A Guide to Flea and Tick Prevention for Puppies and Kittens

Warm weather means it’s time to think about flea and tick prevention for puppies and kittens–because those little parasites are out in full force when temps increase. Tick and flea prevention is pretty straightforward for older pets—there are many topical flea treatments and tick preventatives for dogs and cats.

But what if you’re treating a young kitten or new puppy? Most of the products available are not recommended for use on animals younger than 8 weeks of age. So, when it comes to battling fleas and ticks for puppies and kittens, you need to use extra care. Thankfully, there are safe and effective options; you just need to know what to look for.

Understanding Fleas and Ticks

Before we get into the best flea and tick for puppies and kittens, let’s get to know the enemies and their life cycles.

cat scratching flea and tick

Photo: iStock.com/Lubo Ivanko


The cat flea, or Ctenocephalides felis, is the most common type of flea to affect dogs and cats, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Counsel.

C. felis goes through a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

  1. Egg: Adult fleas deposit white, oval, 0.5 mm-long eggs on the pet, which then fall into the environment—like the pet’s bed, the carpet or the couch.
  2. Larva: Shortly thereafter, larvae come out of their shells and feed on blood contained in adult flea feces and organic debris like flakes of skin.
  3. Pupa: They then cocoon themselves in 0.5 mm-long pupae as they develop into adult fleas. It usually takes 8-28 days for the pests to emerge, depending on the climate, though they can remain dormant in their cocoons for up to 50 weeks depending on temperature and other stimuli.
  4. Adult: Once out of their cocoons, the adult fleas immediately find an animal and begin feeding on blood. Within 20-24 hours, female fleas start producing 40-50 eggs per day, and the cycle begins again.

Aside from being uncomfortable, fleas can lead to tapeworm infestations, anemia, contact dermatitis and bacterial infections, like Bartonellosis.


Ticks are another type of critter altogether. Several species of hard ticks affect dogs and cats, but the most common is Rhipicephalus sanguineus—aka brown dog ticks—which are found everywhere in the United States, even in colder regions.

Like fleas, ticks go through developmental stagesegg, larva, nymph and adultbut the details of their lifecycles are different for various species of ticks.

Many hard ticks follow a three-host lifecycle that can take two or three years to complete. For example:

  1. Adult females lay eggs in the fall, which hatch into six-legged larvae.
  2. The next spring, the larvae attach to an animal, then feed and leave this host to molt into nymphs in the fall.
  3. The following spring, the nymphs attach to another host, feed and drop off later in the summer or fall to molt into adults.
  4. These adults then attach to a third host during the third spring where they feed and mate, with females eventually dropping off to lay eggs in the fall thereby completing the lifecycle.

Like fleas, ticks can cause various health problems in your pets, including lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Canine Ehrlichiosis.

Tick and Flea Prevention for Puppies and Kittens

Though they’re quite different biologically, both fleas and ticks can be managed—but the best way to do so is to prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place.

a woman bathing a dog

Photo: Chewy Studios

Luckily, pet parents have more choices than ever to treat parasites that harass their four-legged pals. When considering flea and tick protection for kittens and puppies, your first step should be a visit to your veterinarian to discuss options that are right for your situation.

Because many insecticide-based treatments are unsafe for animals 7-8 weeks and younger, Dr. Michael “Dr. Flea” Dryden, DVM, Ph.D., a veterinary parasitologist with Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, recommends asking about non-chemical alternatives

Some chemical and non-chemical kitten and puppy flea treatments include:

Regardless of which one you pick, they all have one primary purpose: to repel, kill or remove adult fleas before they lay eggs on your pet or in your home.

A flea comb, like the Safari flea comb, might be your best bet if you have a dog or cat in your house who is too young (less than 7-8 weeks old or so) for other options. It enables you to manually check your pets coat for fleas and ticks and makes it easier for you to remove the pests from their skin, Dr. Dryden says.

Lifetime Flea and Tick Prevention for Puppies and Kittens

Once your puppy or kitten is past the age threshold, Dr. Dryden recommends choosing a parasite prevention program that’s best for them and sticking with it throughout adulthood.

spot on flea treatment

Photo: Chewy Studios

As soon as theyre old enough, place them on a veterinarian-recommended topical or oral flea and tick product, and never take them off,Dr. Dryden says.

Cat and dog flea & tick collars, spot-ons and other insecticide-based treatments generally fall into two categories: topical and systemic.

  • Topical treatments:Topical treatments, like [some] spot-ons and collars, stay on the surface and distribute over the body, and then work when fleas or ticks contact or feed upon the surface,” says Dr. Dwight Bowman, Ph.D., professor of parasitology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York.
  • Systemic treatments: Systemic treatments can be applied topically or taken orally and are absorbed into the dog’s blood stream. When a flea or tick feeds, it takes in the chemical.

How it works: The active ingredients in the topical and systemic treatments eradicate the insects in various ways, Dr. Dryden says. Some kill adult fleas and ticks. Others kill the larvae or sterilize the eggs. And still others prevent the insects from developing or growing. Some products contain multiple active ingredients to hit the parasites at several points in their lifecycles.

The bottom line: The idea is either were going to kill the fleas before they lay eggs, or were going to kill their eggs,Dr. Dryden says. The products were using today have been designed to have pronounced residual activity, so when a flea or tick jumps on two to three weeks after youve treated the animal, the vast majority of them are going to die before they even lay an egg.

Check the products label to make sure its formulated for use on your particular petincluding their species, age and weight. Also take a look at the active ingredients to be sure youre targeting the right parasite. Of course, your vet can let you know which treatment and which product is best for your pet.

