When dogs get fleas, it can be a nightmare for both pet and owner. Fleas can cause a lot of irritation and itchiness for your dog, so it’s a good idea to treat it as soon as possible. But, there are so many types of flea prevention and flea treatments for dogs. It can be hard to know where to start.

Flea and Tick collars vs. drops

Flea dog collars have been around a long time, and pipetting flea and tick drops onto your dog has become standard practice. Understanding which is best and when to use could save a lot of pain and irritation for you and your dog. 

So are flea collars effective? Or should we be using spot on treatments instead? The answer is that both treatments can be very effective in tackling fleas, but you should choose the option that best suits the needs of you and your pet.

Dog flea collar

Dog flea collars are very easy to use, simply attach and trim to size (if necessary), and you are done. Good dog flea collars are very effective and can last for quite a few months. If you are against using chemical drops or anything topical, then they are a good option. Remember, they are not normal dog collars so don’t attach a lead to them.

How long do flea collars take to work?

Flea collars start working in the initial 24 hours, and you’ll see noticeable results in 3 to 4 weeks. This may vary depending on a few factors, including the type of collar and the infestation level.

Spot on treatments

These are very easy to use, and can give good coverage against fleas and ticks. A few drops around the neck and towards the tail is all you need, and it should usually be applied monthly.

We have personal experience of this kind of treatment, and during Oscar and Hooch’s long and very full lives (15 years) they were lucky to never suffer with fleas. The only con with spot on treatments is your dog cannot get wet 24-48hrs after application depending on what you use.

How to spot fleas on your dog?

There are lots of different signs of fleas, seeing a flea is lucky as even in their adult stage they are minuscule (think the tip of a pen). If you do see specs and movement within your dog’s hair, then it’s likely you are seeing fleas. Other signs include:

  • lots of scratching
  • signs of irritation (such as red patches)
  • bites on humans in the house with no explanation
  • bald patches on your dog’s fur
  • lots of darks specs (mud like) when your dog is brushed

If you see any of the signs above, then grooming your dog is a good way of checking. When using a comb, you may see lots of black specs coming off your dog’s coat. These are not necessarily fleas, but likely to be flea droppings. Add water to the specs and if it turns brown then it's probably mud. However, if it turns a reddish colour then it is very likely to be fleas, you should look to treat.

If you are unsure either way, then you should speak to your vet.

What are the other flea treatment options?

Alongside flea collars and spot on treatments, there are other options available too, including:

Shampoos

Flea shampoos are effective when your dog has fleas and will help reduce the irritation by killing the adult fleas. However, in order to prevent further flea infestations, you are going to need to use something else such as a dog flea collar or spot on treatment. Bear in mind, your dog’s bedding will also need washing!

Tablets

Oral dog flea treatments, like spot on treatments, can help prevent fleas and some will kill existing fleas. If your dog likes to take tablets, then this could be a good route.

Flea spray

A good dog flea spray will act like a good flea shampoo and kill the adult fleas. It should be used in conjunction with one of the other dog flea treatment types. This will ensure further prevention and reduction in flea larvae.

What to consider when looking at dog flea treatments

By this point in the article you have probably decided which treatment is best for you and your dog.

When making your decision, you should consider the following factors:

  • Route of administration and likely success with your dog – if they don’t like collars, then spot-on treatments will make more sense.
  • Cost – all dog flea treatments vary substantially in price, particularly if using monthly
  • Efficacy – if it doesn’t work, then you will end up spending more
  • Whether your dog actually has fleas or not. If, like us, you manage to avoid fleas than a shampoo a spray should never be considered, as they can contain unnecessarily harsh chemicals for dogs without fleas
  • Your own routine. If you are unlikely to remember a monthly spot on treatment, then a dog flea collar may be a better choice.

Safety of dog flea treatments

Most dog flea treatments use chemicals, so you need to be careful. You should know your dog’s weight, as most treatments vary by weight of dog. Dog flea treatments can be poisonous and even fatal for cats, so never use on cats.

Check age restrictions on your dog flea treatment, as you will need the right one for a puppy. Finally,don’t get too carried away, follow the package instructions or your vet’s advice. Giving extra treatment doesn’t mean you will get rid of the fleas any quicker, and does pose the risk of overdosing in your dog.

Flea advice and more at Oscar & Hooch

Before you even consider dog flea treatments, you should get yourself into a good grooming routine with your dog. A regular groom (whether by you or a professional) will help identify fleas early on and may prevent a major infestation.

Use our considerations checklist to see whether you and your dog is better suited to a dog flea collar or the alternatives. Discuss with your vet the latest treatments and whether prevention is better than cure. Once you have a treatment that works for you and a routine that works for your dog, stick with it, as any slippage in routine can lead to fleas.

If you would like more tips and access to special offers, then sign up to our newsletter here. At Oscar & Hooch, you can also find a range of great accessories for your pet including treat bags, bandanas, leads and harnesses

Flea treatment FAQs

How effective are flea collars?

Flea collars are typically effective for months, providing long-lasting protection to dogs. Make sure to watch your dog for localised reactions or allergies.

Do flea collars kill fleas and eggs?

Good flea collars can kill adult fleas, ticks, flea eggs, and larvae.

How do spot on treatments work?

Spot on medicines work as an insecticide to kill the fleas almost instantly. The pesticide chemical in the treatment remains in the hair follicles of your dog and continues to be released after the first application.