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Owner applying flea tick medication to dog

The essentials

  • You have flea treatment options — Choose from topical medications, chewables, collars, sprays, powders, shampoos, and collars. If your dog responds poorly to one, try another.
  • Some flea medications prevent other things — Depending on your pet’s needs, some prevent ticks, heartworms, and other parasites.
  • Natural flea products are an option — Some collars, sprays, powders, and shampoos rely on non-pesticide ingredients to deter fleas.

Flea infestations are a big problem, and adult fleas only make up 5% of infestations. The remaining 95% of infestations are in the life cycle stages — egg, larvae, and pupae form — where we can’t see them. Fleas and ticks can carry and transmit pathogens such as tapeworms , Lyme disease , and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever , making it more important than ever to protect your dog.

Long-term flea and tick medication is the key to stopping and preventing future infestations and illness.

Here’s everything you need to know about the best tick and flea treatments for dogs.

Topical medications: Flea treatments

Bravecto Topical Solution is a great choice for owners who want more than a month of protection from fleas and ticks. It kills all stages of fleas, breaking the flea life cycle and preventing infestations. This topical medication lasts for up to three months and beats having to give finicky dogs an oral chew or for those with food allergies.

However, there are some precautions. It should not be used on puppies younger than 6 months or dogs weighing less than 4.4 pounds. You’ll also have to wait at least three days before your dog swims or has a bath.

Things to consider:

  • Easy application — Part the fur between the shoulder blades and squeeze it along the skin down the dog’s back.
  • Available in different forms — Bravecto also comes in a one-month and three-month chew tablet.
  • Price — Ranges from $62-$65, depending on your dog’s weight.

Revolution is one of the best choices for tick and flea treatments for puppies. It’s effective at killing fleas, ticks, heartworms, ear mites, and parasites for one month. The topical formula can be used on puppies as young as 6 weeks old. It’s also safe for small dogs weighing less than five pounds.

Things to consider:

  • May be hard to apply on squirmy puppies — The application includes parting the hair at the base of the neck and dragging it along the back.
  • Protects against more than just fleas — It’s effective at protecting puppies and dogs from fleas, ticks, heartworms, mites, and parasites.
  • Price — Ranges from $67-$114 for three one-month doses, varying in price based on your dog’s weight.

Frontline Shield is another great option for tick and flea treatment. It attacks all stages of the flea lifecycle, lice, and ticks, including those that transmit Lyme disease, and repels mosquitoes and stable flies. Frontline Shield can also be used on puppies at nine weeks old. As a waterproof, monthly topical treatment, it’s great for active dogs who like to swim or live near water. However, it cannot be used on dogs weighing less than five pounds.

Things to consider:

  • Application is easy — Part the fur between the shoulder blades and squeeze the gel onto the dog’s skin in one to four spots, depending on the instructions and your dog’s size. Avoid touching it until it’s dry.
  • Not for all puppies — Frontline Shield should only be used on puppies nine weeks and older.
  • Price — Ranges from $47-$83 depending on a three-month or six-month supply.

If a dog has a history of seizures, it would be better for them to be on the topical products instead of the oral products. These would include products such as Advantage Multi, Revolution, Advantix, or even Frontline Plus. Since these products are absorbed in the skin they are less likely to affect dogs with seizures.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

Ingestible medications: Tick and flea treatments

Simparica Trio protects against fleas and five types of ticks, even those that transmit Lyme disease. Additionally, it protects against roundworms and hookworms. It’s also an effective heartworm treatment, making it a monthly protective trifecta. It starts killing fleas within just four hours and is effective against ticks within 48 hours. Simparica Trio even has options for the smallest dogs weighing less than 5 pounds.

Things to consider:

  • Given monthly — For pet owners who are already on a monthly schedule for heartworm medication, this may be an option in the future. It protects against fleas, ticks, heartworms, and two types of parasites: roundworms and hookworms.
  • Easy-to-give tablet — This can be given as a treat, with food, or like any other medication. Dogs love the liver flavor, and many take it as a treat.
  • Price — A six-month supply ranges from $170-$200, depending on your dog’s size.

