Whether you have a tiny, pampered Chihuahua, a majestic Great Pyrenees, or the cutest mixed breed dog from a shelter, all dogs can suffer from fleas.
It doesn’t matter if you groom your dog daily or keep him spotlessly clean. It doesn’t matter if your home is immaculate. It just takes one flea hitching a ride home with your dog from the dog park, pet store, or vet’s office and before you know it, you can have a house full of fleas – and your dog can be miserable.
Fortunately we have lots of options today when it comes to getting rid of these pests. There are some natural ways to get rid of fleas, but if fleas are a bigger problem you probably need to consider some of the latest treatments.
We’re dog owners, too, so we completely understand that many people are reluctant to use harsh chemicals to treat their dogs. However, no one wants to see their dogs suffer with fleas.
We recommend that you consider all of the pros and cons of these products carefully and decide which ones would work best for your dog. In many places there is no need to use a flea product year-round. If you can get by with only using a product in the summer months, when fleas are usually at their worst, that’s a definite plus. In some cases, you may have a one-time outbreak of fleas. If you can get rid of them, you may be able to dispense with using a flea product – at least until you see a flea again.
Contents of Article
What is the Best Flea Treatment for Dogs?
How To Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs
If your dog hasn’t had fleas before, you will usually get your first indication when he starts scratching and chewing, especially if the itching seems to be driving him crazy in one particular spot. If you check the site you may or may not see a flea. They are very good at hiding in your dog’s hair. But you may see some flea “dirt” or brown-black grit. This is gritty, dark red-brown flea feces that is mostly made up of the blood that the flea has taken from your dog. (Yes, fleas are disgusting.) This is a sure sign that your dog has fleas.
If you have a yard you may need to treat it, too. Products such as diatomaceous earth are often recommended.
If your dog has lots of fleas – say you found a lost dog and you want to get him cleaned up – many people like a product such as Capstar. This is a flea tablet that starts killing fleas almost as soon as your dog ingests it. Capstar only works for 24 hours so it won’t keep fleas away for long but it does a good job of getting rid of a lot of fleas all at once. If you do have a dog with lots of fleas, it’s a good idea not to bring him into your house until the fleas are gone. Otherwise you’re going to be spending a lot of time trying to de-flea your home.
You can usually tell the fleas are really gone when your dog has stopped scratching and you don’t find any more flea dirt on your dog. You have to keep an eye out for those hatching eggs though! Sometimes you can think the fleas are all gone only to have the flea eggs hatch 2-3 weeks later with a new crop of ravenous little monsters hopping in your house. So, make sure you vacuum and treat your floors and furniture to avoid “Revenge of the Fleas.”
There are lots of options for flea prevention. The product you choose usually depends on how bad fleas are where you live, whether your dog comes in contact with them very often, and how you personally feel about different kinds of treatments. We’ll discuss these options below.
One of the problems with fleas (Is there anything good about them?) is that they seem to become immune to a perfectly good product after a few years. Or, a product that works great in one part of the country may not work as well somewhere else. So, if you have had years of success with X flea control, you may suddenly discover that it’s not working this year. There’s nothing wrong with the product. Your fleas have simply built up a resistance to it. When this happens you need to change products.
Recommended Flea Treatments for Dogs by Application
Best Flea Collar for Dogs
|Our 2021 Picks: Flea Collar Recommendations:|
Lots of people like to use flea collars for dogs, especially if they live in areas where fleas are not especially bad. Flea collars used for prevention can be very effective but there are also some collars that are used to treat dogs that already have fleas. They work by releasing chemical into your dog’s skin to kill the fleas and their eggs. Check the packaging to see if the collar “kills” or just “prevents” fleas. Some flea collars will also prevent or kill ticks. Since the collars are located on the neck, they can be especially good at working on ticks, which tend to attach themselves to a dog’s facial area. Flea collars can last for up to eight months.
The con for flea collars is that not all of them are very effective and many of them don’t seem to work very long. In some cases, if they get wet they seem to stop working. Bad or cheap collars have injured dogs. If you’re using a flea collar, check your dog’s neck often to make sure the collar isn’t causing any problems.
