There are also chewables that can be given to pets once a month. That's an even easier method, especially if your pet is too energetic to sit still for a topical treatment.
But several oral medications that are in the isoxazoline class have come under scrutiny recently from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with a warning that the drugs may cause adverse reactions among dogs and cats.
The FDA issued an alert to pet owners and veterinarians that the brands Bravecto, Credelio, Nexgard and Simparica "have been associated with neurologic adverse reactions, including muscle tremors, ataxia, and seizures in some dogs and cats." The administration said most pets won't experience a reaction but still could even if they have no prior history. These drugs are still classified as safe and effective.
The FDA urges pet owners who are concerned to consult with their veterinarian. In the meantime, here are a few greener options for you to consider.
Find a flea comb. Regular flea maintenance will require a cache of flea-fighting tools, starting with a good flea comb. These fine-toothed wire tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Choose an ergonomic version and schedule standing appointments with your dog for a thorough combing.
Read the label carefully. Look for products such as Bio-Groom Flea and Tick concentrate, which contains Pyrethrin, a biodegradable insecticide that’s made from chrysanthemums. While you still need to exercise caution when applying the chemical, it’s a better option to topical solutions that contain permethrin.
Try neem oil. This all-natural insect repellent comes from the neem tree in India. Add a few drops to your favorite pet shampoo, dilute it with dishwashing liquid for a do-it-yourself flea spray or simply apply the oil directly to your dog’s coat. The primary ingredient in grooming products by Ark Naturals, neem oil also repels mosquitoes.
Enjoy Christmas in July. Vet’s Best uses the power of peppermint and clove oils to fight fleas and ticks. I haven’t tried it yet, but the idea of a sweet-smelling dog appeals to me.
Consult your dog’s vet about the remedy that works best for your pet, and follow label directions carefully. Keep in mind that dust mites can create more havoc than fleas, so it pays to tackle that problem, too. My article about dog allergies provides a few more tips for keeping your dog itch-fee.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in July 2010.