The 7 Best Treatments for Fleas and Ticks

South Boston Animal Hospital blog on flea and tick prevention

Fleas and ticks are among the most common causes of concern among pet owners in America. In most cases, they cause discomfort for your cat or dog, but in some cases, they can lead to more serious complications. 

For example, ticks, can cause blood loss, anemia, tick paralysis, skin irritations and infections, and more serious tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme Disease and Cytauxzoonosis:

Lyme Disease:  Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that affects not only dogs, cats and other mammals, but also people. It is transmitted by the deer tick, which is very small and virtually impossible to spot on your pet in its early stages. The symptoms of Lyme Disease include swelling of the lymph nodes, loss of appetite, fever, swollen, painful joints and, in some cases, kidney failure.

Cytauxzoonosis: this is a lethal infection caused by tick bites. It is more common in the south and is carried primarily by bobcats, which can transmit it to domestic cats, for whom the disease is fatal. Symptoms include high fever, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, jaundice, coma and, eventually, death.

Fleas and ticks can be prevented and treated relatively simply, especially if their presence is caught early on.  Following are 7 of the most effective treatments for fleas and ticks.


Over-the-counter spot-on medications

You can obtain spot-on medications from your veterinarian, pet stores or online. Spot-on treatments are typically effective for about a month. While these medications are generally safe to use, it’s important to read instructions on the label carefully, or to consult with your vet, before you apply them.

Oral medications

There are several oral medications which are effective in killing both ticks and immature fleas. You generally give your pet a pill once a month to keep ticks and fleas at bay. 

Medicated shampoos will usually kill ticks on contact. Shampoos are effective to protect your dog during the peak of tick season, but you will need to use them more frequently than spot-on treatments or oral medications—usually once every two weeks.

Tick dips

Tick dips have concentrated chemicals that you dilute with water and apply to your pet’s fur with a sponge or pour over his back. Unlike shampoos, dips should not be rinsed off after application. Generally, the chemicals included in dips are strong—you should read instructions carefully before applying them and ask your veterinarian before you use them on puppies, pregnant or nursing pets. 

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Tick collars

Tick collars are one of the most popular preventative measures, but they typically protect only the neck and head from ticks. You need to make sure the collar is in direct contact with your dog or cat's skin for it to be effective, and that you cut off any excess length to prevent them from chewing on it. Tick collars can cause allergic reactions in some dogs. If you notice any adverse side effects from a tick collar, contact your veterinarian immediately.


It’s important when using powders to ensure they kill ticks in addition to fleas, and that they are appropriate for your pet's age. Powders can irritate their mouth or lungs if inhaled—to be safe, use small amounts, which you should rub slowly into your pet's skin, and don’t get any of the powder into their face or eyes. 

Tick sprays

Sprays work well when applied in between shampoos and dips, especially if you plan to take your dog into tick-infested areas, and although cats are fairly resistant to Lyme, if you have an outdoor cat. As with powders, be careful not to get any of the spray in your pet's facial area.

The several treatments you can purchase to prevent and control fleas and ticks are generally easy to use and safe, but it’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian before you use them, especially if your dog or cat has any other health problems. If you need advice about treating your dog or cat for fleas or ticks, bring him to South Boston Animal Hospital, where we will treat him like the member of the family he is. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.

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