Paul has been a dog owner for many years, and has dealt with numerous flea infestations. Born in the UK, he currently lives in Florida, USA.
One of the biggest challenges faced by dog owners, in my experience, is having to deal with flea infestations. I've had to deal with this issue multiple times over the years, and while each outbreak has its own unique set of characteristics, I've discovered that some approaches work better than others. Treating the flea infestation and preventing future ones can be expensive and time-consuming, but something that is essential if you want a dog that is healthy and a happy and flea-free home. This article looks at the best flea treatments for dogs, as well as ways to prevent it from happening again.
Choosing the most appropriate products is important, but you should also take a broader approach, in my experience, if you are going to find longer-term solutions. That's why I've included information on some other practical approaches that I have found useful over the years. It is also possible that in some cases, using one or more of these products will provide your dog with only temporary relief, and you may still have to visit the vet and get a prescription to find a long term solution.
Before you read any further, I would like to make it absolutely clear that I am writing entirely from the perspective of being a responsible and experienced dog owner. I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any scientific qualifications that relate to the treatment of fleas. My suggestions are based purely on my personal experience. I am not a substitute for an examination or advice from a vet or another relevant professional.
Top 3 Flea Treatments for Dogs
Here are the three treatments for dog fleas that I've had the greatest success with over the years:
- Capstar Fast-Acting Oral: Easy and Effective
- FRONTLINE Plus: Treat and Prevents
- Vet's Best Flea Spray: Disinfest the Household
I will explain my choices and experiences in more detail below.
1. Capstar Fast-Acting Oral: Easy and Effective
My go-to tablet treatment is Capstar Fast-Acting Oral for dogs. As the name suggests, this treatment is quick to take effect. Feed the dog a Capstar and within half an hour, the fleas start dropping dead. A dose will last around a day. In my experience, the best way to monitor the state of an infestation is by using a flea comb every day.
- There's no need for a prescription from the vet.
- Reasonably priced.
- If the fleas come back, you can give your dog another dose.
- Tablets are often easier to administer than trying to bathe your dog.
- Capstar is generally safe to use with other products, but read the instructions thoroughly, and ask a vet if unsure.
- These tablets kill off adult fleas and give your pet some much-needed relief, but flea eggs and larva that have not begun to bite can still be there after a dose. It's possible that you will need to get a prescription from a vet to find a longer-term solution.
- Getting the dog to swallow the tablets isn't always as easy as it sounds, it depends on the dog.
- There are different doses for different dog sizes, it's important to get the appropriate strength.
2. FRONTLINE Plus: Treat and Prevents
An alternative to tablets is to use a medication such as FRONTLINE Plus, which I've come to consider to be an effective treatment and preventative medication over the years. This medication is applied using an applicator to the skin area between the dog's shoulder blades. It goes into the dog's glands and a dose lasts for 30 days. Note that this product is for adult dogs only, and not for puppies or small dogs - read the instructions carefully before use.
- It works by interrupting the fleas' life cycle by killing the flea adults, eggs and larvae.
- I've used it multiple times and not experienced a dog reacting badly to it in terms of skin irritation.
- Easy to apply, in my opinion, and one dose lasts up to thirty days - certainly easier than getting some dogs to swallow or eat a tablet.
- Good for use following treatment for an infestation to prevent a recurrence, or just as a general preventative if there's reason for concern about fleas or ticks.
- The dog needs to be dry before application and can't then get wet for 48 hours afterwards, or the medication can be washed off.
- Some dog owners may be reluctant to use a chemical medication and prefer something more natural.
3. Vet's Best Flea Spray: Disinfest the Household
To deal with an infestation effectively, as well as treating your pet, you also have to concern yourself with ridding your dog's environment of fleas. For this, I find Vet's Best Flea and Tick Home Spray a big help. I use it to spray all the surfaces where I think that there might be fleas, including things like the dog's bed, carpets, the couch, armchairs, and other furniture. The spray works by contact so you have to be thorough and get into all the places that fleas might lurk.
- It works instantly. As soon as you spray, the fleas start dropping dead.
