Fleas can be very hazardous to the health of your dog.
These tiny, wingless insects can leap two feet in the air to move from one host to another in order feed on their blood. Fleas can carry disease, cause bothersome and potentially harmful itching and scratching, and they can even spread to the humans an animal lives with.
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Many dogs (and most humans) are allergic to the enzymes in flea saliva, which causes a skin reaction much like that experienced by one with a mosquito bite or the chicken pox. This leads to often torturous itching, which can then lead to broken skin, infections, and misery for everyone involved.
Dogs are especially prone to catching fleas, since they normally venture outside on a daily basis. Because of this, it is just as important to use preventative measures to protect your dog from getting fleas in the first place as it is to eradicate the fleas once they have appeared.
Here is a list of the top ten flea treatments for dogs on the market, so that you can find the one that will help your furry friend the most.
1. K9 Advantix II Flea Control for Dogs
K9 Advantix works as both offense and defense against fleas. This topical flea treatment is applied once per month to prevent new fleas from taking up residence in your dog’s fur. It also kills 98-100 percent of existing fleas on your dog’s skin within twelve hours. In addition to fighting off fleas, it repels ticks and mosquitoes as well, and is safe for any dog over seven weeks old (although you may have to buy a different formulation depending on your dog’s size).
2. Vectra 3D
Vectra 3D has flea treatments for dogs of every size. This particular one is for large dogs over 95 pounds, and slows down the feeding of fleas that are already on your pet within five minutes of topical application. Due to Vectra 3D’s broad-spectrum protection, the rest of the fleas are killed within six hours, providing your dog with some much-needed relief. Applied monthly, this treatment protects dogs from fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, lice, and biting flies.
3. Advantage II
Not to be confused with Advantix II, Advantage II kills fleas within twelve hours of topical application. It is easy to apply and waterproof, meaning that it will stay put on even the most active (and messiest) of dogs. It is easy to apply, and kills fleas on contact, before they even have a chance to bit your poor, itchy pooch.
4. Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor for Dogs and Cats
Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo can be used on both dogs and cats. Just one wash can provide your pet with protection from fleas for twenty-eight days, almost as long as other, more costly flea treatments. This is one of the least expensive options out there, and it works on several levels: not only does it kill fleas that are on your dog already and prevent new ones from arriving, but it also contains aloe, lanolin, oatmeal, and other extracts that can soothe your dog’s itchy skin.
5. Frontline Plus
Frontline is another leading name in flea protection, and it doesn’t disappoint. Frontline Plus provides relief from fleas and chewing lice, and kills eggs and larvae before they can grow. It also kills ticks in all four of their life stages, protecting your furry friend from Lyme disease and other dangerous illnesses. Frontline Plus comes in a package with six applications, one of which is applied every six months.
6. Frontline Flea and Tick Treatment Dog/Cat Spray
Frontline’s flea and tick treatment is safe for both dogs and cats. You can spray it directly onto your dog’s fur to kill fleas quickly and effectively for thirty days. Designed for use on pets over eight weeks of age, Frontline’s formula kills fleas and ticks before they can lay eggs, thus wiping out their population and stopping the spread of new fleas.
7. Direct Protect Plus
Direct Protect Plus is an efficient and economical way to get the same quality as more popular brands at a fraction of the price, making it a great option for dog owners on a budget. Used monthly, this treatment combats fleas and ticks, acts fast, and provides long-lasting protection.
8. PetArmor FastCaps
PetArmor FastCaps are another great option for thrifty dog parents. They provide the same level of treatment as a veterinarian-prescribed treatment, but are easily bought over-the-counter. Administered orally, PetArmor FastCaps are designed to start working immediately. Unlike most other flea treatments on the market, you can even give your dog another dose if the first one doesn’t seem to be killing the fleas fast enough (although it is highly recommended to check with a vet before trying this).
9. Hartz UltraGuard Plus Flea & Tick Drops for Dogs & Puppies
Hartz UltraGuard Plus is recommended for puppies and dogs that are older then twelve weeks. This particular package contains three months worth of protection from fleas, ticks, and their eggs and larvae. The topical application provides quick, long-lasting protection from fleas, and comes with an applicator that enables the formula to more easily reach the skin beneath your dog’s hair.