Nexgard Plus is a great broad-spectrum flea treatment for dogs. This monthly tablet protects against fleas, ticks, heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. It’s fast-acting, killing fleas within four hours of giving. It’s safe for puppies starting at eight weeks old and for dogs weighing at least four pounds.

However, it’s not recommended for dogs with a history of seizures or neurological problems due to adverse neurological reactions like tremors, ataxia, and seizures associated with this class of drugs.

Things to consider:

  • Easy all-in-one medication — Nexgard Plus is a soft beef-flavored chew. It’s easy to give, and many dogs love this chewable treat.
  • Not suitable for all dogs — This class of medication is associated with adverse neurological reactions, so speak with your vet if your dog has a history of seizures.
  • Price — Depending on your dog’s size, a 3-month supply costs between $107-$121.

Similar to the topical solution, this chewable tablet offers three months of protection against fleas and ticks. For puppies, Bravecto Chews are available in 1-month chews. Most dogs look forward to these flavorful pork-flavored chews. It’s also the only flea treatment for dogs that offers protection against the Asian longhorned tick.

Things to consider:

  • Should be given with food — This chewable tablet is designed to be given with food for optimal effectiveness.
  • Kills fleas fast— Bravecto Chew starts killing fleas within two hours of giving and kills ticks within just 12 hours. It also protects against the lone star tick for eight weeks.
  • Price — The price of one 3-month chewable ranges from $72-$77 based on your dog’s weight.

Flea collars/other/shampoo

Seresto is a flea and tick collar that offers protection for up to eight months. It’s a great option for pet parents who don’t want to deal with a sticky topical formula or remember to give a monthly pill for flea and tick prevention. It’s also waterproof and stays on like a typical collar, which is a great alternative for active dogs or those who are natural water lovers, like labs and goldens.

Things to consider:

  • Easy to use — Seresto collars are adjustable based on your dog’s neck size and stay on. They also start working within 24 hours and kill fleas and ticks on contact.
  • No prescription — These collars are available over the counter and don’t require a prescription.
  • Price — Seresto collars come in two sizes, small and large, and both cost around $60.

Capstar is an immediate solution to a flea infestation. Within 30 minutes, it begins killing fleas. Unlike other flea treatments, Capstar’s protection is only limited to 24-48 hours. This is a great option for quickly targeting a flea issue. It’s also safe for young puppies at least four weeks old, weighing at least two pounds. Talk with your vet about the best long-term flea treatment options for you and your dog.

Things to consider:

  • Safe to use daily — Your best bet is to hide it in some food since it comes in pill form. It’s also safe to give another pill if you’re unsure your pet swallowed it.
  • Only short-term — While this does kill fleas fast, it’s only a short-term solution. This flea treatment for dogs continues working for up to 48 hours after giving it to your pet.
  • Price — ​​A 6-dose pack is roughly $38 regardless of your pet’s weight.

Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo is a great shampoo to have on hand. It kills eggs, larvae, and adult fleas, ticks, and lice. It contains a naturally occurring chemical called pyrethrin , which is found in chrysanthemum flowers. It also contains skin-soothing ingredients like aloe vera, oatmeal, and lanolin. It may last for up to 28 days, but reviews allude to the shampoo not lasting as long.

Things to consider:

  • Follow the instructions — Read the instructions before bathing to make sure you’re using the right amount for your dog and their size. After letting it sit for 3-5 minutes, rinse it out well.
  • Safe for use on puppies — It can be used on puppies at least 12 weeks of age or older. It’s not safe for cats due to the main ingredient, pyrethrin, which can lead to poisoning.
  • Price — It’s an affordable option ranging from $15-$20 depending on where you buy it and the size of the bottle.

Comparing flea medications side by side

Not all flea treatments work the same way, and what may work for one pet might not work for another. There’s a flea treatment option for every lifestyle and budget, whether you’re looking for long-term prevention or monthly medication. Pet owners can choose from accessible over-the-counter and prescription options.