- It doesn't use harsh chemicals, so you don't have to worry about contaminating your home.
- You can use it on your dog directly, provided the dog is old enough and big enough. (I rarely do this myself, preferring to use other treatments on the dog, and reserving the spray for the home environment).
- It's very affordable, even if you end up buying multiple bottles.
- Can be used outdoors, as well as indoors, so you can spray the kennel and areas of the yard where the dog likes to hang out.
- In my experience, it's a great product to use in conjunction with other treatments, prescription or non-prescription, but don't expect this spray to solve your flea problem on its own.
- It has a clove and peppermint smell, I don't mind it, but others might not care for the odor.
- In my experience, it does work well, but you have to use large quantities for it to be effective. You have to cover everywhere that there could be fleas lurking. I've read reviews by dog owners who say it doesn't work, my suspicion is that they aren't spraying enough.
- This product is designed for dogs; don't use it on your cat! (There is another version for them).
How Do Dogs Get Infested With Fleas?
Dogs typically become infested with fleas through contact with other animals. It can also happen when they visit any environment where fleas are lurking.
Fleas get onto the dog by jumping, they can span distances up to around 13 inches, thanks to their powerful back legs. As they can move from host to host, or onto hosts from the surrounding area, you must treat all of your furry pets and the household environment to make sure that you kill all the fleas.
Humans can also carry fleas, so clothes, bodies, and hair must be cleaned regularly during an infestation period.
Symptoms of a Dog Flea Infestation
- In my experience, the first thing that you may notice is your dog scratching, biting, or licking more than usual.
- Fur may be missing from the lower back, tail, and hind leg area.
- You might also see flea bites, scabs, skin infections, or red areas of skin.
- Although dog fleas prefer canine hosts, they can also bite humans, causing itchy red weals, particularly to the feet or lower leg.
It goes without saying that combing your dog regularly will often pick up a flea infestation early, enabling action and saving the dog (and surrounding humans) discomfort.
How to Prevent Fleas
A flea collar can often help stop the dog from getting infested, or re-infested. It's also important to make sure that your home and other animals have been successfully purged of fleas, if you don't want your dog to be re-infested.
General cleaning, such as regular vacuuming and sweeping, washing floors, clothes, carpets, and bedding, as well as dealing with areas where the pets hang out. You should also comb your dog for fleas regularly to catch any potential infestations early.
Combing Your Dog for Fleas
- First of all, you will need a special flea comb for this task (if you don't have one and are unsure which one to buy, see my recommendation below).
- Have a bowl of soapy water on hand, before you begin.
- Dip the comb in the soapy water and begin brushing the dog's coat, paying particular attention to the neck fur and base of the tail, the places where the dog has trouble reaching. Signs of fleas can include adult fleas, eggs, as well as their droppings, which take the appearance of dark specks and are known as flea dirt.
- Dip the comb in the soapy water regularly to wash off and kill any fleas or eggs.
Having tried out numerous products over the years, I've settled for a Safari Dog Flea Comb, as I find the double row of teeth more effective at removing fleas and their eggs.
- Very affordably priced.
- Comfortable to grip and use.
- A double row of teeth makes it super efficient at removing fleas and eggs.
- Sometimes fleas get caught between the narrow gap between the two rows of teeth, these can be a little more trouble to remove than from a comb with just a single row of teeth.
© 2020 Paul Goodman
Best-Selling Flea Pills for Dogs
Flea pills for dogs , like NexGard Chewables, are a great option for many pet parents and their pups due to the efficiency of their treatment timing. NexGard Chewables are designed to kill fleas before they are able to lay eggs, so that the cycle of infestation is broken, fast. Plus, it’s easy to remember to give your furry friend this flea treatment, since these beef-flavored tablets are given once a month, year-round. That straightforward dosing schedule makes it simple to incorporate flea treatment and prevention into your dog-care routine.
Trifexis Chewable Tablets for Dogs
Another best-selling oral flea treatment is multi-tasking Trifexis Chewable Tablets for Dogs. On top of saving your pet from the misery of fleas, it is also formulated to prevent heartworm disease and treat adult roundworm, hookworm and whipworm infections. This beef-flavored tablet saves time and trouble. (Just remember, though, that your vet needs to run an annual heartworm test before your pooch can get heartworm medication.)
