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Best flea treatment for dogs: Effective remedies to prevent your pooch itching

Best flea treatment for dogs
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The best flea treatment for dogs is one that, when used as directed, is well-tolerated by your dog while keeping the fleas at bay.

How can you tell if your dog has fleas? Fleas are small critters and can be hard to spot. One easy sign that your dog may have fleas is excessive scratching. Flea bites itch, and when dogs itch they scratch. Keep an eye on your dog to see if they frequently scratch or bite at one place one their body. 

Another sign your dog may have fleas is white flakes on their hair or bedding. It may look like dandruff, but it could be flea eggs.

Beyond being uncomfortable for your dog, fleas can pose health risks to your dog and your family. Fleas carry disease and are nearly as happy on humans as they are on dogs. While they’re most active in warm weather, fleas are a year-round threat, so knowing your treatment options is important.

There are several different kinds of flea treatments and your best options are topical preventatives, collars, shampoos, sprays and pills. Shampoos are used to kill fleas your dog already has, while the other treatments are preventative.

The best one for you will depend on your living situation as well as your dog’s body chemistry. A topical treatment might upset their stomach, for example, or they may scratch at a collar more than the fleas.

Best flea treatment for dogs: Frontline Plus

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1. Frontline Plus: Best overall flea treatment for dogs

Frontline Plus is easy to use and effective at killing fleas

Usage: both fleas and ticks | Type: Topical | Lasts: 30 days

Easy to use
Waterproof
Recommended by vets
Kills ticks
Can be expensive
Contains chemical pesticides

Topical flea treatments are typically applied once a month to a dog’s back or neck, and can provide weeks of protection against flea infestations. Usually effective against both fleas and ticks, their efficacy and how well they are tolerated by dogs depends on the active ingredients.

Frontline Plus is our pick for best flea treatment for dogs because it is easy to use, safe for dogs of almost all sizes, effective at killing both fleas and ticks at all stages of life, and waterproof (after 24 hours).

While some flea treatments are either effective or easy to use, Frontline Plus has been a veterinarian-recommended flea and tick treatment for years for its combination of effectiveness, ease of use and being well-tolerated by dogs.

Frontline Plus is a monthly, topical liquid that’s one-and-done for up to 30 days of protection against both flea and tick infestations. Frontline Plus contains two separate active ingredients that, combined, kill fleas and ticks and their eggs and larvae for up to 30 days with one application. If your dog doesn’t like to be fussed with, the once-a-month dosage is a boon.

Frontline Plus begins killing fleas after four hours, and within 12 hours kills 100% of fleas on contact, so a flea doesn’t have to bite your dog to be affected. However, the chemicals are hazardous to humans, so it’s important to avoid touching freshly-applied Frontline. Application on dogs with long-hair coats is more difficult than on smooth coat pups, as it’s important to get the solution close to the dog’s skin.

Advantix kills more insects than Frontline, proving lethal to mosquitos and lice in addition to fleas and ticks, but it’s more expensive – up to 30% more than Frontline Plus. Whether that extra coverage is worth it to you will depend largely on your environment and the likelihood that your dog will encounter mosquitos or lice often enough to warrant the prevention.

Best flea treatment for dogs: Seresto flea and tick collar

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2. Seresto Flea and Tick Collar: Best budget option

Easy-to-use flea treatment that lasts for months

Usage: both fleas and ticks | Type: Collar | Lasts: 8 months

Easy to use
Waterproof
Lasts 8 months
Contains chemical pesticides
Should not be combined with other flea treatments

Flea collars offer a more budget-friendly way to protect your pup against flea infestations. As their name implies, they’re worn around a dog’s neck, though they’re not intended to act as a replacement for a tag-displaying collar.

Our pick for best flea collar, the Seresto Flea and Tick Collar by Bayer, offers eight months of protection with one application. And at a cost close to that of six months of topical treatments, Seresto can save you money. Applying it is as easy as putting the collar on your dog and leaving it there.

Seresto differs from most flea collars in its design. Made from a unique polymer matrix, it releases low levels of its active ingredients over long periods of time, maintaining its effectiveness for up to eight months. It starts killing fleas within 24 hours and controls them at all stages of its lifecycle.

Seresto is odorless, non-greasy, and kills fleas on contact, so they don’t have to bite your dog for it to work. Seresto is water-resistant, so it can be worn during baths or for swimming, although frequent exposure to water can reduce its length of effectiveness. Dog owners worried that a collar might catch or choke their pup will be pleased to know that Seresto features a two-way release safety feature. It also features visibility reflectors to help keep your dog safe at night.

If your dog has a thick, fluffy coat, a flea collar needs to be adjusted to get close enough to your dog’s skin so it can be most effective. One other caveat is while other treatments provide a monthly reminder to maintain your pup’s medication, it’s easy to lose track of how long your pup has been sporting its current collar. With a little extra vigilance (or at least a note on your calendar), a flea collar is an excellent, budget-friendly way to keep your dog flea-free.

