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What Is The Best Oral Flea Medication & Treatment for Dogs?

Unfortunately dealing with fleas comes as a natural consequence of being a dog owner. If left untreated, it can lead to a host of problems, including infestations, skin complaints and even Lyme disease. Thankfully, they are very easy to treat, and with a proper flea treatment regime, will almost never be a problem for you or your loyal companion.

There are a variety of flea treatments available, yet they are not all the same, nor equal. Topical options involve direct application to your dog’s fur, which is both messy and usually requires you to quarantine your dog inside. Oral dog flea treatments are mess-free, easy to administer, often last much longer, and are proven to be more effective than many other flea treatments.

Benefits of Oral Flea Treatments

Why should you choose oral flea medications over the more traditional topical option? There are actually several reasons why their use has increased in popularity in recent years.

More Effective

Certain oral flea medications, such as those with the ingredient Spinosad have been demonstrated to be considerably more effective at eliminating fleas than their topical counterparts. In fact a study published in the veterinary parasitology journal in 2013 found that oral flea treatments were 11.5% more effective at controlling fleas.


Many dog owners find that oral medications are far more convenient to use. Oral flea treatments are easily administered by adding them to dog food and don’t involve the gluey mess often associated with topical options. Today, there are also a variety of flavoured options, meaning you can feed them to your dog easily, almost like a regular treat.

Many topical treatments also involve keeping your dog quarantined for a certain time period, indoors and away from other animals. This is a further inconvenience eliminated with oral flea treatments.

All-in-one Solution

As well as flea treatment and prevention, owning a dog involves regular administration of medication to prevent heart and lung worm, ticks and a variety of intestinal parasites. Traditionally, this has meant a single tablet for each, but today there are oral products that offer an all-in-one solution.

For example, Trifexis is a treatment capable of preventing fleas and a range of parasites including heartworms, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms.

How Do Oral Flea Medications Work?

There are a variety of oral flea medications that all work to rid your dog of fleas and each has a specific mechanism of action. The most commonly used chemicals found in these types of treatments include Lufenuron, Spinosad and Nitenpyram, which work in the following ways:

Lufenuron – This ingredient is stored in your dog’s fatty tissue and is ingested by fleas whenever they bite them. In the adult flea, this ingredient affects the production of chitin in their offspring, which is a material essential for the development of their hard exterior exoskeletons. Ultimately, this disrupts the juvenile flea’s growth and as a result they eventually die.

Spinosad – This ingredient affects the flea’s nervous system, resulting in the death of adult fleas only. It is used to treat and prevent flea infestations and can last as long as a month, so it’s also capable of killing fleas once they have matured from larvae.

Nitenpyram – This ingredient acts by blocking nerve receptors in adult fleas, which is fast acting and able to kill all fleas in a very short period of time. This a great drug to deal with immediate infestations, but since it only acts on adult fleas, it is not a long term solution. Larvae and eggs don’t feed solely on the blood, where the drug is present and so many remain unaffected.

How to Choose the Right Oral Medication for Your Companion

When thinking about which oral flea treatment to use, it’s important to consider a variety of different factors including lifestyle, age, current medication and the health of your dog.

The Best Fast-Acting Flea Relief

If you have just noticed your dog is infected with fleas, then Capstar and Sentry Capguard are two great options for quick and immediate relief. The active ingredient in these medications is nitenpyram, which works by blocking the nerve receptors in adult fleas. However, bear in mind that this treatment does not kill larvae or eggs and so in order to prevent future infestations you will need to use another form of flea control such as Program, Frontline or Advantage.

As well as offering immediate relief from a current infestation, these products are also a great product to keep at hand if you plan on travelling to locations where there is a significant risk of fleas being present. For example, kennels, dog shows and even the local park.

The Best Chemical-Free Alternatives

All effective flea treatments require an active pesticide to kill the fleas. While all such ingredients are approved for use in animals by the Environmental Protection Agency, they still have the potential to cause harm if misused. On the other hand, some dog owners simply don’t like the idea of exposing their pets to pesticides.

In addition, sometimes certain chemical-based treatments cannot be administered due to allergies or simply because there’s an underlying health issue. For example, flea treatments that utilize the ingredient Spinosad are not recommended for use in dogs with epilepsy.

A great chemical free alternative is PetzLife TickZ, which is formulated from a selection of natural insect repellents, including tansy, grape root, quassia bark and thyme. Like all oral flea treatments, you simply add it to your dog’s food and this formulation works to repel fleas by rendering dogs’ skin undesirable to biting insects.

How to Safely Use Dog Flea Medication

When treating your dog for a current flea infestation or prevention, it’s important to be making a number of observations prior, during and after administration.

Read the Instructions – Flea medications and treatments are species specific and it isn’t safe to use treatments made for other animals. As highlights, a common ingredient used in dog flea treatments – permethrin is completely safe for canines but deadly to cats.

You also need to take note of dosage instructions. These are typically based on your dog’s weight, age, whether they are pregnant or have any health conditions.

Observe Your Dog – All medications carry certain risks and associated side effects, perhaps your dog could even be allergic to certain ingredients.

Therefore, after administering the flea treatment observe your dog’s behaviour closely and get in touch with your vet immediately should there be any adverse reactions.

How to Prevent Re-infestation

Although oral treatments are useful at helping to kill adult flea populations, they do not result in flea egg or larvae destruction. These go on to survive and will be deposited throughout your home as they fall from your pet’s body into the environment. If left to develop and grow into adult fleas, re-infestation will occur at a later date, so it’s always advised that you treat your home as a whole and not just your pets.

Surprisingly, 95% of fleas exist in the form of eggs, larvae or a pupa, so ensuring you keep their presence to a minimum in your home is an essential part of reducing the risk of infestation.

Common areas of concern include carpets, upholstery and furniture in the home, as well as the grass and dog bedding in your garden or yard area.

To reduce their numbers in these areas consider taking the following measures:

In the home:

  • - Regularly wash and dry pet bedding on a high heat
  • - Regularly vacuum carpets with a beater bar to effectively remove eggs and larvae
  • - Frequently vacuum upholstery, under furniture and mattresses
  • - Apply insecticide powders and foggers that will actively kill fleas at all life stages

In the Yard:

  • - Frequently wash outdoor bedding and keep kennels clean
  • - Consider treating your yard with an insecticide flea spray such as Virbac

About the Author:

Carl Mclean is a dog owner, wildlife enthusiast and active blogger. He writes for a variety of local newspapers and various publications online!