10. Advantus Soft Chew
While most people think of either pills or topical applications when they think of flea treatments for dogs, Advantus offers a different option. Advantus Soft Chews provide all the protection of a topical application or pill in the form of a chewable tablet which, as many dog owners know, makes for much easier administration! These soft chews begin to kill fleas within an hour, and are designed with a savory taste that makes dogs actually want to eat them. You can give your dog one chew per day as needed, until the fleas are gone.
Who should buy a flea treatment for dogs?
While just about any kind of furry pet can get fleas, dogs are by far the most common victims of this millimeter-sized insect. Fleas bite your dog and feed on the blood, using it to lay eggs and reproduce.
Since a single flea can lay over 4,000 eggs in its lifetime, it’s easy to see why flea infestations can be difficult to get rid of. If your dog spends a good amount of time outside, it’s quite likely they’re going to get fleas at some point.
Particularly in warm climates, flea treatment is recommended year-round because fleas are so prevalent and because dogs are so likely to run into them. For most dog owners, the question isn’t whether to get a flea treatment, but which one to get.
While flea treatments for dogs are similar to flea treatments for cats, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can use the same product for your dog and your cat. Cat and dog physiology are different, and moreover, the most common type of flea that dogs get is actually a different species than the most common type of flea that cats get.
Fleas adapted along with the animals they feed on, so dog fleas need to be targeted slightly differently than cat fleas. The broad principles are still the same, though: you can get an oral medication or a topical medication, and flea treatments for dogs come in prescription and over-the-counter varieties.
How we ranked
We had two primary criteria for formulating our rankings of the best flea treatments for dogs: efficacy and safety, both for your dog and for you. In terms of efficacy, we evaluated products on the speed at which they started killing fleas, how long it typically takes to completely get rid of fleas, and also the phases of the flea’s life cycle that the product targets.
Fleas start out as eggs, which hatch into larvae. The larvae develop into pupae, which eventually become adult fleas. Products that target all four phases of the flea’s life cycle tend to work faster than products that only target one.
Some products, for example, will sterilize flea eggs, making it impossible for them to hatch. While a product like this will eventually work, you can get faster results from a product that can kill fleas at any point in the life cycle.
Both topical treatments and oral flea treatments for dogs can be effective, so we included both in our rankings. If you’re concerned about the chemicals in a topical flea treatment getting into your skin, you can either wear disposable gloves while applying it to your dog, or just get an oral treatment instead.
From a safety perspective, we made sure to exclude potentially toxic compounds or methods of delivery. One important update was the removal of any product in the isoxazoline class of flea medications.
These have been associated with seizures in dogs, and the Food and Drug Administration has issued cautionary announcements for pet owners warning them about potential hazards from this category of flea treatment (always used as a chew or pill) (1).
We also excluded any flea collars: these flea treatments have sometimes been found to contain toxic insecticides, and more problematically, their design means that they are constantly “leaking” insecticides wherever your dog goes. So, if your dog snuggles up on the couch or in your bed, you’ll have insecticide all over your furniture and bedding.
These compounds can persist even after you take the flea collar off, so our research team felt that it was best to completely avoid this category of flea treatments completely, especially because there are so many great oral and topical flea medications that don’t have these same problems.
We sorted the remaining products according to their overall efficacy and safety, resulting in our final rankings of the best flea treatments for dogs on the market right now.
Most flea treatments for dogs are designed to be administered once a month or, in some cases, once every three to six months. It is important to make sure that you administer these treatments exactly as instructed on the bottle or box, because overdosing can cause serious side effects.
It is also important to make sure that you are buying the correct formula for your dog based on their size. As one would expect, the same flea treatment for a Chihuahua is not nearly so effective at protecting a St. Bernard from the fleas in its fur.
Used properly, however, flea treatments have a whole host of benefits. Flea treatments kill any existing fleas while also preventing their eggs from hatching. These treatments often kill ticks and other biting insects as well, saving your pet from the harmful diseases or infections these bugs can carry.
Flea treatments for dogs work by covering your dog in a layer of a chemical that acts as a neurotoxin for insects. While it is safe for the exterior of your dog, these chemicals work to poison the fleas that are hidden in their hair, stopping them from spreading. Some of the more common neurotoxins used for this purpose are Fipronil, Imidacloprid, and Permethrin (1).
Flea treatments for dogs can range from topical and orally delivered medications to shampoos, dips, sprays, and special collars.
Flea treatments for dogs help stop the spread of fleas. Once there is a flea outbreak, it is not only the dog who is at risk, but every other animal or person that comes into contact with them. The chemicals in flea treatments stop the spread of fleas and other similar pests by delivering a poison that lets the fleas live just long enough to go back to their nest and spread said poison among the rest of their biting brethren (2).
