Oral Vs. Topical Flea and Tick Remedies: Which Is Better?

flea and tick treatment for dogs

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It’s one of the necessary parts of dog parenthood: keeping pesky parasites away from your furry pal. Fleas and ticks aren’t just annoying and uncomfortable for your dog, they carry diseases and can herald in infestations. But how do you choose the right flea and tick treatment for dogs? Is one as good as the other? And how do you make the right choice before learning the hard way?

Fleas and ticks may sound like an innocuous inevitability of canine life. Depending on where you live and how much time your dog spends outside, “fleas and ticks” may be part of your vernacular.

But here’s the bottom line: You do NOT want fleas and ticks on your dog!

Dogs don’t enjoy scratching away at biting fleas any more than humans enjoy the maddening itch of poison ivy.

No, it’s not normal for dogs to have fleas!

The little pests aren’t loners. They’re a whole feeding, multiplying, relocating operation. And they can spread diseases like flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworm, anemia, and Bartonellosis.

And those creepy, engorging, embedding ticks are no better. They are the purveyors of diseases like Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, among others.

Options of Flea and Tick Treatment for Dogs

When it comes to flea and tick prevention for dogs, you have options.

One option, though, could pose a danger to more than just your dog. The pesticides in a flea/tick collar can remain on your dog’s fur long after its use. And their unsafe levels can be toxic not only to pets, but to humans, as well.

Think about all the things your dog touches. And think about all the hands that touch your dog. Those toxic pesticides transfer and linger and can cause serious health hazards for everyone – pets included – in your home.

If you have more than one pet in your house and they romp, wrestle, and cuddle, they could easily lick or ingest a buddy’s collar. And the results would be extremely dangerous.

So, what are your pharmaceutical options for parasite prevention?

flea and tick treatment for dogs

The two main types of flea and tick treatments for dogs are oral and topical.

Let’s take a look at both.

  1. Oral: Oral flea and tick remedies are ingested, not applied. They come as flavored chewables, soft chewables, or tablets.While the various oral treatments are similar, the medicines in them work differently from one to the next.Some, like NexGard, work by disrupting the nervous system of the parasites, thereby killing them.

    Bravecto Chews, on the other hand, slowly release their medicine into the tissues under your dog’s skin. When the fleas or ticks bite, they ingest the medicine and die.

    Some medicine components kill only flea larvae, while others kill adult fleas and ticks.

    Because year-round monthly parasite prevention is so important, many preventatives are combined with a heartworm preventative.

    In addition to heartworms and fleas, some combination prevention medications also protect against ticks, mites, and intestinal parasites.

    Two examples of these combination preventatives include Trifexis and Simparica Trio.

    As with all medications, flea and tick treatments are not without their controversy and potential side effects.

    Drugs in the isooxazoline class have been linked to adverse neurological symptoms such as tremors, seizures, and ataxia in some dogs and cats.

    While these cases are the exception and not the norm, they are notable enough to warrant this fact sheet from the FDA with a list of relevant medications.

    The important take-away here? Choosing a flea and tick remedy – or any other preventative – is a serious decision for you and your veterinarian to make on behalf of your dog.

    You should take the time to familiarize yourself with potential side effects of any drugs you administer to your dog. And don’t be shy about asking questions and exploring multiple options.

  2. Topical: Topical flea and tick remedies are a liquid medication applied to your dog’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades to avoid licking. It’s critical to part your dog’s fur and apply the liquid directly to the skin to ensure absorption.Once inside your dog, the drug enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout his body. When a flea or tick bites, it ingests the medication, which causes neurological paralysis and death.Common topical flea and tick remedies for dogs include Frontline, Advantage, and Preventic.

    Revolution is unique as a topical because it prevents not only fleas and ticks, but heartworm and ear mites, too.

flea and tick treatment for dogs

Best Flea & Tick Treatment for Dogs

Which is better, oral or topical?

A study published in Veterinary Parasitology and involving 128 dogs gave the efficacy nod to oral treatments, 99.9% to 88.4%.

In the big picture, prevention can save a lot of suffering. And that extends beyond the medications you choose for your dog.

It includes basic habits like regular bathing and grooming, checking for fleas and ticks, and keeping your house clean and lawn mowed.

And, even if you and your veterinarian opt for a combination pharmaceutical preventative, you can add an extra layer of prevention the au-naturale way.

It is not safe to give young pets, especially puppies, flea and tick medications, it can be fatal. Please always check with your veterinarian first before giving your pet any medication or treatment. Your vet can advise you as to when it’s safe to administer flea and tick prevention to your pet.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to Dog Life Mag at no cost to you if you decide to purchase the product or service. You can read our full affiliate disclosure in our privacy policyThis site is not intended to provide financial advice or replace your veterinarian’s recommendations and is for entertainment only. Please check with your veterinarian first before giving your pet any medication, treatment, or new foods and we recommend following your veterinarian’s recommendations. 

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