Bayer Seresto 8-month Flea and Tick Collar is long-lasting. It kills and repels fleas before they have the chance to reproduce. It also kills and repels ticks and it kills chewing lice. It’s odorless and non-greasy. It even helps treat and control sarcoptic mange on dogs. Plus, it’s water resistant, though there is a limit to how often you can bathe your dog.
Scalibor Protector Band kills fleas on your dog for up to 6 months. It’s water resistant so you don’t have to take it off your dog if he goes swimming. One size fits all and the collar doesn’t have any funky odor. The collar also kills ticks for up to 6 months. The Scalibor Protector Band works fast.
Best Flea Spray for Dogs
|Our 2021 Picks: Flea Spray Recommendations:|
Flea sprays are a long-time favorite with dog owners. See a flea on your dog – spray it and kill it! Many people prefer flea sprays to other forms of flea treatment because lots of them are pyrethrin-based. Pyrethrins come from flowers (chrysanthemums) and are considered a relatively safe pesticide. The drawback with pyrethrin-based flea sprays is that they don’t work very long and you have to re-apply them to your dog often. Today we do have some other flea sprays that pack a little more punch but they contain more chemicals. If you are concerned about the chemicals in these sprays, make sure you read the labels.
Adams Plus Flea & Tick Spray kills adult fleas, flea eggs, larvae, and ticks. It repels mosquitoes. And you don’t have to re-use for up to two months.
Sentry FiproGuard Flea & Tick Spray kills fleas for up to 30 days. It also kills brown dog ticks, American dog ticks, lone star ticks, and deer ticks for up to 30 days. It can be used on puppies that are 8 weeks of age or older. And it’s waterproof.
Best Topical Flea Treatment for Dogs
|Our 2021 Picks: Topical Flea Treatment Recommendations:|
Topical flea treatments are one of the most popular ways to prevent fleas today. They are easy to use and long-lasting. There are several good quality topical flea treatments. They are effective at destroying adult fleas, larvae, and flea eggs, as well as some other parasites that can plague dogs. Most of them last about 30 days (or a little longer). You should never use topical treatments intended for dogs on a cat.
The negative for topical flea treatments is that some dogs do have a bad reaction to them. There are many brands and some products may be sold as knock-offs. In some cases, even if there’s nothing wrong with the product, a dog can have a bad reaction to the chemicals in the treatment. This may only happen with a small percentage of dogs but it can happen.
K9 Advantix II repels and kills ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. It also repels biting flies. And it kills lice. It kills all flea lifestages and prevents the development of fleas, flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. If your dog is treated, it keeps fleas from re-infesting your home. It kills the fleas on your dog within 12 hours and kills any fleas that try to re-infest your home within two hours. Plus, K9Advanti II is waterproof. It won’t wash off when you give your dog a bath.
Frontline Plus kills fleas, larvae, and flea eggs, as well as ticks. It works non-stop for 30 days (or more). It’s fast-acting and it’s waterproof. There have been reports in the last couple of years that Frontline and Frontline Plus are not as effective against fleas as they used to be. Fleas may be developing resistance to these products. However, Frontline now has a new product called Frontline Gold that has an additional chemical which may resolve this problem.
If you are looking for a combination flea preventive and heartworm medication in a topical, check out Revolution. It’s available from veterinarians, by prescription.
Please note that if your dog does have a bad reaction to a topical flea treatment, bathing him to try to remove the product will not do any good. These treatments are absorbed by the skin and hair. Contact your veterinarian.
Best Flea Pill for Dogs
|Our 2021 Picks: Flea Pill Recommendations:|
There are different kinds of flea pills. Oral flea preventives are sometimes combined with heartworm medication. This is true with Sentinel Spectrum, a monthly chewable. (Sentinel is also available as a flavor tablet.) Trifexis is another monthly flavored tablet that kills fleas and prevents heartworms, along with intestinal parasites. It doesn’t kill ticks.
There are also several new flea products that are given orally. Nexgard, Bravecto, and Simparica are chews that you give your dog every 1 to 3 months (depending on the product). The chemicals in the product circulate in the dog’s body and when the flea (or tick) bites your dog, it works on the parasite’s nervous system leading to death. Some people like these new products but they are very new. There are some negative reports from dog owners who have used them. It’s too soon to say what percentage of owners have had problems. You may want to use caution about using these products until more information is available.