Compare top flea treatments

Treatment Type Frequency Prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) Cost
Bravecto Topical Solution Topical Every 3 months Prescription-only $62-$65
Revolution Topical Monthly Prescription-only $67-$114
Frontline Shield Topical Monthly OTC $47-$83
Simparica Trio Chewable Monthly Prescription-only $170-$200
Nexgard Plus Chewable Monthly Prescription-only $107-$121
Bravecto Chew Chewable Every 3 months (Also available in monthly) Prescription-only $72-$77
Seresto Collar Every 8 months OTC $60
Capstar Pill Daily or as needed OTC $38
Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo Shampoo Every 28 days OTC $15-$20

Things to consider with different flea treatments

Because there are so many types of flea control on the market, you’ll want to consider a few things before settling on a solution. Some factors that might influence your flea control decision include your vet’s recommendations, budget, your dog’s sensitives, and potential drug interactions with your dog’s other meds.

Additional considerations include other pets or children in your home and your personal preference. Finding the right flea control solution comes down to figuring out what works best for you, your dog, other pets, and family members.

Oral flea treatments

Typically taken monthly, oral medications come in pill or chewable form. Some kill current flea infestations but are not preventative. Others serve as both a treatment for a current infestation and for preventing future fleas from biting your dog. Some work just for fleas and others prevent ticks, mites, and worms.

Topical flea treatments

You apply these drops between your dog’s shoulder blades once a month. Topical medications are sometimes called “spot-on” or “one-spot” treatments. Many topical flea meds kill current flea infestations but also prevent your dog from getting bitten again. Many also work against ticks and heartworms.

Flea treatment sprays

Some flea sprays are applied directly to your dog, while others are used to spray furniture and bedding. Be careful to note the difference! Several flea sprays work as repellents rather than as true preventatives and also fight against other pesky bugs, like mosquitos.

Flea powders

This type of flea treatment is either sprinkled into your dog’s coat or around your home. Again, similar to flea sprays, many flea powders use all-natural ingredients. However, some contain what may be considered harsh chemicals.

Flea collars

Flea collars can work in a couple of different ways. Some flea collars give off a pesticide that deters fleas from jumping on your dog and biting. Others include medicine that is absorbed into your dog’s skin. There are a few natural flea collar options that use scent to deter fleas, too.

Flea shampoos

Flea shampoos have been around for quite a long time, and they’ve also come a long way. Keep in mind that some shampoos only kill off a current infestation, while others prevent future bites. There are many natural options when it comes to flea shampoos. Pay attention to the label to see how long the suds of your choice last when it comes to keeping your pup flea-free.

Other ways to prevent your dog from getting fleas and ticks

Don’t rely on the medication alone. There are a few other steps you should take to keep your dog safe from pests.

First, wash your dog’s bedding and vacuum rugs and carpets regularly — we recommend doing it at least once a week. Second, make a habit of checking your dog for ticks and fleas after every trip outside. Do a quick scan before your dog comes into the house:

Where to check for fleas and ticks

This works just as well for fleas

Finding the right tick and flea treatment for your dog depends on what works best for you, your pup, and the rest of your household. Whether you’re all about long-term protection, you don’t have to think about or prefer something monthly so you stay on schedule, there’s a flea medication out there.

Investing in prevention is key to shielding your dog from the potential health risks these critters carry and keeping your pets happy, healthy, and tick and flea-free. Speak with your vet about prescription and over-the-counter options for tick and flea treatment.

Frequently asked questions

What is the most effective flea treatment for dogs?

This will vary depending on your pet. For some, a topical solution may be best, and for others, it may be a chew.

What kills fleas immediately on dogs?

Capstar, a chewable tablet, begins working within 30 minutes to kill fleas immediately. However, it’s not a long-term solution. Unlike other flea treatments, it only works for 24-48 hours.

How long does it take to get rid of fleas on a dog?

While medications like Capstar can help get rid of adult fleas immediately, it can take a couple of months to get rid of fleas on a dog. Starting a long-term flea treatment for dogs can help attack and kill all flea life cycle stages so you can completely eliminate fleas on your dog.

What do vets use to kill fleas on dogs?

Vets may use Capstar to kill adult fleas on dogs immediately. However, many veterinarians recommend long-term flea treatment like Simparica. Overall, veterinarians prefer prescription products because they are proven to be more effective than OTC flea prevention.

What is the best over-the-counter flea medicine for dogs?

Frontline Shield and Seresto are both effective over-the-counter flea treatments for dogs. Not all flea medicines are the same, so the best one for your dog will vary based on their situation and needs.