Choosing a Safe Flea and Tick Medicine for Puppies and Kittens

What should you look for or consider when choosing flea and tick medicine?

a woman giving her dog a chewable flea and tick tablet

Photo: Chewy Studios

Below, you’ll find a list of the most common active ingredients in topical and systemic treatments that are available over the counter or through your veterinarian:

  • Permethrin is a pyrethroid, a synthetic form of pyrethrin.
  • Pyrethrins are natural flea, tick and parasite-repelling compounds found in certain types of flowers, like chrysanthemums. Pyrethrins can be quite safe, including for cats, but are not very effective, according to Jennifer Coates, DVM, a veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Note that permethrin-based chemicals are only safe for dogs; they are toxic to cats of all ages. This is not to be confused with pyrethrins.

Always follow the label instructions on the product you are using. Formulations and instructions can change without notice.

Dog and Cat Flea and Tick Collars


Photo: Hartz

Tetrachlorvinphos and (S)-Methoprene

Topical Spot-Ons

flea and tick prevention puppies: spot on treatment

Photo: iStock.com/Tatomm

Fipronil, Permethrin, and Pyriproxyfen

  • For: Dogs
  • Found in: Virbac EFFITIX Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Dogs
  • Targets: Fleas and ticks
  • Application method: Topical spot-on
  • Treatment frequency: 30 days
  • Age limit: 8 weeks or older
  • How it works: A dog and puppy flea treatment that repels and kills fleas and ticks.

Dinotefuran, Fipronil, and Pyriproxyfen

  • For: Cats
  • Found in: Catego Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Cats
  • Targets: Fleas and ticks
  • Application method: Topical spot-on
  • Treatment frequency: 30 days
  • Age limit: 8 weeks or older
  • How it works: Attacks the nervous systems of parasites, resulting in adult death and disrupts the growth of immature stages.

Imidacloprid, Permethrin, Pyriproxyfen

  • For: Dogs only
  • Found in: K9 Advantix II for dogs
  • Targets: Fleas and Ticks
  • Application method: Topical spot-on
  • Treatment frequency: 30 days
  • Age limit: 7 weeks or older
  • How it works: Repels and kills ticks and all life stages of fleas.

Fipronil and (S)-Methoprene

Imidacloprid and Pyriproxyfen

Prescription Flea and Tick Medicine

offering tablet to kitten

Photo: iStock.com/OlyaSolodenko


  • For: Dogs and cats
  • Found in: Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs, Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Cats
  • Target: Fleas
  • Application method: Tablet
  • Treatment frequency: As prescribed by veterinarian
  • Age limit: 4 weeks or older
  • How it works: Blocks ability for neural messages to transmit through central nervous system, causing almost immediate death. Used for short-term relief of flea infestation. Oral systemic; sold by prescription only.

Lufenuron and Milbemycin

  • For: Dogs
  • Found in: Sentinel flavor tablets for dogs
  • Target: Fleas
  • Application method: Chewable tablet
  • Treatment frequency: 30 days
  • Age Limit: 4 weeks or older
  • How It Works: Lufenuron is an insect growth regulator or insect development inhibitor that works by inhibiting the biosynthesis of chitin (which makes up their exoskeletons) in flea larvae but has no effect on adult fleas. Milbemycin kills heartworm larvae and some intestinal parasites. Oral systemic; sold by prescription only.


  • For: Dogs
  • Found in: NexGard chewable tablets for dogs
  • Target: Fleas and ticks
  • Application method: Chewable tablet
  • Treatment frequency: 30 days
  • Age limit: 8 weeks or older
  • How it works: Kills fleas and ticks by overstimulating their immune systems. Oral systemic; sold by prescription only.


  • For: Dogs and cats
  • Found in: Revolution Topical Solution for Kittens & Puppies
  • Targets: Fleas, controls some ticks in dogs
  • Application method: Systemic spot-on
  • Treatment frequency: 30 days
  • Age limit: 6 weeks or older (puppies), 8 weeks or older (kittens)
  • How it works: Kills adult fleas by disrupting their nervous systems; stops reproduction by preventing eggs from hatching. Also kills heartworm larvae and some other parasites. Sold by prescription only.


  • For: Dogs and cats
  • Found in: Comfortis Chewable Tablet for Dogs and Cats, Trifexis Chewable Tablet for Dogs (dogs only in combination with milbemycin oxime)
  • Targets: Fleas
  • Application method: Chewable tablet
  • Treatment frequency: 30 days
  • Age limit: Comfortis dogs and cats – 14 weeks or older; Trifexis for dogs – 8 weeks or older
  • How it works: Attacks the adult flea’s nervous system, causing rapid death. Oral systemic; sold by prescription only. Milbemycin oxime in Trifexis also kills heartworm larvae and some intestinal parasites.

The Importance of Flea and Tick Prevention for Puppies and Kittens

Kitten and puppy flea and tick prevention is important for your pet’s health and happiness—and your own health and happiness, too.

dog wearing flea and tick collar

Photo: iStock.com/Marsell Gorska Gautier

Those little bloodsuckers can cause distress and anemia in young animals, not to mention skin irritation or worse, Dr. Dryden says.

Fleas are the most common cause of flea allergy dermatitis in dogs and cats in North America,he says. The most common skin disease dogs and cats get is associated with the allergic conditions as a result of the fleas biting and feeding. So obviously, theyre bad. And they can transmit pathogens, too, to other dogs and cats, as well as to people. By the time you notice fleas on your pet, its too late. Theyre just the tip of the iceberg.

Protect your pets and yourself with a flea and tick prevention programand do it before it becomes a problem. In addition to getting your puppy or kitty on a prevention program, you might want to treat your home and yard, too. Familiarizing yourself with the signs and symptoms of fleas in your home can also help you stay diligent so youre able to recognize a problem before it becomes a larger issue.

The post A Guide to Flea and Tick Prevention for Puppies and Kittens appeared first on BeChewy.