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Best flea treatment for dogs: keep your canine companion free of critters

A dog scratching outdoors who's in need of the best flea treatment for dogs
(Image credit: Getty)

Investing in the best flea treatment for dogs is a top priority for most pet parents as it's the only way to ensure your pooch stays happy, healthy, and parasite-free. But with so many options on the market, how do you separate the best from the rest?

Well, as luck would have it, we've done all the hard work for you, pulling together our favorite flea-prevention formula's and there's something to suit every hound from topical treatments to our pick of the best flea collar for dogs.

When it comes to flea prevention and treatment, there's no one-size-fits-all approach - each dog is unique and you may find your pup responds better to one form of treatment than another.

Many of the best flea medications for dogs come in tablet form and are ideal if you're looking for a fast-acting approach to a current infestation, with many killing fleas in as little as 30 minutes. Flea collars are a more affordable alternative to topical treatments, protecting your pooch for up to eight months, but topicals are stronger and do a better job at repelling fleas.

You'll also find a wide variety of flea shampoos and sprays on the market. While these aren't as effective as tablets, topicals, and collars, many are safe to be used in conjunction with other flea treatments so if your dog is prone to picking up fleas, they're ideal for helping to keep on top of things in between stronger treatments.

While the best flea treatments on the market right now are many and varied, the most important thing to remember is that just how vital it is to keep your pooch protected against parasites - they may look small but don't let their size fool you, they can cause serious health problems such as anemia and skin issues.

Just like the best flea treatments for cats, there are plenty of great options to choose from when it comes to your canine companion - here's our pick of the bunch.

PetsRadar's pick of the best flea treatment for dogs

  • Best overall flea treatment for dogs: Frontline Plus
  • Best budget flea treatment for dogs: Seresto Flea and Tick Collar
  • Best shampoo flea treatment for dogs: Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo
  • Best for your house: Zuba Flea and Tick Spray
  • Best easy to use flea treatment for dogs: NexGard
  • Best oral flea treatment for dogs: Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs
  • Best flea treatment for large dogs: Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Large Dogs

Best flea treatment for dogs: Frontline Plus

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Frontline Plus

Best overall flea treatment for dogs

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

(Image credit: Amazon)

Seresto Flea and Tick Collar

Best budget flea treatment for dogs

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.

Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo

(Image credit: Amazon)

Adams Plus Flea and Tick Shampoo

Best shampoo flea treatment for dogs

Usage: Both fleas and ticks | Type: Shampoo | Lasts: 28 days

Contains soothing ingredients
Kills fleas and ticks in all life stages
Lasts for up to 28 days
Not safe for puppies under 12 weeks of age

If you’re looking for a shampoo that will kill fleas, ticks, lice, and their eggs on contact but still be gentle on your furkid’s skin and coat, then this formula from Adams is a great choice.

Designed for sensitive skin but suitable for all skin types, it has a rich and creamy texture for the perfect lather and it comes packed full of aloe vera, lanolin, and oatmeal to soothe the skin.

Containing an insect growth regulator that kills and prevents flea development for up to 28 days and it’s infused with coconut oil for a clean and fresh scent. We love that this shampoo is safe for use on both dogs and cats (great if you have a multi-pet household!) and is suitable for ages 12 weeks and up.

As well as killing parasites, this deeply conditioning shampoo is also ideal for removing dandruff, dirt, and scales, and depending on the size of your pet, you’ll only need to use 1-2 tbsps per wash, so the bottle should last you a good while.

Best flea treatment for dogs: NexGard

(Image credit: Amazon)

NexGard

Best easy to use flea treatment for dogs

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 for dogs 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

(Image credit: Amazon)

Zuba Flea and Tick Spray

Best for your house

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.

Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs pack shotPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Amazon)

Capstar Flea Oral Treatment for Dogs

Best oral flea treatment for dogs

Usage: Fleas | Type: Oral tablets | Lasts: 6 days

Starts to work within 30 minutes
Safe for puppies
Kills adult fleas within 4 hours
Tiny and easy to swallow
Only 6 tablets 
Slightly pricey

If you’re after a flea treatment for dogs that is fast-acting and will provide instant relief to your pooch, these Capstar Flea Tablets for Dogs are ideal. Formulated with the active ingredient of Nitenpyram, this makes them highly effective in getting rid of fleas in dogs. These fast-acting tablets start to work in just 30 minutes, and have a 90% success rate in killing adult fleas in four hours. 

The tablets are small and easy-to-swallow which makes them suitable to give to puppies four weeks and older. And while they may be tiny tablets, a single dose is strong enough to get rid of any parasite infestation in minutes. This should relieve the unpleasant scratching and discomfort your canine companion is experiencing. But they are also safe to give daily should your pooch get infested again.

The Capstar Flea Tablets for Dogs are slightly more expensive than other treatments on the market, and you only get six in a pack. However, these tiny tablets are fast-acting and provide long-lasting protection, making it a worthwhile purchase.

Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Large DogsPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Chewy)

Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Large Dogs

Best flea treatment for large dogs

Usage: Both fleas and lice | Type: Topical | Lasts: 30 days

Fast-acting and long-lasting
Specifically formulated to help disrupt the life cycle of fleas
Waterproof
Simple application
Can leave greasy residue on fur 
Expensive

If your canine companion is on the larger size, then the Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Large Dogs is ideal. Specially formulated for dogs weighing 45 to 88 pounds, this fast-acting treatment will kill adult fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, chewing lice and ticks.

The long-lasting effects are due to its two active ingredients, fipronil and (S)-methoprene, that effectively disrupts the life cycle of fleas and prevents future infestations.

It’s simple to use with one application directly onto your canine companion. Part your dog’s hair between the shoulder blades, place the tip of the applicator above the skin and squeeze the contents of the applicator in a single spot. It’s advisable not to apply on top of the haircoat, and to avoid contact until dry. Another bonus is it’s waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about reapplying if your pooch gets wet. 

Although the treatment lasts for 30 days, you can always reapply afterwards for that extra protection against pesky fleas and parasites. You can buy from three doses up to eight doses for an 8-month supply.

One downside mentioned by a few customers is the treatment can leave a greasy residue on fur. But this will easily come off in a day or two. It’s also worth noting that it is rather expensive compared to other treatments. However, the Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Large Dogs is an effective, fast-acting, flea treatment that’s easy to use and will quickly solve your pup’s discomfort. Which makes it a worthwhile investment.

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.

Susan Arendt

Susan Arendt is a writer and editor with more than two decades of experience from companies including AOL, Conde Nast, and The New York Times.  She currently resides in North Carolina with three dogs (Alice, Bridget, and Chloe) who, frankly, run her life.