Finally, there are flea pills that are not preventives. They simply act quickly to kill the fleas that are currently on your dog’s body. Many people like these pills but they only work for a very short period of time. Capstar is the most well-known pill in this category. These pills are useful if you don’t normally have a flea problem but your dog comes home with fleas after a trip to the woods or playing with another dog that has fleas.
Comfortis is an FDA-approved chewable, beef-flavored tablet. It kills fleas and prevents flea infestations for a full month. It’s convenient to use and it works fast. It starts killing the fleas on your dog in just 30 minutes. Comfortis killed 100 percent of the fleas on dogs in just four hours in controlled laboratory studies.
Capstar is an easy-to-use oral tablet that kills adult fleas on your dog. It’s safe to give as often as once a day if re-infestation occurs. It starts killing the fleas on your dog as quickly as 30 minutes after you give the pill. You can give Capstar to all dogs and puppies in your home over 2 lbs of body weight and over 4 weeks of age.
Best Flea Shampoo for Dogs
|Our 2021 Picks: Flea Shampoo Recommendations:|
Flea shampoos are probably the original way to remove and try to prevent fleas on dogs. They range from gentle, natural shampoos using herbs to chemical-based shampoos. There are some effective pyrethrin-based shampoos if you would like to avoid some of the stronger chemicals for your dog. Flea shampoos are usually good at getting rid of fleas that are on your dog but you will probably need to use a flea powder, flea spray, or another flea control product if your dog is in regular contact with areas with fleas.
Formulated with natural pyrethrins to quickly kill fleas and ticks without harsh chemicals. It doesn’t kill flea eggs but it does weaken the fleas once the eggs hatch. It has a pleasing fragrance that lasts up to two weeks. Safe for use on dogs and puppies over 12 weeks old.
Adams has been making good quality flea and tick products for many years. Adams Flea & Tick Cleansing Shampoo kills fleas, ticks, and lice. It also prevents flea eggs from hatching for 30 days.
Fleas on Puppies
Fleas on puppies are always a special problem. It’s heartbreaking to see a puppy itching and scratching from fleas! Some of the most popular flea products are not considered safe to use on very young puppies. It’s always important to read product labels before you use a flea product on a puppy.
As far as we can determine, there are NO flea products that are safe to use on puppies that are less than four weeks old. If you have a litter of puppies and they have fleas, talk to your veterinarian and ask what is safe to use on the mother dog. Treating her for fleas can do a lot to help the puppies. Some companies have done research to find out if their products are safe to use on nursing mother dogs or not. If you have questions about a specific product, call the company and ask their customer service representative. There is usually information provided on the box for a product about contacting the company or on their web site. Use a flea comb to remove fleas from the puppies. Wash their bedding in hot water frequently.
If you have a puppy that is older than four weeks of age, there are some products you can use to get rid of fleas. If your puppy has fleas, you can give Capstar and Sentinel Flavor Tabs as early as four weeks. Most topicals cannot be given until a puppy is 7-8 weeks old. A puppy has to be 7 weeks before the Seresto collar can be used. The Trifexis tablet can’t be given until a puppy is 8 weeks. Frontline Spray can’t be used on a puppy until 8 weeks. A puppy has to be 14 weeks before he can take Comfortis. Bravecto can’t be given to a puppy until six months.
If we had to recommend one product as a preventive for a puppy under six months of age, it would probably be K9 Advantix II. K9 Advantix II has a good reputation; many dog owners like it; and it can be used on puppies as young as 7 weeks of age. If your puppy has a temporary or one-time case of fleas, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Capstar for temporary use.
If fleas are not a regular problem for your puppy, you may prefer to use a gentle puppy flea shampoo and a flea comb. You may like a product such as Richard’s Organics Flea & Tick Shampoo. It’s made with peppermint oil, clove oil, cedar oil, cinnamon oil, rosemary oil, vitamin E, lanolin, and wheat germ oil in a coconut oil shampoo base. Safe around children and you can use it on puppies over 8 weeks old. It’s 100 percent all natural, kills and repels fleas and ticks, repels mosquitoes, and it’s made in the USA.
As you can see, there is a wide range of flea products available today. The products you choose depend on your situation, your individual dog, and your personal preferences. If you have questions about certain products, talk to your veterinarian or contact the product manufacturer. You can never be too careful with the health of your dog.