The best flea prevention and treatment for dogs
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It's extremely common for dogs to get fleas. A few fleas can multiply into a major infestation in no time. If you see even just one flea on your dog, there are likely hundreds or even thousands more living on your dog and in your home and yard.
If your dog has fleas, you want to get rid of them quickly. Though fleas may not be quite as dangerous as ticks when it comes to transmitting diseases, fleas cause significant itching, irritation, and even hair loss. Some dogs are even allergic to fleas, experiencing severe skin reactions from just one flea bite. Humans in the house can also get bitten by fleas.
How can you tell if your dog has fleas?
Signs of fleas in dogs include excessive scratching, red or inflamed skin, and hair loss. You may also see live adult fleas or dark red or black specks on your dog's skin, fur, bedding, or furniture. These specks, called "flea dirt," are digested blood, or flea feces. If you're not sure if what you see is regular dirt or flea dirt, try this simple test: Wipe some of the specks onto a damp paper towel. If the paper towel turns red, the specks are flea dirt and this indicates that your dog has fleas.
What are the different types of flea treatment and prevention products?
Topical preventives are usually applied to the skin, typically in one spot on the back of the neck, once a month.
Flea collars are worn around the neck, where they deliver flea preventive medication to your dog's skin and coat.
Flea shampoos kill fleas that are currently on your dog.
Flea sprays are applied to the skin and coat. They need to be applied more frequently and are generally less effective than other flea prevention treatments.
Oral flea control products, or flea pills, are given to your dog by mouth to kill fleas.
Luckily, there are many flea control and protection products that are specifically designed to protect your dog against these pests. When it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) flea control products, there are many different types to consider.
We've done the research to bring you our top picks for the five best flea treatments for dogs that do not require a prescription. For other products to keep your dog's coat and skin healthy, check out our guides to the best regular and medicated shampoos for dogs.
Here are the best OTC flea prevention products and treatments for dogs you can buy:
The best flea control product overall
Frontline Plus is effective at killing both fleas and ticks in all life stages, and it's very easy to use.
While there are many different forms of flea control for dogs, topical flea treatments tend to be the most fast-acting and long-lasting products on the market. These treatments typically come in liquid form and need to be applied directly to the dog's skin once a month for maximum protection. Our top pick for the best flea control product for dogs is Frontline Plus because it kills both fleas and ticks in all life stages and protects against infestation for a full 30 days.
Frontline Plus is made with two powerful active ingredients — fipronil and s-methoprene — which work together to kill fleas and ticks in all life stages, including eggs and larvae. This product comes in several formulas for dogs of different sizes and offers continuous protection for 30 days. Available in an easy-to-use, waterproof formula, it is one of the most comprehensive and effective topical flea control products on the market.
Though Frontline Plus may be a little more expensive than other topical flea preventives on the market, it is generally considered to be one of the safest and most effective options, which is why it is recommended by veterinarians. It begins killing adult fleas within four hours of application; within 12 hours of application, it kills 100% of fleas. It works on contact, so fleas do not have to bite the dog to die.
Pros: Dual active ingredients for maximum efficacy, kills both fleas and ticks in all life stages, 30 days of protection, waterproof, easy to use, available in multiple formulas for dogs of different sizes, safe for pregnant and nursing dogs
Cons: More expensive than other topical preventives, not for use on dogs and puppies under 5 pounds or less than 8 weeks of age, bathing within 24 hours of application may wash away some of the product, may not prevent ticks from attaching but will still kill them
The best flea collar
The Seresto Flea and Tick Collar from Bayer offers eight months of protection against both fleas and ticks without the hassle of monthly application.
If you're looking for long-lasting protection against fleas that you don't have to reapply month after month, a flea collar might be the best option for your dog. Though there are many flea collars on the market, the Seresto Flea and Tick Collar from Bayer is our top pick. It is similar in price to a six-month course of topical flea preventive but offers an extra two months of protection.
The Seresto Flea and Tick Collar offers a full eight months of protection from both fleas and ticks. Made from a unique polymer matrix with two powerful active ingredients, this odorless flea collar kills fleas and ticks on contact, so they don't have to bite your dog for it to work. This collar is nongreasy and easy to use, plus it has a two-way release safety feature in case your dog gets it caught on something. It is also water-resistant so it can be worn through monthly bathing and occasional swimming.
Whereas most flea collars deposit low-dose insecticides into your dog's skin to poison fleas as they bite, the Seresto Flea and Tick Collar utilizes a unique delivery system that distributes the active ingredients in low concentrations over your dog's hair and skin. As the active ingredients wear off, the collar continuously replenishes them for hassle-free, long-lasting protection. No other flea collar works in quite the same way or offers the same degree of protection.
Pros: Offers a full eight months of protection from both fleas and ticks, insects do not have to bite for the collar to work, odorless and nongreasy, two-way release safety feature, comfortable and easy to wear, water-resistant for monthly bathing and occasional swimming
Cons: Not recommended for puppies younger than 7 weeks of age or dogs weighing less than 18 pounds, should not be combined with other forms of flea prevention, effective duration may be closer to five months if worn frequently during swimming
The best flea shampoo
TropiClean Natural Flea and Tick Dog Shampoo kills fleas in all life stages and helps to repel fleas, ticks, larvae, and eggs for up to seven days.