Flea treatments kill existing fleas as well as their eggs and larvae. Killing the adult fleas is a great start, but if one wants to wipe out a flea problem entirely, it is important to get rid of the flea eggs and larvae as well. This keeps the younger fleas from growing up to replace the fleas that went before them, and effectively neutralizes the problem at its source.
Long-lasting flea treatments not only get rid of a current flea problem, but keep the fleas from returning as well. In a double-blind study conducted in the interest of comparing two different brands of flea treatments for dogs, researchers found that the longer-lasting flea formulas (the ones that are said to prevent fleas for up to twelve weeks), were shown to be even more effective at week twelve as they were at week one (3).
This is very beneficial to both the pet and their owner, because many owners neglect to reapply the monthly treatment each month out of pure forgetfulness. With these longer-acting treatments, the dog stays protected longer, and their chance of being re-infested is greatly diminished.
Most flea treatments protect pets against more than just fleas. As seen in the list above, most flea treatments for dogs protect them from ticks, lice, biting flies, and other pests just as effectively as they protect them against fleas. Some of the orally ingested options can even provide protection against heartworms and other intestinal parasites (4).
If you use a flea treatment on your dog but fleas keep coming back, there might be a flea infestation in your house. While there are some lower quality flea treatments for dogs that may not effectively kill off all of the fleas that have infested your dog, if you are using a good quality flea treatment but your dog’s flea infestation comes back within a few days or a few weeks, a far more likely circumstance is that you have fleas somewhere in your house that your dog is spending a lot of time in.
Your dog’s bed is a good first place to check, but you may also need to wash, clean, or treat your upholstery, bedsheets, carpet, or curtains.
Fleas love soft, dark places, especially in warm or humid places. That’s why you’re more likely to find fleas in your dog’s underbelly, and that’s also why fleas tend to be hard to eliminate in your house.
Fleas can live for months without directly feeding on blood, which makes them even harder to kill off. There are plenty of commercial insecticides that can kill fleas, but some people find diatomaceous earth to be a better natural alternative.
In any case, it’s worth hunting down the source of fleas in your house, since it’s likely that other pets or small children (not to mention you) could get a flea infestation if you don’t clear out the source of fleas in your house.
For the most part, flea treatments for dogs are considered safe for use. However, since flea treatments for dogs (and other animals) are chemically based, there are several important side effects to look out for when using them.
Sometimes the insecticides in flea medications can cause a condition called Pyrethroid Toxicity, in which the dog exhibits some very troubling side effects. These can include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, weakness, disorientation, and in the most severe cases, even death (5).
Several studies have been done on the effects of pyrethroid-based products on dogs, and it was found to be one of the leading causes of insecticide-based deaths in canines (6).
Other products that do not contain pyrethroid have been shown to be less harmful, although it is always a good idea to keep flea treatment packages away from your dog and only administer them in a controlled way (7).
As stated on the back of most of their packages, flea treatments can also be toxic to humans, and should never be ingested by or used on the skin of a person (8).
The recommended dosage of flea treatments for dogs varies from brand to brand. It also varies based on the size of the dog it will be used on, as well as the frequency of application.
Treatments are available in monthly, tri-monthly, biannual, or even daily topical applications, capsules, or tablets (9). Be sure to check with your veterinarian and to read all of the instructions on the packaging before administering any flea treatment to your dog.
Q: How can you tell if your dog has fleas?
A: Dogs are pretty communicative if they have fleas. They’ll itch, scratch, and bite themselves an unusual amount, particularly on their head, neck, and tail.
Flea bites leave red bumps that might scab over; your dog may also get an allergic reaction to flea saliva which can result in itching over a broader area.
Dogs might even get pink, irritated sores from scratching at fleas and flea bits. You may notice small pepper-like flakes in your dog’s fur; these are flea feces that definitely indicate the presence of fleas.
Check your dog’s fur, either by hand or using a flea comb, for fleas, or just watch closely: they tend to jump around using their spring-like hind legs. Fleas are particularly bad in the summertime, so you should be especially vigilent for fleas when it’s warm outside and your dog has been out of the house a lot.
Q: Are dog fleas the same as cat fleas?
