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How to Apply Topical Flea Medications to Dogs

Learn the technique for applying flea medication to dogs.

Many flea and tick preventatives for dogs come in topical form. That means that you will need to apply the liquid to your dog's skin periodically, usually once a month.

Below is the technique to follow when applying these types of medications to your dog.

Never apply any medication to your dog, even a topical one, unless it was prescribed or recommended by your veterinarian. Never use a dog formulation on a cat.

Steps for Applying Topical Medications to Your Dog

When you are putting a topical liquid medication on your dog, these are the general steps to follow and things to keep in mind:

  • Your dog will need to be still while you are applying the medication. It's often helpful to have a second person available to gently restrain your dog or distract him with treats while you put the medicine on him.
  • The area between the shoulder blades, near the base of the skull, is usually a good place to put topical medications because it's a challenging spot for a dog to reach with his tongue. We don't want him ingesting the medicine.
  • Hold the medicine applicator up and snap the tip off as directed.
  • Use your non-dominant hand to find the spot in which you want to apply the liquid, and part the hair until you can clearly see the skin.
  • Place the applicator as close to the skin as you can, upside down, and squeeze the applicator until all of the liquid has come out of the tube.
  • DO NOT RUB THE MEDICATION IN. This action wicks the liquid onto the hair, and it doesn't work there. It must be absorbed into the skin to be effective.
  • Let go of the hair and play with your dog for a bit or give him a meal to distract him while the medication absorbs and disperses. You may wish to wear gloves while applying or wash your hands when you are done.

If you are still not confident about applying the medication, you can ask your veterinarian's office if you could bring a dose in with your pet and be shown how to do it by a staff member.

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