Bravecto Chews for Dogs
If you live in regions that are indigenous to Lone Star ticks, consider discussing Bravecto Chews for Dogs with your veterinarian. This product is designed to kill up 98.7 percent of pests, including Lone Star ticks, within 24 hours. Plus, it’s also formulated to provide up to 12 weeks of protection, so you don’t have to worry about missing frequent doses.
Capstar Flea Tablets for Dogs
Pet parents looking to provide their pup with near-immediate flea and tick relief should look to Capstar Flea Tablets for Dogs. It’s formulated to attack fast, rapidly killing fleas within the first 30 minutes that it’s administered. And within four hours, the single tablet should kill up to 90 percent of adult fleas on your pooch. Now, that’s fast!
Simparica Chewable Tablets for Dogs
This tablet is designed to protect your dog from flea and ticks for a full 35 days with just a single dose per month. And unlike many flea pills for dogs, Simparica is formulated so it does not have to be given with food. In fact, this tasty, liver-flavored tablet is practically a treat all on its own!
Best flea treatments for dogs and cats
As pet owners you will know that unfortunately, fleas are an extremely common and annoying occurrence and it is important to treat your dogs and cats for worms and fleas on a regular basis. However, with 95% of flea and egg larvae living in your environment rather than on your pet, it is equally if not more important to treat your home too, otherwise the infestation will return time and time again.
How do I know if my pet has fleas?
It is not uncommon to be able to spot fleas jumping off and on your pet’s body, but they are very small and very fast. They are flat-bodied, dark brown or black in color (unless they are full of blood in which case they can be lighter) and usually less than an eighth of an inch big. However, typical behavioral symptoms include restlessness, and chewing, scratching or licking certain parts of his body more often than usual. If you suspect that your dog or cat has fleas, you can check his skin and coat for signs of them or ‘flea dirt’ which looks like regular dirt but is actually flea faeces. If you aren’t sure if it is actual dirt rather than flea dirt, put some on a paper towel and add some water. If it is flea dirt, then it will turn a reddish brown as it will contain blood that the flea has ingested and then excreted.
Finding the right treatment
With so many different flea treatments available on the market, finding the right one can be tricky. We have put together this list of some of the best and most effective flea treatments for dogs and cats to get you started, but discovering which works best for you and your pets may require some trial and error.
Nexgard for dogs
NexGard® (afoxolaner) is the #1 vet-recommended,¹ FDA-approved soft chew that kills both fleas and ticks and prevents infections that cause Lyme disease. NexGard kills infected black-legged ticks before the infection can be transmitted. Not only does each beef-flavored chew provide a month's worth of protection, they're easy to give because dogs love the taste.
Frontline® Gold for Dogs and Cats
Frontline Gold is a topical monthly flea and tick preventative for dogs and cats. One dose of its triple-action formula kills fleas, flea eggs, larvae, chewing lice, and ticks for a full month. Frontline Gold has a new ingredient, pyriproxyfen, which helps kill the next generation of flea eggs and larvae before they have a chance to develop into adult fleas. Frontline Gold starts killing fleas in just 30 minutes.
Capstar® Flea Control for Dogs and Cats
If you prefer to administer your pet’s flea treatment orally then this is a good option. It kills fleas and can be used in conjunction with other popular preventatives to help stop any future infestations. It is also safe for pets that are pregnant or nursing. There are a number of formulas available for dogs and cats. Make sure you select the right one for your pet’s weight. Capstar only kills the fleas currently on your pet, and has no residual activity or continued coverage.
From supercheap flea-control shampoos to pricey monthly ointments, flea control can cost pet owners either a little -- or a lot.
However, keeping your furry friends free of fleas is a matter of both comfort and safety, since fleabites are itchy, uncomfortable and have the potential to spread infections and disease.
We spoke to a vet to get the lowdown on which flea treatments are best for cats and dogs during the busy outdoor season.