If you see fleas on your dog, you may want to give them a bath with a flea shampoo. Flea shampoos are a type of shampoo that can help to kill fleas and cleanse your dog's coat. Our top pick for a dog flea shampoo that kills fleas in all life stages and helps repel fleas, ticks, larvae, and eggs for up to seven days after use is TropiClean Natural Flea and Tick Dog Shampoo.
Flea shampoos are made with various active ingredients, but TropiClean Natural Flea and Tick Dog Shampoo contains no insecticides, just natural active ingredients. This formula uses a blend of clove, lemongrass, cedarwood, cinnamon, and sesame oils to gently and safely kill fleas, ticks, eggs, larvae, and lice upon contact. It does not wash away topical spot-on flea preventive products. —Jackie Brown
Pros: Natural essential oils are the active ingredients; contains no pyrethrin or permethrin; kills fleas and ticks in all life stages; helps repel fleas, ticks, larvae, and eggs for up to seven days after use; won't wash away topical spot-on flea preventives; safe for adult dogs and puppies 12 weeks and older
Cons: Not safe for use in cats, not recommended for puppies under 12 weeks of age
The best natural flea spray
If you're looking for a fast-acting solution for adult fleas and their eggs, a flea spray might be the best option. Not only can you use a flea spray on your dog, but you can also use it on their bedding and other household surfaces. Our top pick for a safe and effective flea spray for dogs is Zuba Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs by Mdx Concepts.
While many flea sprays are made with harsh chemicals, Zuba Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs contains natural, organic ingredients like cedarwood, rosemary, and lemongrass oils. This spray kills both adult fleas and their larvae and eggs, plus it protects against ticks and repels mosquitoes.
Simply brush your dog's coat backward (in the opposite direction of hair growth), then apply the spray, massaging it into the coat until it reaches the dog's skin. Repeat as necessary. —Jackie Brown
Pros: Made with 100% organic, natural active ingredients; safe for use around other pets and children; easy to apply; kills adult fleas, flea larvae, flea eggs, and ticks; repels mosquitoes; manufactured in the US; pleasant scent
Cons: Needs to be massaged into the coat for maximum efficacy, may not be as effective on longhaired dogs, not recommended for cats
The best flea medication
To stop an existing flea infestation in its tracks, Novartis Capstar Flea Tablets are our top choice for OTC oral flea medications.
If you don't like the idea of using a topical flea preventive and you aren't sure your dog will tolerate a flea collar, there is still another option: oral medications or flea pills. Flea pills can kill adult fleas in as little as 30 minutes, making them a great solution for dogs with flea allergies. Our top pick for oral flea medications that do not require a prescription is Novartis Capstar Tablets. Available in two formulas for dogs under and over 25 pounds, these flea pills are fast-acting and highly effective.
Safe for use as a daily treatment, Novartis Capstar Flea Tablets start killing adult fleas within 30 minutes and will kill more than 90% of adult fleas within four hours. These tablets contain the active ingredient nitenpyram, an insecticide that interferes with nerve transmission in fleas but has no adverse effect on dogs or cats.
This treatment is available without a prescription and is approved for dogs weighing 2 pounds or more and 4 weeks of age or older. They are the most effective when combined with thorough household cleaning to remove eggs and larvae.
Pros: Kills existing adult fleas in as little as 30 minutes, does not require a prescription to purchase, available in two formulas for dogs of different sizes, can be given as a daily dose as needed, safe for pregnant and nursing dogs, can also be used for cats
Cons: Dogs over 25 pounds may need a higher dose, may not kill flea eggs or larvae, not recommended for puppies under 4 weeks of age or under 2 pounds, repeated treatment sometimes needed for optimal results, may cause negative reactions or side effects in some dogs
Here's a breakdown of the most common over-the-counter (OTC) flea control products for dogs:
Topical preventives: Also called "spot-on" products, topical preventives are great for both killing fleas and preventing flea infestations. As they dry, they spread across the entire body, leaving no residue behind. They are usually applied to the skin (typically in one spot on the back of the neck) once a month.
Flea collars: Flea collars are worn around the neck, where they deliver flea preventive medication to your dog's skin and coat. Some flea collars deliver preventive medication for a longer period than topical applications, making them a good choice for dog owners who don't want to have to apply something every 30 days.
Flea shampoos: Flea shampoos kill fleas that are currently on your dog. They are effective for killing and washing away as many fleas as you can before choosing an additional flea control product like a topical application to prevent reinfestation.
Flea spray: Flea sprays are applied to the skin and coat. They need to be applied more frequently and are generally less effective than topical spot-on applications or oral flea control. However, flea sprays are typically less expensive than other flea control products.
Oral flea control: Oral flea control products, or flea pills, are given to your dog by mouth to kill fleas. Some oral flea control products kill fleas for up to a month; others must be given more frequently to continue killing fleas, some as often as daily.
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