleas and ticks don't attach in the first place."

Since 1990, Tampa, FL, is where Dryden heads to evaluate flea products. "We consider Tampa the flea capital of the world," he said. "It's not unusual to see dogs with 1,000 fleas. Pets there, and in other places where fleas are abundant, can even die from flea infestations. I feel for the pain of frustrated pet owners. And I can assure you that used properly, the new technology works, and works well."

This doesn't mean older flea preventives are no longer good choices, including Frontline Plus, a spot on that doesn’t just kill adult fleas and ticks but also slays the next generation of flea eggs and larvae in dogs and cats; and EFFITIX is a s spot on product that repels ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes; kills lice and aids in the control of sarcoptic mites; and repels and prevents blood feeding by biting flies to protect dogs.

"We're always excited by new products with proven effectiveness, but there are many other effective veterinary-recommended products to kill fleas, even those out for several years," Dryden says.

Unfortunately, too many pet owners don't even ask for or ignore veterinary advice about purchasing flea and tick products, Paul notes.

"Veterinary professionals know which products to suggest based on geography, lifestyle of the pets and the mix of pets in a household. The problem is many people -- either for convenience or to save money -- go to big box stores or purchase (preventatives) randomly online."

Dryden adds, "The simple truth is that many of the over-the-counter products just don't work dependably." As a result, pet owners either wind up back at their veterinarian's office and end up spending even more money, and perhaps require an exterminator. Worst of all, when owners choose unreliable products, pets can become subject to diseases and discomfort caused by fleas.

"Getting veterinary input in the first place is really the only way to go," Paul says.

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Positively Expert: Steve Dale

Steve is a certified dog and cat behavior consultant, has written several books, hosts two nationally syndicated radio shows, and has appeared on numerous TV shows including "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "National Geographic Explorer," and "Pets Part of the Family." Steve’s blog is


3 thoughts on “How to Keep Your Dogs Flea-Free

  1. Martie

    I appreciate the advice from the renowned Dr. Flea about new and current flea preventatives. However, I'm just as interested in the safety of the products for our pets. Most of the effective products contain powerful insecticides and have be known to cause some serious side effects. I think this may be caused by the fact that some dogs are getting overdosed if they fall into the low end of the weight spectrum for each category. Such as, in the weight category, i.e. 10.1 - 24 lbs., dogs weighing 10 or so lbs. are getting as much of the active ingredient as the 24 lb. dogs. Again, in the category 24.1 - 60 lbs., dogs on the lower end, 24, 25, 26 lbs. are getting a dose large enough to be effective for a 60 lb. dog. Is there any cause for concern that maybe more, smaller divisions should be made available to narrow the ranges? I realize most dogs do fine on the current dosages, but there is a small percentage of dogs who have had severe, even life altering side effects, including death. Is there any effort to address this issue?

  2. Rose Barham

    My dogs, six of them have had Bravecto for the past year and a half nearly two years and its such a relief for them to not always be plagued with fleas and the associated scratching and ripping their coats out. I've had no reactions in my varied aged dogs and they actually love the chewy tablets. So easy, yes works out for my lot quite pricey but rather that than them to be uncomfortable and miserable with the fleas. Oh and I'm in the UK.

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