The winner: once-a-month spot-on treatments
It wasn't even a close race: The obvious choice for both cats and dogs -- based on effectiveness, safety and ease of use -- is a once-a-month spot-on treatment such as Advantage Multi (which contains the active ingredients imidacloprid and moxidectin) or Revolution (which contains selamectin), says Ottawa-based veterinarian Bernhard Pukay, cofounder of the Canadian Academy of Veterinary Dermatology.
"Products like Advantage Multi or Revolution are liquid medications that are applied on the skin between the pet's shoulder blades [so they can't lick them off], and are very, very effective," says Pukay.
How effective? "They're effective enough to negate the need for environmental treatments like powdering the environment or using flea shampoo, which is an important advantage," says Pukay.
And that clinched it: After all, who wants to spread flea powder all over the same carpet your kids play on?
Benefits of spot-on treatments
• Spot-on treatments kill fleas and flea eggs, plus other parasites. "Advantage kills adult fleas before they can lay eggs, and it prevents eggs from being shed," says Pukay. "Revolution kills the adult fleas and prevents eggs from hatching." This approach should keep most Canadian cats and dogs blissfully itch free all year round.
Both products are also considered effective at controlling intestinal worms and other parasites like heartworm and ear mites.
• Spot-on treatments are safe for young cats and dogs. "Spot-on once-a-month treatments are very safe. You can use them as early as eight weeks, but talk with your vet, because we do prefer to wait until the pet has had all its vaccines," says Pukay.
Page 1 of 3 -- Learn how to use spot-on flea treatments on page 2
• Spot-on treatments are safe for humans. These treatments are fine to use in family homes. "They are very safe and will not rub off onto your child because they are absorbed into the pet's skin," says Pukay.
However, he suggests preventing child-pet contact until two hours after applying the treatment as an added precaution to ensure the product is fully absorbed.
• Spot-on treatments are convenient. It bears repeating: No flea powder! No shampoo! No aerosols! Because spot-on treatments negate the need for environmental flea-control tactics, you'll never have to bathe an unwilling cat or introduce additional chemicals into your home.
Of course, many people bathe their dogs (and oddball cats!) anyway. If you do too, should you use an all-natural pet shampoo? If you like how it makes your pet's fur feel and smell, then go for it.
"The problem with natural products is that there are no real controlled studies done to tell us whether they work [for flea control]," says Pukay, so consider baths part of your grooming routine, not a flea-control tactic.
And remember to schedule baths just before your pet is due for his or her spot-on treatment, rather than afterward, to avoid undermining the efficacy of the product.
Caveats of spot-on treatments
Spot-on flea treatments are not cheap. For instance, if you buy in bulk, a six-pack of monthly feline Advantage Multi averages $85 plus HST -- or about $16 per treatment.
The price may sound high compared to a $10 bottle of supermarket flea-control shampoo, but it's actually a bargain when you consider the spot-on treatment's superior effectiveness and convenience.
Don't try to cut costs by buying discount Advantage or Revolution online, says Pukay. "They could be knockoffs or have mixed up [mismatched] labels. Buy from your vet because your vet will stand behind the product.
If anything happens, you know you have the vet to support you and to respond to any adverse reactions in terms of medical care, should anything go wrong," he explains, adding that such adverse reactions are rare, but possible.
Page 2 of 3 -- Learn how to care for your pet at the cottage on page 3
Although spot-on treatments are reliable for general use, if your pet follows you to the cottage or cabin you may have to bring out the big guns to deter persistent pests such as ticks and mites.
"Revolution has a wider range of claims for skin mites, so if you're at a cottage and skin mites are a problem, you might want to tend toward Revolution. [For dogs], a stronger product like K-9 Advantix repels fleas and also works on ticks, but it must be used with caution since it's highly toxic to cats," says Pukay.
Pukay suggests consulting your vet about what product is best for your pets, lifestyle and environment.
Finally, even if you've got Fido or Fluffy's flea issues under control, cottage-country pests like mosquitoes and black flies can crash any long weekend getaway.
Never apply mosquito or black fly repellants to your pet without getting clearance from your vet first, and that goes for "natural" and "non-toxic" products, too.