The best flea treatments for dogs will get rid of them for as long as possible. Eggs and all. Fleas are no joke. Parasites are nasty. Not to mention un-nerving!. When they set up home on our pets. it can really put us in a spin. Our dogs don’t like them either.
Best flea treatments for dogs
Fleas cause them to itch and make it difficult to relax. But some remedies for fleas have ingredients that seem scarier than pests themselves! But don’t panic, we have investigated some of the most popular options. To help you decide which is the best and safest choice for your pet. Remember though, this advice is no substitute for good veterinary care. If you have queries about any canine medicine, they should be your first port of call.
So what are fleas, exactly? And how do we get rid of them for good?
Products included in this article were carefully and independently selected by the Labrador Site team. If you decide to make a purchase from one of the links marked by an asterisk, we may earn a small commission on that sale. This is at no extra cost to you.
What are fleas?
Fleas are tiny parasitic insects. Barely visible to the naked eye, we only tend to be aware of them once symptoms start. These include scratching, along with the general restlessness that results from itching. The fleas on our dogs are generally one of two species.
The aptly named dog flea, and the cat flea. Fortunately these are two very similar species, so the best flea treatments for dogs work for both.
Flea life cycles
Fleas have an incredibly specialized life cycle, relying entirely on larger animals like dogs, cats and humans. A flea hatches from an egg in its larval state, and encases itself in a cocoon. Where it remains until it has turned into an adult flea. Once the flea is full grown, it emerges from this cocoon with some pretty formidable equipment. Powerful legs, and mandibles capable of penetrating the skin of large mammals. They jump relatively enormous heights instinctively when the shade of an animal falls on them.
Once fleas are securely attached to a host, they can feed on their blood largely uninhibited. The fleas grow, and females produce and shed eggs. And eggs can spread anywhere their host goes. They then hatch, and the cycle starts all other again. With this dispersal method even a minor case of fleas quickly becomes a full-blown infestation. Often this means that without treatment the cycle will continue on and on, with nothing to stop the fleas re-infesting hosts again and again.
This is where the best flea treatments for dogs come in to play. Because far from just an annoyance, flea infestations can actually put your dog at risk. Dog fleas in particular have the potential to carry worms. If your dog has an adverse reaction to the proteins in a flea’s saliva, they can develop nasty sores, potentially leading to infection.
Fleas have been living alongside humans and their pets, probably since the dawn of civilization. Fortunately, in recent years we’ve developed some potent mechanisms to control and wipe out infestations. So, what makes a good flea killer for dogs? And how to we pick the best flea treatments for dogs that share our homes?
How to kill fleas on dogs
The most common way to treat a flea infestation is with some kind of insecticide.
Any substance, natural or chemically synthesized, that kills off populations of parasites or prevents them from reproducing can be considered an insecticide. Insecticides don’t just include solutions that poison insects either. As well as chemical insecticides, there are also mechanical insecticides. These cause physical damage to insects.
Since most flea remedies are some form of chemical insecticide, they occasionally come under fire. Often, this is with good reason. There are many insecticides we once used, and have since stopped using, that cause serious damage to animals that are not their target. For this reason, it’s important to read up on whatever we’re using around our dogs, and ask a vet if it is appropriate.
Holistic treatment for fleas
It’s important to be thorough when treating fleas. If you just kill the fleas on your dog, the chances are that he will just be re-infected by the fleas around the house. Vets take this into account and will usually suggest a multi level approach.
While most commercially available flea treatments kill adult fleas, vets often prescribe more long term solutions that prevent the fleas from reproducing properly, ending their life cycle. In addition to the numerous insecticides at our disposal we have many different ways to administer them. Some are aimed at a quick fix, and some at longer treatment and flea prevention for dogs. First, lets take a look at some popular flea meds for dogs.
Flea pills for dogs
As a general rule, consult a vet before putting your dog through any treatment course. Fleas are a hugely common issue, affecting dog populations worldwide. Because they are so common, vets have some great tools at their disposal for treating fleas. And some feel that the best flea treatments for dogs are pill based.
We’ll look at flea medicine for dogs first, usually taken orally in the form of a pill. This pill can be encased in food your dog likes to eat to administer it more easily. When our dogs needed medicine growing up we always use to wrap it in cheese. It worked great then and still does now.
Program flea treatment for dogs
Often vets will prescribe lufenuron (branded as PROGRAM in most countries), which offers a slow acting but effective method to control fleas. Lufenuron is taken orally by your dog. Once in your dogs system it gets into his blood stream, and is then eaten by the fleas. This medication does not kill the fleas, and they will go on about their short lives and lay their eggs. What the lufrenon does is prevent those eggs from developing and hatching.
A huge proportion of the fleas that feed on your dog will be unable to create any more fleas. This is not an instant-relief focused cure, but a long-term solution. Many vets believe that lufenuron is one of the best flea treatments for dogs. And if this flea treatment is used in conjunction with another on carpets and furniture, it may wipe out a population in just a few weeks. We’ll talk about flea remedies you use around the house a little later.
Capstars flea tablets for dogs
The other type of flea medication for dogs, less often prescribed by vets, is nitenpyram the active ingredient in Capstars flea tablets for dogs*.
Nitenpyram is taken in much the same way as lufenuron. Once it enters the flea through the dog’s blood, however, the difference is apparent. The nitenpyram kills the fleas as adults. The principle drawback of this when used alone is that eggs will still hatch and may infest other animals.