A: While both dogs and cats get fleas, the most common species of flea that dogs and cats get are different. Dogs tend to get infested with the ctenocephalides canis species, while cats tend to get infested with ctenocephalides felis, a distinctive species.
he different flea species are part of the reason why dogs and cats need different types of flea treatments (the other part is differences between cats and dogs). That being said, it’s certainly possible for dogs to get infested with the felis species, and vice versa for cats.
Q: What natural treatments are there for fleas on dogs?
A: Compounds like lavender, rosemary, lemon spray, baking soda, salt, or dish soap are commonly used as natural flea treatments for dogs, but there’s no guarantee that they will work, or that they will even be safe.
Lemon spray, for example, can be extremely irritating if it gets in your dog’s eyes or nose. While natural remedies work for some conditions, it’s better to stick with proven strategies like our top-ranked dog flea treatments. These are proven to be both effective and safe.
Q: What kills fleas on dogs instantly?
A: It’s pretty much impossible to instantly kill fleas on dogs, at least without hurting your dog as well. However, many oral medications for fleas start working within 30 minutes, and will completely clear a flea infestation within a day or two.
Topical medication can take slightly longer to start working (more like an hour or two) but can sometimes clear flea infestations faster than oral medication.
Q: What should you do if your dog has fleas?
A: The first thing you should do if your dog has fleas is to apply a flea treatment specifically made for dogs. Make sure you follow the instructions to kill the fleas as effectively as possible.
Then, you should start hunting for possible places your dog has been in your house that may now be infested with fleas. If you have a dog bed, that should immediately go in the wash—the probability that it is infested with fleas is so high that it’s not even worth checking; just wash it straight away.
Other common places where you may find fleas or flea eggs lurking are in the carpet around where your dog spends a lot of time. You may also find fleas on your couch upholstery or in your sheets and bedding.
As with the dog bed, often it’s better to just wash these and dry them on high heat versus trying to look for fleas first before you decide whether to wash them.
Q: How fast can you get rid of fleas on dogs?
A: Fully clearing a flea infestation in your dog takes a day or two. While a good flea treatment for dogs can start working within 30 minutes, it does take a bit of time for the treatment to take full effect on all of the fleas at all phases of their life cycle.
Treatments that only target one phase of the flea’s life cycle, like egg-sterilizing treatments, can take somewhat longer than multipurpose flea treatments for dogs.
Q: Should puppies have a flea treatment?
A: Most flea treatments are not safe for puppies younger than about eight weeks: the puppies are just too small to tolerate the flea treatment.
If your puppy gets a flea infestation at a young age, you should see your vet. There are a few prescription flea treatments that are approved for puppies.
They are not normally used in full sized dogs because they are less effective; nevertheless, these are the safer option for puppies who have fleas.
Q: What is the safest kind of flea treatment for dogs?
A: Both oral and topical flea treatments are safe for dogs when used as directed. The two primary categories of flea treatments that our research team excluded in our rankings for safety reasons were isoxazolines and flea collars.
Isoxazolines are a category of oral flea medication that has raised some safety concerns with the Food and Drug Administration because of reports of seizures in previously health dogs.
While the direct mechanism behind these neurological problems is unknown (if it exists), it’s better to opt for a different product with a better safety track record.
With regards to flea collars, we do not recommend these products because they tend to get insecticides anywhere that your dog goes.
Some flea collars contain broad-spectrum insecticides that could be toxic to your pet or to you. Given how effective oral and topical flea medications are, it’s hard to justify using a flea collar given these downsides.
Q: How do dogs get fleas?
A: Dogs tend to get fleas from two places: natural locations ripe with fleas, and from other dogs. Fleas love places that are dark, moist, and warm; this is why they tend to hide in carpet, bedding, and furniture upholstery.
But this also means that fleas are in all sorts of places outside that dogs love to dig into. Moreover, fleas can be transmitted easily dog-to-dog, or even from cats to dogs.
Fleas have long, powerful hind legs that allow them to leap into the air, so it’s very easy for fleas to latch on to a dog that’s passing by.
If this dog has not already had a flea treatment in the near past, it’s very likely that this flea will bite the dog, start laying eggs, and give rise to a flea infestation.
That’s why it is so important to use a high quality flea treatment, and to eliminate any sources of fleas in places your dog frequently lies down, like in its dog bed.
Flea treatments for dogs can be a godsend for itchy pets and their owners. They can eradicate fleas, ticks, and much more, and they can protect your pet from future infestations.
It is important, though, to note that these flea treatments are insecticide-based, which means that they can be very toxic for both dogs and their humans if used incorrectly.
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