Best flea treatment for dogs: TropiClean flea and tick shampoo

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3. TropiClean Natural Flea and Tick Dog Shampoo: Best for immediate results

Kills fleas and ticks for up to seven days while soothing your dog’s skin

Usage: both fleas and ticks | Type: Shampoo | Lasts: 7 days

Contains natural essential oils
Kills fleas and ticks in all life stages
Repels fleas and ticks for up to seven days
Requires frequent application
Not safe for puppies under 12 weeks

Flea shampoos will prevent fleas for a short period, but their primary use is cleansing an already-infested dog. If you discover that your furry friend has some uninvited guests, a vigorous bath in a flea shampoo is your best first step.

Flea shampoos are also the best flea treatment for dogs who have encountered fleas but are unlikely to do so again in their everyday surroundings. If your dog brought home fleas after being boarded, for example, flea shampoo is a more appropriate (and budget-friendly) approach than treatments intended to last several months.

Our pick for best flea shampoo, TropiClean Natural Flea and Tick Shampoo, kills fleas and ticks on contact and helps repel repeat infestation for up to seven days. Though other shampoos will provide similar results, TropiClean uses no insecticides, only natural, soothing ingredients, making it an effective and extremely safe flea treatment for your dogs. 

It’s not a great choice for preventing future flea problems, but to get your dog back to a place where preventive measures can work, you can’t go wrong with TropiClean.

Best flea treatment for dogs: NexGard

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4. NexGard: Best for ease of use

Beef-flavored chewable provides up to 30 days protection against fleas and ticks

Usage: both fleas and ticks | Type: Chewable | Lasts: 30 days

Easy to use
Lasts 30 days
No mess
Contains chemical pesticides
Expensive
Not suitable for dogs under 4lbs or puppies under eight weeks

It always feels like you’re getting away with something when you trick your dog into thinking their medicine is a treat, but we can live with the guilt. Chewable flea treatments provide a mess-free option that your dog will genuinely enjoy and can last as long as (or longer than) other treatments. The downside is they can be expensive and can have more frequent side effects than other types of flea medications.

Our pick for the best chewable flea treatment is NexGard. NexGard is effective at killing adult fleas before they can lay eggs and it comes in a beef flavor that most dogs seem to like, making it one of the easiest flea treatments to apply.

The trade-off for that ease of use is a laundry list of possible side-effects. Because your dog is digesting the treatment, side-effects include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite. 

The only real way to know how your dog will react to NexGard is to give it to them and observe their behavior over the next 24-48 hours. Any negative reaction is usually temporary, but talk to your vet about it should you see any symptoms. NexGard is veterinarian-recommended and FDA-approved.

Best flea treatment for dogs: Zuba flea and tick spray

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5. Zuba Flea and Tick Spray: Best for your house

Fast-acting spray kills fleas and ticks at all life stages on contact

Usage: both fleas and ticks | Type: Spray | Ingredients: All-natural

All-natural ingredients
Pleasant smell
Acts fast
Requires massaging into fur
Not long lasting
Odor can be strong

Once your dog has passengers, so does your house. Fleas can spread to your dog’s bedding, the carpet and even your clothes. Flea sprays let you target specific areas around the house, as well as your actual pooch. Sprays can be an effective way to rid dogs of fleas and ticks immediately. 

Our pick, Zuba Flea and Tick Spray, contains no pesticides, only all-natural essential oils, making it an extremely safe option for dogs of all sizes. Zuba is applied by spraying onto your dog, then massaging against the grain to ensure the product reaches the skin. It can effectively repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitos before they bite, without exposing your dog to harsh chemicals or pesticides. 

The downside is that it’s not nearly as effective as other treatments so, much like flea shampoo, this isn’t the best choice for ongoing flea prevention. However, if you don’t want to replace your dog’s bedding or favorite blankie after every infestation, flea spray is a solid fix.

How to choose the best flea treatment for your dog

Flea treatments for dogs come in a variety of application types, length of effectiveness and ingredients. To choose the best treatment for your dog, start with what’s most important to you. Things like budget, ease of use and the need for ongoing protection can all be factors in what makes a flea treatment the best for you and your dog. If you live in the city center, you may only need sporadic coverage, as opposed to someone living in a more rural area who wants to prevent fleas all year round.

Before you give your dog any kind of medication, talk to your vet to get their advice. If your dog already has a sensitive stomach, a chewable flea treatment may not be a wise choice. Similarly, if your pup suffers from skin problems, a topical treatment may make their condition worse.

It’s also vital to match the treatment to your dog’s weight. Using a dosage intended for a larger dog on a puppy could make them sick, or even kill them. Some flea treatments for dogs are also not suitable for cats, so if you have a mixed household, check with your vet. No matter which treatment you use, always use it exactly as directed.

Ultimately, the best flea treatment for your dog will be the one that successfully kills fleas. It’s that simple. That may require some testing, but with an array of options to choose from, you will undoubtedly find a solution that’s best for you and your dog.