There is some interest in using nitenpyram and lufrenuron simultaneously, both killing adult fleas and stunting their population growth. An FDA inquiry didn’t find any evidence of interaction between these two medications, but you must still ask your vet before supplementing their prescription with anything else. Your vet may be aware of extenuating circumstances that would make your pet ineligible.
Of the two, lufenuron is more often described as the best flea medicine for dogs, but you’ll usually need a prescription to get hold of it. We’re all probably familiar with flea collars. So what do they do? And when might they be appropriate.
Flea collars for dogs
Flea collars work by gradually releasing an insecticide into a dog’s coat, that prevents fleas from living on the treated dog. Vets’ don’t usually recommend flea collars. They succeed often in keeping the fleas off of your dog, but rarely impact the general infestation. With that being said, they can provide relief for a dog while more serious treatment is carried out. One product claiming to do just that is the Seresto flea and tick collar*.
A serious study into the efficacy of this collar concluded that it works very well. No clear side effects were indicated, and the collar continued to offer protection for 8 months. For this reason this may well be the best flea collar for dogs. The insecticides emitted by this collar are flumethrin and imidaclorpid, used widely for flea control. In lab studies the collar also prevented infestation by ticks, a pressing concern for anyone who walks their dog through wooded areas.
If your dog is on any medication, you must discuss the use of any flea remedy with your vet. Although the risk of interaction is low, it’s better to be safe. If their medication causes skin issues, for example, they might experience increased irritation. So, can we wash the fleas off of our dogs?
Flea shampoo for dogs
Another weapon in our arsenal for the battle against fleas is flea shampoo. Flea shampoo is dog shampoo that contains a pesticidal additive. These insecticides will usually get rid of fleas on dog fur, but you’ll still have the eggs around your house to deal with. There’s also a risk of interaction with other flea treatments.
Piperonyl butoxide is the active ingredient in a lot of flea treatments, and can increase the potency of some other notable insecticides. Let’s look at flea sprays of dogs.
Flea spray for dogs
Generally speaking, there are two types of flea sprays where dogs are concerned. The kind that we can put on them, and the kind we absolutely must not. Frontline, in its spot on solution* is by far the most routinely suggested flea cure by vets. Tests have proven it’s effectiveness in breaking flea life cycles and upsetting established infestations. It’s also notably low impact in its side effects.
Frontline is applied between the dog’s shoulder blades, and the labeling must be followed rigorously to ensure safety.
General flea sprays
Sprays for carpets and furniture are generally much stronger, in order to weed out eggs. They also might contain ingredients harmful to dogs if applied directly to them. So, it’s important to only use them as directed. If you are in any doubt whatsoever, have your vet recommend a line of treatment. They’ll be able to factor your circumstances in and help you figure out what’s best for you.
It’s also worth pointing out that there are more complete frontline products that can only be purchased with a prescription from your vet. Items like frontline combo often contain additional insecticides, so vets need to be careful about whom they give them to. The methoprene in frontline combo provides additional help against the larvae and eggs, making it an even more complete solution.
Are there any home remedies that work for fleas on dogs?
Home remedies for fleas on dogs
We’ve been fighting this war against fleas for centuries now, and in that time countless ideas have emerged about how to get rid of them. There are a lot of claims out there about all the things diatomaceous earth can do. Unfortunately a lot of these are just plain false.
One thing diatomaceous earth can do though is kill fleas! Diatomaceous earth is a mechanical insecticide, it works by absorbing the flea’s waxy coating causing it to dry out. We must only use food grade diatomaceous earth around pets, as non-food grade can contain heavy metals that could harm our furry friends. It can be used on carpets and furniture, and also our dogs.
Some dogs, especially those with sensitive skin, may not react well however. This is very rarely dangerous but if your dog begins reacting withdraw this treatment immediately. We discuss more about diatomaceous earth for dogs here.
Best flea treatment for dog
Flea control for dogs is stressful at the best of times. So finding the best flea treatments for dogs really matters. These itchy pets are one of the most successful parasites in the world, and we may never be rid of them completely. However, by using the best tools at our disposal we stand a chance of eliminating this menace within our households.
Vets will always have the very latest and greatest treatment options available. They will also be able to prescribe a treatment that fits in well with you and your dogs. For these reasons the absolute best flea treatment for dogs is really dependent on your vets recommendation. Explain your situation thoroughly as soon as the issue arises, and your vet can help you plan a course of action aimed at eliminating these pests in your own home.
There are also a number of potent treatments you simply can’t get hold of without your vet. Insecticides have the potential to be misused, so vets need to examine the need for these products on a case-by-case basis. Some flea tablets for dogs, and potent solutions like frontline combo, are only available after you talk to your vet. They really do know best on this subject, and will give you some understanding and help make your dog healthy again.
- Do Fleas Die In Winter?
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
Press release – Seresto
Evaluation of the long-term efficacy and safety of an imidacloprid 10%/flumethrin 4.5% polymer matrix collar (Seresto) in dogs and cats naturally infested with fleas and/or ticks in multicentre clinical field studies in Europe D. Stanneck et al
A Comparison of Flea Control Measurement Methods for Tracking Flea Populations in Highly Infested Private Residences in Tampa FL, Following Topical Treatment of Pets With Frontline® Plus (Fipronil/(S)-Methoprene) M. Dryden et al