Flea & Tick Medication

Isn’t it the worst when your dog starts having a reaction to a certain medication or bug bite and you have absolutely no idea where to begin to give them the help they need? Vet bills are no joke and many of these sorts of medical instances can be treated at home due to their not-so-severeness. Our “What to do” series is designed to educate you on how to get through these accidents so you can keep a clear mind if something happens to come around.

The Story 034

A year or two ago, I took Savannah in for her annual comprehensive visit at her vet and everything was going as planned. I had never before put her on any sort of flea and tick medication and was very interested in learning about my options; after all, (like I had mentioned back in Savannah’s Featured Pets post) my family takes Savannah hiking multiple times per year, so using a medication for fleas and ticks would significantly reduce her chance of getting any tick bites and letting them do their nasty little thing. Before I could even ask, the vet tech asked me if I wanted to purchase a plan. She talked me into trying out the liquid type (the one that comes in the little tube and you put it down your dogs back).

I got home and couldn’t be more excited. I was finally going to be able to not worry about surprise ticks on my baby girl. Right when I got home, I opened the package and applied it to her back (the exact way it was instructed), and everything was great! …until a few hours later when she started acting very strange. Savannah is at her most comfortable state when everyone is home and in the same room. She usually passes out on the couch next to me and doesn’t move until I do. This was unfortunately not the case. She was very antsy and seemed to not be able to get comfortable. I knew something was wrong.

Note: she’s had reactions to certain vaccinations before, so my sense of paranoia is always at an all-time high when trying out new things. (What can I say, I’m a typical dog mom.)

My immediate reaction was that I needed to get that flea and tick medication off her back ASAP. It was 10:30PM and I had used up all of her shampoo within 2 baths just to try to get rid of the oils. Nothing seemed to help. I hoped for the best and we went to bed. All night long, she was up and down as she couldn’t seem to find a comfortable position to lay in. I knew her skin must have been itchy or tingly or both, and I felt so bad. She didn’t sleep and neither did I.

The Solutions

The next morning came around and I immediately called her vet. The vet tech on the other line was extremely friendly and calming (which made me feel a lot better). She told me this tends to happen often and that there’s no real reason for concern. She explained to me that the oil in flea and tick medications are meant to seep into their skin and start doing its job to keep those pesky insects away and that it simply does not come off using your pup’s normal shampoo – that actually does nothing but spread it around even more. She recommended giving Savannah a bath in Dawn dish soap to get rid of any remainder of the medication left on her skin. My immediate reaction was: 🤔 But then it “Dawn-ed” on me 😉 – Remember that Dawn dish soap commercial from a few years ago that showed the cleanup crew from that big oil spill cleaning the oil off of a baby duckling? Makes sense now.

After getting off the phone with her, I grabbed our Dawn dish soap and Savannah, then went straight upstairs to the bath. But the fun wasn’t over… Because I gave Savannah several baths in less than 24 hours, her skin ended up being super dry – causing her to still be itchy. Due to the difference in human and dog pH levels, I was unable to apply lotion or conditioner of any sort to her. I didn’t want to cause more damage. I did a ton of research in a short amount of time and decided on coconut oil! Yes, coconut oil is basically the cure all for everything. You can cook with it, put it on yourself as a moisture product, and you can even apply it to your dog when their skin is dry! I smeared a ton of it on her back then put one of my t-shirts on her to prevent it from getting everywhere in my house. Just like lotion, it seeps into your skin and hydrates it. A few days later, my girl was back to her normal, happy self.

The Lesson

Don’t do what I did initially and give your pet a bath using their normal shampoo. It won’t be strong enough to get rid of the oils from the medication, but Dawn will be. Of course, I recommend contacting your dog’s vet before trying this technique just in case, but there’s no need to panic!

Be aware of the pH level difference between us and our pets. The things you would normally use on yourself may not work on them or be safe to use.


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Owner of and writer for Savvy Paws. Dog mama to Savannah.

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