4 Things You MUST Consider Before Buying Flea and Tick Medicine for Dogs

PetMD Editorial
Updated: October 13, 2020
Published: December 02, 2014
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Buying Flea and Tick Medicine for a Dog? Read This First!

With so many brands and types of flea and tick medications being sold today, it can be rather overwhelming choosing which dog flea and tick control is the best for your dog. Here are a few important things to consider before grabbing the first flea and tick control product you see.

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1. Usage

Flea and tick control products come in a variety of forms, including foggers, wipes, dips, shampoos, spot-ons, collars and oral medication. Some products repel fleas and ticks; some attack the immature forms of the bugs so that they never have a chance to develop and reproduce; and others kill the adult fleas and ticks. There are even some products that do all three. Read the label carefully to select the best product for your situation, and consult your veterinarian if you have any questions.

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2. Flea/Tick Species Effectiveness

It may be a bit overwhelming to think about, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of flea and tick species worldwide! The dog flea, black-legged tick (pictured above), American dog tick and brown dog tick, just to name a few. Discuss with your veterinarian what type of fleas and ticks are found in your area and confirm that the flea and tick medicine you're considering is effective against those species. Look for medications labeled "broad spectrum," which are effective against several species in one easy-to-use form.

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3. You and Your Dog's Preferences

Another important consideration is you and your pet's preferences and lifestyle. Perhaps your dog isn't very fond of having spot-on flea and tick preventives and won't stay still during application. Try a flea and tick collar. What if you have a busy lifestyle and want something that is both effective for long periods and that isn't visible on your pet? Check out oral flea and tick preventives (i.e., pills or tablets), as some are effective for up to 12 weeks. There isn't necessarily a right or wrong choice when it comes to choosing flea and tick medication. Just choose what is best for your situation.

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4. Intended for Dogs or Cats?

There are times when dogs and cats can take the same medication, under a vet's supervision, to resolve an issue. This is definitely not one of them. Not only are some flea and tick medications specifically formulated to be effective for dogs (or vice versa); there are certain ingredients that can actually be harmful, even deadly, to cats. "Cats should never be given products designed for use on dogs," says Dr. Jennifer Kvamme, DVM, "nor should you use your cat products on your dog." Always read flea and tick control products labels carefully and only use as directed. If you have any doubts, ask your veterinarian. 

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