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.
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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 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 Your Dog From Getting 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2020 Paul Goodman